During my life when I have worked with a group, together we were able to accomplish some amazing things. This was particularly true when most of the people involved had the same commitment. The first time I experienced this, was with a volunteer organization called Beyond War in the 1980s. It wasn’t as if all of us agreed all of the time. In fact this organization taught me during a workshop I took, that conflict was a normal human behavior, so this was a peace organization which fully acknowledged people’s differences and honored them. I had never experienced that before neither in my family nor my marriage, so this was a life lesson I embraced whole-heartedly. Beyond War also taught me that all of us humans are one. 23 years of work as an English-as-a Second Language teacher solidified that belief about us humans.
Before the my years of working with Beyond War, which became Foundation for a Global Community, I was used to all conflict being solved with domination of the older or stronger individual and fights about who was right and who was wrong. There was no “win-win” for all people involved, except for the dominant person. There was little or no listening to each other and little learning or mutual respect. The “weaker” person was usually left feeling resentful towards the “stronger” person. Competition not cooperation was how we rolled and how I learned to communicate. When I became a single mother when my daughter was 4 years old, I still had this pattern of communicating.
Beyond War is still active in the northwest in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Their website is: beyondwarnw.org/
and also lives on online as:
The group Beyond War showed me another way. When my daughter was in high school, at one point I put on my mirror in my bathroom “Would you rather be RIGHT or be HAPPY” as a way to remind me that being “right” was a sell out. My daughter put the same saying on her mirror in her bathroom, but when friends came to visit, she removed it because they asked her about it. At least every day I was reminded that I had a choice of how I responded.
These days I search for stories that show people working together toward something positive. Just last week I hear two stories. One was about saving an animal, a toucan named Grecia from Costa Rica. So many people were part of the process of helping this toucan. Also laws may change in Costa Rica to protect all animals from killers who have been maiming animals because of this story about Grecia. You can see Grecia and his story on youtube.
In another story from July, after 100 years of not being able to fish for salmon in Burns, Oregon, many members of the Paiute tribe there, were finally able to fish for salmon on the Malheur River. The Paiute had had the cultural tradition of fishing for salmon on the Malheur River, prior to the dams. The Oregon fisheries manager, Erica Maltz, worked with tribal chairperson, Charlotte Rodriguez, to truck in and reintroduce 200 salmon beyond the dams that are on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, so that tribal members could fish for the salmon once again.
You can hear this story on Oregon Public Broadcasting radio:
For a final story which is very current, concerns and the historic flooding and horrific damage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and all the clean up help the residents are receiving from people from New Orleans and around the world. Try to listen to the entire podcast. I hope it will warm your heart as it did mine!
“Now we have black and white officials working together. Today, we have gone beyond just passing laws. Now we have to create a sense we are one community, one family. Really we are the American family.”
– John Lewis
All of these stories remind me that when we work with each other, we can make all of our lives better including our animal friends. Stories such as these fill me with hope about our common future.