Saturday, December 29, 2007

Peace Takes Courage

I saw this notion on a bumper sticker while driving home from work last week.

It couldn't have been a more fitting little adage for what I'd been dealing with.

Last Monday, while home with the sick kiddos, I checked into work via e-mail, as I often do so as to avoid using a full 8 hours of sick time each pop.

An e-mail from the City Mgr was present in my inbox. It was a forward of a business owner's seemingly reasonable suggestion that the temporary homeless shelter be monitored more closely, as he'd had some littering occur on his property since the time of the shelter's operations. City Mgr asked me to forward on to the appropriate volunteer shelter personnel.

Which I did.

I and the City Mgr received a response from the daytime coordinator, an intelligent and very compassionate man - almost to a fault - in which he nit-picked re: the original complaint's incorrect grammar, and basically called the business owner ignorant, since legal precedents about "loitering" were not at the fore of the man's mind. I might add, that I too was ignorant of these specifics, and I continue to work in this realm. He did seek to rectify the complaint - which was good, but lost amidst the other defenses, in my opinion.

After a phone call the next day, in which the shelter operator claimed the business owner would have had to be making it up due to the logistics involved, I responded with a carefully crafted, prayed over, response - urging the shelter operator to speak directly with the business owner before speaking or writing more about this man to others. I reminded him that the business owner was not hostile to the shelter in his message, just would like to see some closer monitoring - and that the proponents of the shelter ought to seize the opportunity to maximize similar values re: the shelter in the community, rather than act defensive - thus alienating the community at large and enhancing the differences in persepectives.

He continued to advocate.

To myself I was like, "Dude - you are preaching to the choir!" And it made me sad.

Because while other people tend to think being bold, assertively advocating for those less fortunate, is courageous, I've come to the conclusion that it is not.

You see - perception is relative, and yet it is perception that gives each of us our reality.

When someone tells another that what they perceived with their own senses isn't real - that's harsh. Why don't you just call someone a nut job or better yet, a big fat liar? Also, I read somewhere once (or more) that a harsh word stirs up anger.

Listening to other perspectives takes work, particularly if they don't jive with those we hold near and dear. But it is work well worth investing in - because if people feel heard, feel considered, they are apt to listen in return.

Gentle diplomacy, the fine art of blending nuance, courtesy, and education into a sweet package, turns away wrath, or so I read. It is the way of the peacemaker, and it takes a lot of courage.

Peace takes courage because it means sometimes letting go of me being right and having faith that all things will be made right, eventually.

Peace takes courage because it means releasing the hold on my own understanding and having to ask for help from the One who told us to seek His Ways.

Peace takes courage because it is branching out into subjective territory rather than the American safeguard of "just the facts, ma'am."

I bristled when the shelter coordinator told me that he is familiar with being both advocate and diplomat; however, the two are not compatible. I couldn't disagree more. I think one is the best advocate when s/he can be diplomatic about the cause in question. Have we confused advocate with martyr? Because I think that dying upon our swords of conviction leaves the cause with a dead martyr, one who is no longer able to advocate for its furthering. Who does that help?

I think in America we have lost sight of this marriage between advocacy and diplomacy. Advocacy has decided prematurely that she don't need that old man Diplomacy no more. As a result, we are a litigious and adversarial society, regardless of what side of a cause we sit on - make no mistake, though, we are someone's enemy.

Negotiations, compromise, and diplomacy take too much time. And time is money these days. But by looking for the quick fix, beat them before they beat me answer, found by being the loudest and the rightest, are we spending more money in the arguments than we would by taking our time finding the solutions?

Why can't we reach across party lines and work together?

Why can't we look creatively at social issues and use the same means to different ends? Or vice versa?

Why can't we agree to disagree or even try good ole fashioned compromise?

Because peace takes deep courage.

And we Americans have turned into surface lions with the innards of chickens - with no courage to be found, only chicken shit.


  1. Hmmm . . . that is very profound. I think I agree with you.

  2. I love the freedom of your spirit as you articulate your thoughts. Well done, as always.