The Golden Rule

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Several years ago, when my husband and I visited New York City, we included the United Nations complex on our “must see” list of sites. Our visit to the Conference Building at UN Headquarters did not disappoint. Regardless of ones politics, the concept of world leaders gathered in one place to care for this one world seems beyond our human expectations. Still, our world’s leaders continue to meet. Through the numerous disagreements which plague their discussions, they continue to talk. This is a notable accomplishment!

While all of this filled me with hope, a beautiful mosaic in the conference building took my breath away. This piece by Normal Rockwell was presented to the UN as a gift from The United States by First Lady Nancy Reagan. The eight-foot mosaic features a montage of adults and children of every race and color. In the midst of this gathering of humankind are the words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When the mosaic was refurbished and rededicated in 2014, the Secretary General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, remarked, “…it also reflects the very essence of our mission as set out in our charter.” Before my husband and I left the UN that day, we purchased a small copy of that mosaic. I needed it (Yes, I needed it!) to be a constant reminder of the standard by which I must live.

This will likely be the last reflection in which I reference that terrible shooting in Las Vegas. While I’m quite certain that the shooter wasn’t much concerned with either The Prayer of St. Francis or The Golden Rule, I hope both assisted you as much as they did me in processing your grief. Though I’ll focus my writing on other things, those effected and those who can do something about such incidents will remain in my prayers. I guess that means I’ll be praying for us all!

Compassionate God, be with us in our efforts to mirror your love in all that we say and do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Understand?

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Before my students arrived to begin each school year, I reviewed their records which included report cards and other pertinent information from their previous years in school. I wanted to understand the history which accompanied my new students into our classroom.

When I noticed that prior behaviors were “troublesome”, I watched carefully. These are the children with whom I made eye contact and conversation often. I also seated them near my desk. Those with poor grades also found their desks upfront. This close proximity helped them to absorb the wisdom of the day. Previous teachers’ notes regarding family losses or other trauma were also taken into consideration as was the new information I gathered throughout the year. All of this increased my understanding and impacted the quality of our interactions on an ongoing basis.

We all need to be understood, to have a voice, to be heard and to be valued. We all also need to allow these essentials to one another. If I feel I’ve been discounted in some may, I have good reason not discount the feelings, opinions and attitudes of others because I know how devastating this can be. At this writing, I don’t know what motivated the violence in Las Vegas twelve days ago. In this instance, the shooter seemed not to have cared about being understood. Still, his actions didn’t speak for the rest of us. Those victimized by his evil-doing and all of us who witnessed it do wish to be understood. We want it to be very clear that this must never happen again. How we communicate this and make ourselves understood on this issue is up to each of us.

Dear God, help us to understand one another and to make ourselves understood, especially by those whose voices can bring about meaningful change.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Consolers All

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

When my husband worked as a hospice chaplain, he never ceased to be amazed by his patients and their loved ones. Though their days were numbered in double or single digits, Mike’s patients often spent them easing the burdens of those they’d soon leave behind. When these losses came to pass, many of those loved ones eased their pain by reaching out to others in some way. Parents who’ve lost children often deal with their experiences by offering support to others who are preparing to do the same. Though none of us can ever truly prepare for these things, the consolation offered by others who’ve “been there” somehow gets us through these unbearable circumstances. How amazing it is that the worst of our pain can result in such generous acts of love!

I think the efforts of those hospice patients and their loved ones offer worthy inspiration to all who’ve been left reeling in the aftermath of the Las Vegas tragedy. Though most of us were hundreds of miles away during that shooting, we felt its horror just the same. The challenge before each of us is to find ways to use this experience to better this world for ourselves and one another. The best consolation we can offer will come through our efforts to replace sadness with joy, despair with hope and hatred with love.

Dear God, be with us as we do all we can to console this world by becoming instruments of your peace and your love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Light The Way

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me so love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Throughout the days after the Las Vegas tragedy, law enforcement, newscasters and most of us wondered together about the assailant’s motives. I can shed no light on this quandary as I’ve too often asked myself, “Why did I do that?” or “Why did I say that?” or “Why do I feel this way?” Sometimes, I’m certain of the reasons I’ve responded to circumstances in a given way. At other times, I truly don’t understand. I can tell you that I responded to the melee which unfolded in Las Vegas with a deeply pained heart. Like everyone else, I wondered aloud, “Why?”

Today, I care much less about this particular man’s reasoning than I do about the rest of our perspectives on things. This man is dealing with whatever drove him to kill in the hereafter. I’m relieved to leave this in God’s domain because I wouldn’t know where to begin. As for the rest of us, it seems to me that time is of the essence. Somehow, we must find ways to counter the darkness in this world with the light of love. If we wish to live in a brighter, happier and more hopeful world, each of us must do our best to light the way as only we can.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light..

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Glimmers of Hope

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me so love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

It isn’t easy to maintain hope when hours-old blood spatters tint ones skin. Though many walked away from that shooting in Las Vegas with their physical health intact, their psyches and souls will never be the same. Some will find solace in their survival. Some will question, “Why her and why him and not me?” They’ll wonder where they can go to feel completely safe. Does such a place exist any more?

It is in the midst of their despair, the rest of us must shed light upon their reason to hope. While one man pressed a trigger, others exhibited uncommon heroism to save loved ones and strangers alike. They threw themselves over potential targets or led them to safety. First-responders set their own well-being aside to stop the carnage. Within twenty-four hours, still others lined up to donate blood to benefit survivors. One man may have wrought this carnage, but hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, responded with love. They are the antidote to our despair. They are our reason to hope in better things to come.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope…

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Keep The Faith

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me so love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

I can’t imagine what those in the midst of recent natural disasters continue to endure. I can’t imagine what those present at the assault in Las Vegas are dealing with today. Many of the thoughts of those concerned likely begin the same. Why did this happen? Why did I have to be present? Why was my home destroyed? Why am I hurt? Why did my loved one die? Perhaps the most difficult question of all is “Why didn’t God do anything to stop this?”

During the most frightening moments of my life, I’ve added a few questions of my own: You performed miracles two thousand years ago, so why not now? You cured all sorts of people back then, so why not now? When I run out of questions, I issue demands: I know none of us is immune, but not this baby! I know there is a reason for everything, but not my son! I know we’re all going to die from something, but not my sister, not now!

Still, there is good news in all of this. Whenever we utter such questions and demands, we acknowledge that Someone is listening. Though God doesn’t usually respond with words, God always answers by being with us through it all. Though I don’t like to admit it, one of God’s greatest gifts to us is free will. We get to choose what we’ll do from one second to the next. Sometimes, those choices result in great good. Sometimes, not. Always, God remains as we persist and endure and heal. God remains as we choose once again.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith…

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved