TPJ-1 Day 6: A Story of Connections

Day 6, Josh, in Albuquerque, NM

New and Old Friends in New Mexico

The People’s Journey is a story of connections. A simple email from Hakim and the young people in Afghanistan (of www.ourjourneytosmile.com) came to me, as I was walking across the country, sparked people all over the world to learn about this amazing group by linking their videos on my blog. Hakim echoed a thought that I, as well as many people around the world has had: mankind has dedicated so much time and energy to building machines to kill each other or to flying to the moon… why couldn’t more effort be made for people to peacefully coexist?

Friends in Afghanistan

And as we asked this question, more and more people showed their dedication in this pursuit. A friend (the same one who connected us with Salam) in Olympia, WA saw Hakim’s videos on my blog and soon had set up conference calls so that we could hear each other’s voices from halfway around the world. From there, a series of film nights were arranged where communities all across the country watched the Our Journey to Smile videos simultaneously as the folks in Afghanistan narrated and answered questions over skype. Then, through this journey, Conor, Salam, and I began to share our stories and connect more audiences across the country to the folks Afghanistan through skype and added even more connections. On top of all that, more voices were added as two students from Gaza will soon join us.

Salma and Laila from Gaza, with Pam

It can be easy to see all the problems in the world and wish for one simple answer. But we ourselves are the answer. When we can move beyond the idea that there’s a war—or a law; or single person; or political party–to end all wars, then the sooner we’ll recognize that it’s a daily, collective process—spiritually, communally, and internationally. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “it is a deliverence that does not deliver.” I was listening to a mediation CD a few weeks ago that used a comic strip to illustrate this idea: a family was piled on top of a camel, wandering through the desert and the kids started asking “are we home yet?” The father turns around and exclaims, “No! We’re nomads for crying out loud!”

Being a nomad for broader humanity is not a curse. Rather than finding meaning in material comforts or nationalistic teaching, or partisanship, we are free to roam the spiritual expanses that cannot be physically contained. Like water in a desert, we drink the same refreshing liquid of humanity though it comes from different wells. And so, Conor, Salam, and I found ourselves in the deserts of New Mexico to meet up with a fellow wanderer.

Kendra making the intro

My friend Kendra goes to school in DC and works at the same peace education program (www.lffp.org) with elementary students that I do, which is how we met, but is originally from Albuquerque. We met her family whom she was staying with for the summer and we were all warmly welcomed, just as we were at the speaking event from an interesting cast of folks.

When a man started passing out postcards with a sinister looking photo of Ahmadinejad, plus details about a boycott campaign against Iran, a lively discussion broke out. We also met another veteran who had been a border guard in Iraq and had gone through his own transformation after seeing the effects of what the war is doing, but also of seeing the hospitality and humanity of the common citizens of Iraq. Also joining us was Jenny, a couchsurfer whom we had met the night before in Tempe who rode with us to NM and was also spontaneously welcomed into Kendra’s home.

From inner-city DC where Kendra and I teach conflict resolution, to the heat of Albuquerque, to recognition of humanity in Iraq, and also to so many other small but important contributions that bridge the divisions between us, we all draw from the same well of realized hope. From this well, we welcome strangers, we travel far and wide to speak, we interact with people of all different mindsets. There is no magic answer other than the love and humanity that is always there, but so often obstructed. But just as we can obstruct it, we can also build bridges over those barriers.

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