Memories soothe sorrows of today

Monday, April 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:00 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

When I was growing up, the doors of the little church my family attended were always open. We could pop inside and kneel at the altar and pray at any hour of the day. I treasure that memory as if it were a 10-carat diamond ring. It’s one of a host of memories that I can draw on to remind myself of the special experiences that have enriched my life.

I remember the beautiful park where my siblings and I spent so many leisurely summer afternoons at play. Parents never had to worry that we would be abducted. As children in those days, we were a protected class. That knowledge carried with it a certain carefree attitude. We had the understanding that as long as we obeyed the rules, no one would bother us.

On days when the world seems to be spinning out of control, I always take the time to be grateful I had a secure childhood. It has always served me well as an anchor that keeps my feet on solid ground. And more important, it has endowed me with an instinctive knowledge that sends me in search of tools and resources to repair whatever damage might be inflicted on my psyche by the constant parade of imbeciles that march within my view.

On Palm Sunday, for example, I heard a prominent American preacher say on television that people waving palm leaves and crying “Hosanna” as Jesus entered Jerusalem could be compared to the invasion of Iraq by the Coalition forces. His church was packed wall-to-wall with believers. So undoubtedly, many people agree with his assessment, although it made me physically ill.

Among many of the minority groups I belong to is the one that believes murder can never be justified for political reasons. Are there evil, monstrous people in the world? Absolutely. There have been since the beginning of time and no matter how many you kill, others will rise up and take their place. So when I am in the midst of people who believe killing another person will make the world a better place, I have to mentally withdraw.

One of my favorite places to visit is one that has a permanent place beside my reading chair. It is a book entitled “Abundant Living” by the late Christian missionary E. Stanley Jones, known to many in the world as the “Apostle of Peace.” I began studying this book about 30 years ago, and I’m still at it. He was a leader of the Christian Ashram movement engaged in establishing centers for individual spiritual growth. Dr. Jones passed away in 1973.

I have never particularly minded the names some people call people like me who believe in peace. I find it regrettable that the government doesn’t spend nearly the money teaching people how to negotiate as they do teaching them how to kill people. I know there are many people who think we have the right to dictate to other countries what form of government they should have. There are those that feel people should abandon their own culture in favor of ours. I have many acquaintances who are examples of people described in the old psychiatrist joke that can’t be cured of their illusions because they believe they are Jesus Christ and therefore already perfect.

So, I suppose as long as we consider our society the ideal example and refuse to accept that others might not share that view, we will always be in conflict. While most reasonable people would agree democracy is the best form of government, not all would necessarily agree that a perfect model of it exists.

That’s why I believe it’s more conducive to world peace to wage war against bad ideas instead of bad people. I think one way to be good citizens is to demonstrate by example the positive attributes of Americanism. We need to show others our generosity, our tolerance for other people and their ideas, our commitment to global justice and our willingness to share the world’s resources. To me, this would be far more productive than trying to remove all the bad leaders who are in power.

With summer coming on, I look forward to spending a lot of time in the garden. It’s another place where I go to nurture my spirit. In the colder months, I rely heavily on my cat and my plants to help me retain good mental health. There are still churches nearby, but they are usually padlocked during the day. Unfortunately, the times require such security measures.

My mother firmly believed every child was entitled to a good childhood. I’m thankful that I was a recipient of that gift and hope I successfully passed it on to my son. With every place you turn, bad news seems to be piling up. A safe, secure childhood provides a good and strong fortress that shields against the savage winds.

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