One summer in Abilene, my friend Jane and I had a week-long Peace Camp for Kids. It was an interesting mix, with varying outcomes, but one that will stay with me forever. A little girl who was Hispanic was the only child in the group to "get it" during an exercise on building a community. What did she "get?" That we build our communities and structure our lives on separation, difference, greed, and indifference to those differences.
Everyone was having great fun "building" their communities--three different groups. But while the other kids got caught up in "game" she began with a critical eye of an 8 year old--or maybe 10 year old, I don't recall for certain, to observe that the "rules" were not fair and one group had everything and two groups had nothing. That was the point of the game: to look at how systems can oppress and harm, or nurture and grow.
Earlier this weekend, I had posted about Counting the graces and that I am tired of people hurting people. I wasn't talking about a bombing, or shooting. I was talking about abuse of power, and the sense of entitlement that one feels when the person has no conscience about doing things that hurt other people in order to get what that person wants. But ultimately, the decision to hurt people at any level is made when we disregard the inherent dignity and worth of each of us--in our daily lives. It is not enough just to leave flowers and toys and notes at a makeshift memorial--those that have become all too common all over the world. We need "no more hurting people."
As I went to the kitchen this morning to fetch my orange juice, my gaze fell upon a poem that has been on my refrigerator since 2002 and my second trip to South Africa. It is about the intentional destruction of District Six, a multicultural community in Cape Town that was bulldozed in preparation to establish apartheid. I do not know the author, but the final verse:
In remembering, we do not want to recreate District Six but to work with its memory:
Of hurts inflicted and received, of loss, achievements and of shames.
We wish to remember so that we can all, together and by ourselves,
Rebuild a city which belongs to all of us, in which all of us can live,
not as races but as people.