Peaceful living can be more than theory

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Unity, peace, harmony are words floating around right now. Unfortunately, so are the words White Nationalists, Neo-Nazis and KKK. It feels like a strange time indeed.

I lived in another time when water foundations had signs that said “White Only” and kids with different colored skin went to different schools. That was also a strange time.

In Sunday School, we sang about how Jesus loves all the children, red and yellow, black and white. However, the message outside of that Sunday School room was that he loved the white children a little bit more.

That we are somehow back to a place where people are marching in the streets of America declaring that one race or religion is superior to another is not just strange, it’s a little frightening. Is this really where we want our country to go again? Do we want this energy of separation to walk among us?

I see images on television of protesters clashing, one side carrying signs and banners of hate, while chanting things I thought I’d never here chanted in a country that states in its Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal…” Meanwhile, the other side answers with cries for these carriers of hatred to leave.

How did we get here and how do we turn it around? Those are questions that make me feel almost helpless living in a small town in South Alabama. What can I do? What can we do?

This week this town I call home did something to bridge that divide. A group of probably 200 or so people showed up on the square in Andalusia to declare with their presence that in this country, in this world, “We are one.”

As I stood with this group under a darkening sky, I looked around at the faces. They were black and white, old and young. They were from different churches, probably some not affiliated with a church at all. I’m sure they represented different political parties, and even supported different college football teams (a little humor, but an important point in this neck of the woods.)

I think many, like me, just wanted to do something to feel like they were making a difference in a country that surely needs people to stand together right now. It was a chance to declare publicly that we care deeply about our nation and the future of all its citizens.

There was wonderful music and stirring words that spoke of unity and oneness, but the best part was at the end. Streetlights flickered on and a pair of doves circled overhead preparing to settle into the trees that sit on the square. Beneath their flight in the fading daylight, people formed a circle joining hands, joining hearts to sing together.

As a chorus of “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place if you can…” filled the air, people started to hug each other. There were smiles and even laughter as strangers embraced and shared a moment of connection.

This morning I read these words attributed to Buddha as part of my daily meditation.

“However many holy words you read,

However many you speak,

What good will they do

If you do not act upon them?”

And the affirmation that followed.

“May our loving be active and not just merely a theory…”

Monday night in Andalusia, Alabama a group came together to show that loving each other and living peacefully together can be more than a theory. They chose to demonstrate their commitment to helping heal the divide in our country.

I believe, like a pebble tossed in a lake, small acts can make ripples that move out and out and out until they create a tidal wave of change. A ripple started on the square Monday evening. I think, I hope, that many such ripples are moving through our land.

May we continue to reach out and touch each other’s hands so our world becomes that better place.



Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.