Stories of Nonviolence:
Unconditional Love ~ Simple Yet Powerful
As we sit in meditation during this Season for Nonviolence, let us envision a grid of Unconditional Love encircling our Globe, supporting all those individuals and organizations working to make nonviolence our planet’s operating principle.
When Erin first met the students of Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach CA, they reflected their tough life experience of poverty, homelessness, stealing, drug dealing and using, belonging to gangs, carrying weapons, violence, racial division, and being in and out of prison. Their attitudes also reflected the low expectation of school officials that they would never succeed in life. They hated each other and everyone around them including their new 24 yr. old English teacher Erin Gruwell.
Then without warning, something happened that changed their lives forever. It was the moment Erin discovered a racial caricature being passed between students and compared it to the Nazis’ caricature of Jews during the Holocaust. Not one student knew anything about the Holocaust, but all had had the experience of being shot at, so Erin tailored her lessons to teaching tolerance and harmony.
She introduced her students to the life experiences of Anne Frank of The Netherlands and Zlata Filipovic, the young teenage girl who wrote about her experiences in the recent war in Bosnia. As Gruwell’s students reluctantly read about Anne and Zlata, they saw themselves reflected in the pages, and they began to see each other with different eyes. Inspired, they soon began writing in diaries of their own, expressing for the first time their deepest emotions, thoughts and experiences, confronting for release the stagnating emotions of anger and rage at being ill treated, discriminated against and being looked down upon, and their feelings of being caged, of being powerless.
Ms. Gruwell’s class became important – it was the only ‘safe place to fall’, a place of unconditional acceptance where they could be heard and validated as vibrant, worthy, human beings living lives of significance. It was the place where for the first time, someone held for them the highest possible vision of their potential lives. And in that space of unconditional love, the children blossomed. They gained perspective about the intolerance they had experienced from others, and became aware of the effects on their lives of the intolerance and violence they had within themselves. And, like the elementary school children they subsequently mentored, they knew without a shadow of a doubt that they did not want to continue living their lives in this fashion.
Writing became a powerful tool for transformation, and as they wrote, the students awakened to something magnificent within themselves and they began actively participating in and creating the lives they wanted ~ they found a sense of personal power with which to shape their own lives. And they made a healing choice, a choice to give themselves a chance to start life over. They re-framed the experiences that soured them to life, and used them to create positive changes for themselves and those around them. They called themselves The Freedom Writers as a tribute to the original Freedom Riders who fought segregation and prejudice in America.
There was nothing easy about the work they had to do in transforming themselves individually and collectively, but they were motivated and committed to change. They overcame their soul-clouding emotions of hate and anger, and their tendencies to violence and self destruction. They learned to trust and work cooperatively with each other for the common good. Challenging though it was, their adventure of transformation was singularly rewarding, giving them great vitality and a mission in life ~ they became a force for unity, peace and tolerance. Suddenly these teenagers, expected to do nothing more with their lives than drop out of school, became movers and shakers. They raised funds for Miep Gies and Zlata Filipovic to come to California and speak with them about their experiences. They visited the concentration camps in Poland, Anne’s Frank’s house in Amsterdam and Zlata Filipovic in Sarajevo. They visited schools and prisons, using the power of their transformed lives to spread a message of active nonviolence, a message of tolerance and peace to youth and people all across the world. They graduated from High School and continued on to College. They wrote a book called ‘The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them’; they see themselves as passing the baton of being ‘a catalyst for change’ to others.
When you are able to transform a negative experience
into a force for good in your life and the lives of others, you have truly caught the power of nonviolence by the tail.
As we join our hearts together, know that powerful beacons of Light and Love will shine forth into the world, will join those from others of like intent, and be directed to those in greatest need on our beloved planet.
As we each prepare for the moment, let the mood be one of unconditional love…
…and May the Force be with us!
Please light your candles (optional) and commence with the following peace poem:
Dear God, Great Spirit,
We celebrate the power of Unconditional love!
and hold a vision
Of peoples all across the earth tonight,
Plugging in to this magnificent force for good,
And consciously activating within themselves
this power to transform suffering, pain and soul-clouding,
Consciously activating within themselves this power to heal all things
By simply loving Self, loving life, loving others without reservation or condition.
And with this tide of unconditional love unleashed,
May we transform the world to tolerance, harmony and peace.
After this introductory vision/meditation/prayer, please express your own vision of peace. (As always, please feel free to modify the peace poem, or to use your own.)
~ Celebrating Great Souls Becoming ~
Please close your peace session with the extinguishing of the candle.
This Peace Circle was inspired by Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers, who took on the challenge of personal transformation and took up the baton of spreading racial tolerance, peace and harmony. It is the 7th in the SNV2004 series of Peace Circles.
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone,
person to person.”
- Mother Teresa
‘Believe that the pathway you dream you will be on, you will be on!
Envision your pathway, your dream, talk about it, leave no room for doubt
and your dream will manifest!’
- inspired by Anita Roddick
March 8, 2004