Tag Archives for " risk "

Jul 08

The Fine Line Between Mother Teresa and Hitler

By Peggy Haymes | Uncategorized

Elisabeth Kubler-RossElisabeth Kubler-Ross was asked to lead her Life, Death and Transition workshops all over the world. I’ve been thinking about two of those workshops recently. (I trained with, staffed with and became friends with her former staff, and they shared these stories with me.)

One was in South Africa in the days of apartheid. Elisabeth agreed to come, but only on the condition that both white and black women be allowed to attend together (it was a women’s only workshop.) The organizers agreed, but the participants were unaware of this provision.

Whites and blacks lived in two completely different worlds but for these days they were going to be asked to eat together and to sleep together in one large room. My friend said that at the beginning the tension was unbearable, and some of the staff worried that the workshop may blow up in their face.

But then the women started to do their work. White women bore witness as black women told stories of rape and incest, and black women bore witness as white women also told stories of rape and incest.

On the last evening there was a talent show. The women, black and white together, came in doing a tribal dance. The tension was gone. They’d spoken the truth of their lives and been heard. They’d heard the truth of other lives.  Where color once divided them shared suffering and healing brought them together.

The second workshop was held in a maximum security prison in Ireland. Elisabeth had been asked to do a workshop with the inmates, prisoners guilty of the most heinous crimes. She agreed, but only on the condition that the guards participate as well. So, while some of the guards kept watch, others joined the prisoners in sharing their own losses. After a while, my friend said, it was hard to tell who was guard and who was prisoner. In  speaking and hearing one another’s deep pain and hidden shame, they found a common language and a common humanity.

Elisabeth used to say that there is within each of us a Mother Teresa and a Hitler. We can react out of our deep pains and fears and unhealed wounds and create more pain for ourselves and others. Or we can do the hard work of healing and risk having our hearts opened to others as they are healed.

In the last couple of days I’ve thought about those workshops a lot. Without a doubt, there are systemic issues in our country that need to be addressed. But there is also the responsibility of each of us to look deeply into our own lives. Where do our own wounds shape our vision? Where do our own fears of the unfamiliar determine our actions? When does our past shape the assumptions we make about the present?

It is hard work, but necessary work. Only as we step out of our own places of fear and shame can we make a space of hospitality in which we begin to try to understand the fears and shame and hopes and dreams of our neighbor.

And only as we create those places do we move from the destruction of violence to the creative power of love.



Apr 08

Running with the Selfie Stalker

By Peggy Haymes | Lifestyle , Wellness

Anne LamottI knew she was a stalker.

I mean that in the best possible sense of the word. She wasn’t making life creepy for an ex. She was always stalking people in pursuit of the bucket list selfie.

I knew this because I saw the pictures show up on her Facebook wall every so often… Peter Sagal (host of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, the NPR news quiz), Garrison Keillor (are you sensing a public radio theme?) and Roy Williams, coach of the UNC basketball team (hey, it was her bucket list, not mine.)

So this week some of us went together to hear one of our very favorite authors, Anne Lamott. My friend ambushed Garrison Keillor just a week before in that same auditorium so she had the recon down.

Turns out we didn’t need it. All of a sudden her eyes lit up as she pointed to a group of women gathered in the aisle on the other side. “There she is,” she said. “She’s signing books! We’ve got twenty minutes – let’s go.”

You have to understand, this is not my natural inclination. I can be shy sometimes, and my default setting is to crane my neck to watch the others, wishing I could go, envying the ones who do go. But with my friend, there is no neck craning. Before I could waffle, we were on the move.

As we stood in the aisle I morphed into Ralphie anxiously waiting to see Santa in A Christmas Story, knowing that it was vitally important that I see this person but afraid that the store would close first.

Anne LamottAnne LamottAnd then, this happened. Anne signed my well worn copy of Bird by Bird and my friend got a picture of the two of us together and the bucket list I hadn’t allowed myself to have got a little lighter.

How often do we talk ourselves out of getting out of our seats and going for what we really want? We book the same place for vacation every year because that’s where we always go, ignoring the part of us that wants to explore some place new. We don’t take the pottery class because we might not be any good at it. We don’t say hello to the interesting person we’d like to have as a friend because after all, why would they want to be friends with us?

We proactively disappoint ourselves rather than take a chance on life disappointing us.

In college I was asked to play trumpet in the orchestra. Excited, I said yes at first. And then the shy, not very confident person stepped forward again and I bowed out. I didn’t know if I could do it so I didn’t try.

I have regretted it ever since.

I’ll not lie. It helps to have a stalking selfie queen as a friend. But lacking that, sometimes we have to be that friend to ourselves.

What is that thing you really want to do, that place you really want to go? As long as it will not hurt anyone else nor yourself and you’re not likely to wind up in a North Korean prison, go for it.

The worst that can happen is that life will say no. The best that can happen is that it will say yes.