“In our time, we workers are being called to re-examine our work; how we do it; whom it is helping or hurting; what it is we do, and what we might be doing if we were to let go of our present work and follow a deeper call.” – Matthew Fox
Imagine radically change the world without coercing, dominating, or converting. We don’t have to stand in front of a podium, pound our fist or shout down our enemies. Sometimes, we don’t even have to use words. Soft revolution starts from within. When we’re heart-connected and rooted in our personal power we can acknowledge the humanity of others by meeting them as equals, without pity or condemnation. When we express ourselves honestly, with full emotion, without blame or retribution, we can meet people energetically. Expressing our full humanity while simultaneously seeing other’s full humanity builds trust.
Amy Gilmore Cairns, of Portland, Oregon, has developed conflict intervention trainings and coordinated international team support for work in Palestine and Israel. She’s been part of the Michigan Peace Team, whose main mission is to support people to bring about peace and justice using nonviolence. The group trains volunteers to go into countries where there is violent conflict and act as a nonviolent presence and teaches people how to use nonviolence in their daily lives. One of the ways they are trained to stop violence is to physically put their bodies between conflicted people, without grabbing or forcing them. When she was chief coordinator of the Michigan Peace Team, she helped facilitate a peaceful outcome even though she’d broken her own rules:
The Michigan Peace Team was asked to attend a Michigan State football game because violence was expected. During the pre-game tailgate parties I was riding my bike around, wearing my Peace Team shirt, so that people would recognize us if violence broke out. It was a beautiful day and everyone seemed cheerful. But then I noticed two guys squaring off, and I couldn’t tell if they were joking around or about to fight, until one of them took a full can of beer and chucked it full force at the other. From the top of the hill, I yelled as loud as I could, “HEY!” They looked up at me, and so did many other people, which reminded me why we do not yell – it can increase alarm. Then I broke another rule – I ran full speed down the hill toward them. By now a lot of people were watching me, including the two guys. When I reached them I stood between them, pointed to my Michigan Peace Team shirt and said the only thing I could think of, “You guys are making me look bad.” Startled by this, one guy said, “I’m sorry,” and shook my hand. The other guy did the same. When they hugged each other, the crowd burst into applause.
Although not tall by any standard, Amy commands a strong physical presence and communicates her peaceful intention with her body language. She may have deviated from the practice of staying calm under pressure, but her desire to keep the peace is palpable and moving. Her compassion and wisdom are inseparable.
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