Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper sticker or T shirt that proclaims, “God Bless The Whole Wide World. No Exceptions” Now there’s a conversation starter sure to spark reaction, and controversy. Try it sometime. At this very moment as I write this, we can be sure that selfless acts of love and compassion as well as unspeakable acts of terror and violence are taking place? No exceptions? Not even for those who are bent on doing us harm?
Here are two stories that speak this. One is a parable of sorts. The second from a conversation I had the good fortune to hear at a family dinner.
Once a holy man and his student were walking from village to village. Suddenly a horse drawn carriage came lunging around the corner, with the driver in a great rage, whipping the horses, and letting out great torrents of curses. It soon became apparent that the carriage would not slow or swerve, and it was only by quickly jumping into the ditch by the side of the road that they were able to avoid great injury. Bruised and shaken, they looked at the carriage as it careened out of control down the road.
The student shook his fist and screamed after the driver. But the teacher waved and calmly called out, “May all of God’s blessings be upon you.”
The student was dumbfounded by the teacher’s response, “This man almost killed us with his recklessness. How can you wish him all of God’s blessings?” The teacher replied, “Yes, his anger and carelessness almost killed us, and may yet do great harm to others. Tell me then, who more than this man needs God’s blessings?”
Sources, include, From Once Upon a Time… Storytelling to Teach Character and Prevent Bullying by Elisa Davy Pearmain; Doorways to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales from Around the World, edited by Elisa Pearmain (Pilgrim Press, 1998); Buddha Is As Buddha Does by Surya Das (Harper One, 2008); and Milk from the Bull’s Horn: Tales of Nurturing Men by Doug Lipman (Yellow Moon Press, 1986).
Isn’t it interesting that it appears as a Jewish, Buddhist and Islamic tale? Hmmn?
Now for the second story. And may we benefit form the wisdom of a seven year old.
I was at a family gathering, just getting ready to sit down to dinner. The news of the day was grim. A terrorist attack had taken another cruel toll. One of the adults at the table said in anger and frustration, “we should just drop an atom bomb on the terrorists.” It was immediately apparent that the seven year old was disturbed by the comment, as she quickly replied. “ That’s a terrible idea.” It would have been better perhaps if the whole subject had not come up with a child of this age present, but having come this far, I followed up and asked her to ‘tell us more.” M said that she would show us with a drawing. Grabbing the ever present paper and pencil never far from her, she proceeded to illustrate. “ There are good people and bad people in the world” she said, “ so I am going to fold this paper in two and draw the good people on one side and the bad people on the other. No wait. That won’t work. I’ll draw a line and put the good people at one end and the bad people at the other end. No wait. That’s not right either. It’s all continuous.” (Yes! she really said that) “ People on the good side sometimes go to the bad side, and people on the bad side sometimes go to the good side. It’s more like a circle. But if you drop a bomb on the terrorists, those bad people will never have a chance to change and come to the good side.”
Well, there it is, two stories from the wisdom tradition old and new, to chew on. What do you think? God Bless The Whole Wide World. No exceptions?
May Peace Be Upon Us All!
Postscript on January 9th 2011 following the murders and attempted murder of the Congresswoman in Arizona, I truly welcome and encourage your reflection here.