Lesson from a peaceful warrior

I spoke with a man this morning who had survived the Rwandan genocide.

I was meeting with him to help me resolve some conflict I’ve been having with an annoying colleague at work. I knew I wasn’t the problem, but I also knew that I wanted to make the situation better than what it was, and that perhaps I could be part of the solution. So I asked for some conflict coaching.

I got so much more.

This man woke up one day in Ethiopia in 1994 and learned that his entire extended family had just been wiped out. They were part of the one million people killed in 84 days.

He quit his job.

And somehow, he doesn’t quite remember how, he ate and slept and breathed for the next six months.

And then, he received the news that he and his children were accepted to immigrate to Canada.
He came here.
He wandered the streets.
He came across a school teaching theology, and he joined, and he argued about God for years until he earned a degree.
A few years later, still wandering through his life, wondering why he was still living it when everyone else he’d grown up with wasn’t, he came across a school teaching conflict resolution. And he joined that, arguing about arguing, until he earned another degree.
Now, he works for the Canadian federal government, and contributes to world peace every day.
By meeting with people like me.

This man told me that speaking with me this morning has contributed to his healing.
That having me listen to him, about an unimaginable horror, and having him listen to me about an infinitesimally small problem, was the same thing.
That his pain, in the moment that he feels it, and my pain, in the moment that I feel it, is the same. The cause, the outcome, the import is different. But the pain is the same.
And so is the solution.
It is the acknowledgement of that pain that heals it.

This is how we make peace.
This is how we cause peace to be.
We call it into the world.
We create it.
We insist on it.
Every day.
In the smallest of ways.

This is a man who spent two decades working for the United Nations.
Who chose to spend the rest of his life practicing conflict resolution instead.
It is not such a small thing, to look someone in the eye and say you are sorry for their pain.
It is not such a small thing, to listen.
It is rather a big thing, to become aware of other people’s sore spots, and of your own, and to choose to be gentle with both.
This is a man who decided to devote his life to those small things that are not so small.
In doing so, he learned to stand tall.

This is how we make peace:
We say that it is wrong not to have it.

We try to be true to ourselves, to our natural goodness.
And we do not stay silent in the face of unnatural not-goodness. Evil, meanness, indifference, apathy, ignorance.

We do not stay silent.
We do not stop searching, and wondering, and questioning, and wandering.
We keep breathing.
We learn to stand tall.
For, we have peace to wage tomorrow.


1 comment so far

  1. Moosilaneous on

    What a marvelous experience, to have met and learnt from him.
    And what a marvelous message to share.

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