Today is such a significant day for so many in our country. Even for people who did not personally know someone in those two towers or planes, we all lost something that day and our country was changed forever.
A few years ago I travelled to NYC with my sister to visit ground zero and the memorial building they have there, by the beautifully designed infinity fountains. It was a very sobering and moving experience. We cried, we mourned, we shook our heads in disbelief, and we marvelled at the strength of the human spirit.
The site is a wonderfully done combination of what the two towers were and what they represented, a tribute to the selfless rescuers that day, and a memorial to the precious lives and identities of those who were lost. There are countless stories of heroism, bravery and sacrifice. It was both incredibly inspiring and absolutely devastating at the same time.
Many things grabbed me, but none made such a lasting impression as a few simple words. In the room where they had remnants of the vigils and outpourings of candles, flowers, pictures and words of encouragement that were placed at ground zero, one quote that was scrawled on a large piece of butcher paper grabbed me and shook me to the core with its truth.
“The only real devils reside in our own hearts, this is where all our battles should be fought!” Gandhi, a soul wiser than I can ever hope to be, said this. And it is SO very true.
Somewhere along the line, the men who carried out those heinous acts had lost the battle in their own hearts against hatred.
They were defeated on the inside, and so their battle spilled over onto others, in a field it had no business spilling blood in.
The same is true for the mass shooters in our country.
I have spent two professional development sessions this year already (we are only in week 3 folks) learning how to use a tourniquet, pack a gunshot wound, and how to run, hide and fight in the event of a live shooter. As a teacher this is my life now. And our children are growing up in this madness.
Everywhere we go we need to be vigilant, scanning for strange behavior, identifying exits and potential places to hide if need be. I feel like a sitting duck in movie theatres. I worry on planes. I pray over my children every time they attend a concert. Our innocence is long gone.
And all because of the inner battles that have been lost – or worse – maybe never even waged.
If we only taught our children how to defeat anger and hatred and loneliness and hurt. If only they had the tools to be victorious in these battles that assault them daily, then they would not resort to waging a pointless war of violence on innocent souls. If they experienced triumph in their innermost being, they would not be overflowing with hatred and blood thirst on the outside.
How many of our young children are wounded and traumatized because their own parents never learned to fight their devils and they took it out on them?
Neglecting to fight our own demons creates a chain reaction that always ends up causing pain and hurt to others. And like the pebble in the pond, the ripple effects continue to expand, affecting generations and entire cultures, teaming with hurt and anger and ignorant of how to rid themselves of it, doomed to repeat the cycle of violence.
Hurt people hurt others. We learned this in our divorce care group. I heard it in therapy. And although it is a cliche, it is also true.
The Native Indian tale of the two wolves needs to be taken more seriously. Whichever one you feed WILL win and take over. Either it can be love and goodness, or hatred and evil. When we see events unfold like the attacks of September 11th or the mass shootings that plague our weekly news, we know which wolf won that fight.
Face your devils, your enemies, your demons – in your own heart – and fight them. Wage war there as if your life depended on it. Don’t allow anger to lay its seeds. Don’t allow hatred to sprout.
If we only did this one thing, tending to our own inner demons, we would provide a safe and healthy place for our children and loved ones to live in.
Don’t put it off. Lives are at stake. Beautiful, innocent lives. Like yours.
Image of Mahatma Gandhi by John Hain with Pixabay