Monday, January 30, 2017

Intentions

A.J. Muste was a clergyman who stood with candles out in front of the White House every night in silent vigil during the Vietnam War. One night, he was outside in the rain by himself, and a reporter passing by stopped to talk to Muste. "You know," the reporter said to Muste, "Your standing here, alone in the rain with a candle, is not going to change the world." 
    "Oh no," Muste replied, "I don't do this to change the world, I do this so the world won't change me." What a beautiful sentiment on what our intentions should be. 

I have been thinking a lot about intentions lately.  Where I go to hot yoga (http://dragonflyyogafred.com) in the winters, there is this little bowl with words on slips of paper, inviting us to draw an intention before our practice. During class, the instructor asks us to focus our breath or our moves on an intention. Because I'm a Gemini and like things in pairs, I often draw two and try to figure out how they fit together, thinking on ways I can use it in my life, and order my thoughts around the serenity of words like flow, love, beauty, awakening, simplicity, fire, flexible, energy, hope, gratitude, etc. 

Last Wednesday evening, the words drawn and focused upon were wisdom and passion.  I ruminated about this in light of my feelings in this political and social climate. I am so frustrated that both sides lack intellectual commitment to consistent principles -- I have thought about wanting to share my thoughts about issues.  I want to pick at both sides for their hypocracies. I want to quote historians on the philosophies of statesmanship and rules of law; I want to address feminist for excluding those of us who are pro-life. I am frustrated with a lack of intelligent wrestling with hard issues. I want to people to take heed in the words of Socrates, "An unexamined life is not worth living." 

But in yoga, I realized I need to breath in wisdom, and breathe out passion.  It is not my job to share my thoughts always, but to share my passion. I need to seek wisdom, and pray for others to do so as well; I value wisdom but what I need to give is passion. Maybe it isn't up to me to think I have wisdom to give -- just to seek wisdom and share passion. Inhale wisdom, exhale passion. The two-intention thing really serves me well. 

On Saturday, like most families across the country, our day was filled with leisurely activities.  I went to hot yoga and then the girls had basketball games through UPWARD, a Christian program teaching our kids about basketball and Christ. Their memory verse this week was. . .well I'll just have Molly share it. 
mollymemoryverse from Sarah King on Vimeo.


At Anna Cate's game, BJ told me about what was happening at JFK Airport because of an Executive Order in efforts to vet immigrants from countries seen as threats. BJ is the news junkie, and I didn't really pay attention to the details of the EO on Friday, but I was personally interested in the story about two Iraqis detained at JFK,  one an interpreter who served US troops. I distinctly remember knowing my brother had a good relationship with his interpreter, and I texted him and he reminded me that  he has a painting in his home that was a gift from his interpreter the day he left Iraq. BJ got some more information from a friend of his from high school who is a legal immigration attorney, and we were stunned by the details. We are moderates; we do not think these solutions are easy, but my God....to turn away people who have risked their lives for our interests in Iraq is sickening, to turn away people with green cards is no respect for rule of law. In addition to it being thoughtless and reckless in its implementation, it is bad PR for America. 

On Saturday night, we drank some wine and BJ explained to the girls why he was upset, why you can not judge people and treat people this way. He was FIRED UP!!! He felt like the language in the EO was anti-Muslim, and said, "we are going to Dulles tomorrow."
 So he got some cardboard from a Costco trip (another all-American Saturday event) and said, "Find me a quote. Let's use Thomas Jefferson since we in Virginia are so proud of religious freedom."
 "I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others." So we decided that rather than go to church, we would go stand up and show our girls about a piece of Democracy -- peaceful protest. They wanted to make signs too, and looked up quotes for themselves and found these:



 We went to the international arrivals section, and the whole experience was calm and positive. It felt more like a rally, than a protest.  I was proud to be from a family of lawyers -- there were so many attorneys there donating their time, just trying to help.

 One lady started talking to me, and when I asked about herself, she said she was from Maryland and just sitting watching the news and said, "I'm going to go see if I can help; I'm a lawyer." They were happy to talk to the girls. Some openly admitted, "I'm not an immigration expert -- I just thought maybe I could help."

This was BJ's idea, and as a family, we just wanted to be a part of history and be a face of love and acceptance, to show our children that words matter, and that action behind their chosen quotes are meaningful.  By welcoming people, respecting the rule of law, and just showing up, perhaps we change hearts.  I will never forget the look on the children's faces as they saw the love in the protestor's claps. Wide eyed. The adults looked grateful, and I tell myself their experience will help us fight anti-American sentiment.


  One lady from Falls Church, Virginia,  who shared with us she has lived abroad,  asked the girls about their school and if they had children in classes who are from other places. Both Anna Cate and Molly named a bunch of children off by name and where they are from.  The lady responded in such kindness when she said, "you are lucky; you know not to be afraid; many people in other parts of our country aren't exposed to different types of people."


So, perchance,  we aren't so wise; we are just lucky to be exposed to diversity. The doctor who healed Anna Cate this Fall is an immigrant; BJ's brilliant movement disorder specialist is from another country. Some of my most intelligent and kind students are immigrants from the countries on this ban list. (Some of my hardest working students are from the other side of the wall people want built -- but that is another issue). And over a decade ago, a man from Iraq contributed to the safety of my beloved brother, and someone like him was detained in New York.  In support of them and the families at Dulles,  I became interested. So maybe I'm not that wise on my own volition -- maybe I consider myself a seeker of wisdom because I have have been blessed by experience.  Like that memory verse Molly and Anna Cate learned, God's gift to me, I hope, is to use words to serve others.

sarahonthenews from Sarah King on Vimeo.
So when I was interviewed on a local news station (clip above), it was edited out that I told the story about my brother's interpreter and we were inspired to skip church to come to stand up for what we think is right. As our family was leaving the airport after I spoke to the reporter, a man got my attention and said, "tell your brother thank you for his service!" Then he shared he was an Iraqi interpreter as well and speaks four languages. He came to see if he could help; he told us of the US soldiers he served with, about how he is Muslim but his family members are Christian and Jews.  He proudly showed me his passport and his US citizenship.



He asked me if my brother was ok, and the girls happily told them about Aunt Becki, Kitty and Talulah. . .all who came into our life after Douglas' returned from Iraq. 
So we left feeling proud to participate in the freedoms we have as Americans,  to see community service in action, and feeling inspired. 


We got the chance to be a face of a welcoming smile to a foreigner. 


Did we change the world or impact anything huge? Nah, but I hope we influenced the hearts and minds of those we encountered.  I know our experience impacted the hearts and minds of Anna Cate and Molly. So just like my yoga practice, we had two intentions. 

 Like that story of AJ Muste, a Dutch-born American who came here via Ellis island, holding the candle, I'm proud of these daughters of mine, holding up words. Words that might or might not change the world, but more importantly, words that will keep the world from changing them.








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