Parenting the Soul – Butterfly Effects for Change


This is a most amazing story written by my friend, Ann O’Sullivan. Ann is a psychotherapist whose has begun an initiative called Parenting the Soul, which specializes in working with parents to help develop their children’s potential.

http://soulparenting.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/parenting-the-soul-an-introduction/

My next door neighbour, Eleanor, came to my door with a colourful bunch of garden flowers. Her seven-year old face beaming, she thrust them towards me.

‘These are for you,’ she said.

I received them delightedly, chatted for a while, cementing the bonds of genuine affection that were growing between us.

Eleanor had come to my neighbourhood a few years previously, her family having been relocated by the Council as part of an initiative to integrate problem families into more stable neighbourhoods. The initiative was having limited success. My old neighbours, resentful and unhappy, made no effort to integrate the new families. And the new families slept in their new homes, but returned to their old neighbourhoods for friendships and socializing. The best point of contact between me and my new neighbours was Eleanor, with whom I had become fast friends.

Two weeks later, she came to the door again, another bunch of flowers clutched in her chubby hand, telling me that she and her cousin Johnny had picked bunches of flowers and were selling them door to door at €2 each in order to make money for sweets.

I looked doubtfully over the hedge at the concrete apron that was her front garden, and smelled a rat. I had imagine that the previous bunch may have come from her Granny’s house, but several bunches? I didn’t think so.

Squatting down so that we were at eye level I said: ‘Darling, where did you and Johnny get the flowers?’ She gestured to an unoccupied house on the other side of mine.

‘In that back garden’ she replied.

I gently explained that the flowers weren’t hers to pick, they belonged to whoever owned the house.

‘But nobody owns that house!’ she told me triumphantly.

So I explained that somebody did own the house, they just didn’t live there. And so she shouldn’t pick the flowers because they weren’t hers. She was crestfallen, and a bit cross with me, and went away with a sullen little pout.

For a time there was a bit of bad feeling between us. Eleanor was angry with me for no matter how gentle and kindly I had tried to be, she had felt reprimanded. But I persevered in chatting with her whenever we met and eventually she got over it, and friendly relations were established between us again. She never mentioned the flowers again, and neither did I.

One year later, I was out and about in the garden, chatting to Sheila, a longtime friend and neighbour. Spotting Eleanor in the distance reminded her to tell me that a few weeks earlier when I had been away, Eleanor had knocked on her door. Gasping for breath from running, she pointed at the vacant house next door to mine and said: ‘My cousin Johnny is picking flowers in that garden and he shouldn’t be, because that’s not his house, it belongs to somebody else.’

Sheila spoke with Johnny while Eleanor looked smugly on, a small little girl who had learned, and internalized, a valuable lesson for the life of her soul.

God couldn’t be everywhere…


Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Madres de Plaza ...

God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers – or so the Jewish proverb goes.

Mothers like, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo – The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo – the Mothers of the Disappeared – a famous, emblematic group of women in white headscarves.

Butterfly Effects For Change – Part 9:

God’s Assistants

They came in their hundreds, marching around the main square of Buenos Aires, demanding that the military government of the time – 1976-83 –  tell them the fate of their children – Argentina’s estimate 30,000 Desparecidos.

In desperation, these women had searched for information  – knocking on doors, going from government office to government office, begging and pleading with the authorities to tell them where their sons and daughters had been taken. To no avail.

These sad, desperate visits were fruitless insofar as the authorities never helped the women to find their missing sons and daughters. However, they did bear a very different – and powerful  –  fruit. As the women trailed wearily in search of their children, they may have met with silence and opposition from the government but they also met each other.

On April 30th, 1977, fourteen mothers went to the Plaza de Mayo, across from Government House to publicize their predicament.   This demonstration took great courage as many of their children had disappeared for lesser ‘crimes’.  These women went to the Plaza to publicize the issue of the thousands of missing Argentinians. Everybody else – including the media – was afraid to speak up.

And I’m sure these women were afraid – but they spoke up anyway.

They collected in the Plaza around the Pirámide de Mayo – the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires and a symbol of liberty. However, as the military government had forbidden groups of more than three people to stand in one place, the mothers were told they couldn’t stand there, which is why they began their silent – and evocative – processions around the Plaza.

Soon these 14 mothers were joined by others, until every Thursday between 3.30 and 4.00pm, hundreds of people – men as well as women – walked silently around this square in Buenos Aires protesting the disappearance of their children. To identify themselves, the mothers wore white headscarves emblazoned with the names of their missing children and carried placards with their photographs.

This moving and non-violent protest captured imaginations across Argentina – and even outside –  as similar ‘mothers’ groups took to the streets, inspired by the actions of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Eventually the military regime was replaced, but in Argentina – and indeed throughout the world – the memory of heartbroken mothers with placards bearing the photographs of their disappeared children, endures.

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.  (Aung San Suu Kyi, 1990) 

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http://www.madres.org/navegar/nav.php

Image by willposh via Flickr

Butterfly Effects for Change


The kitchen table is piled with dishes.  Laundry flows like lava from baskets.  Bills glare reproachfully at you from their resting place on the fridge. So, what do you do? 

Well, you’d probably like to turn on your heel and begin a glamorous new life somewhere else.  Somewhere tidy, with fresh laundry and no bills, where you could tango until midnight instead of worrying about ‘stuff’.

That’s understandable but it’s also unlikely to be available to you as a real option, and even if it is, before long the dishes and clothes and bills will pile up all over again – unless you take charge.

Everything in the world obeys this principle – if we do nothing, the dysfunction grows and thrives and we become more intimidated and less able to see our way through any problem.

So – is there an answer?

There are a few.

How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time.

Little by little, day by day.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas.

They’re called truisms because they’re true I guess.

The thing is, most change happens in increments, slices, tiny, insignificant-looking events.  Which does make it annoyingly slow but it also makes it largely achievable by pretty much anybody.

And not just change in your life or kitchen or house but all change.  Including change that can alleviate some of the suffering in the world.

Most of us are ordinary folk and we don’t do much to create the wars, the unjust economies or the atrocities committed in our names.  However, we can do quite a lot to change these things.

I know it seems unlikely.  I know it seems like you or I couldn’t possibly alter the world in any really significant way.

But, maybe if we did everything we could do – whatever that was – to address injustice or alleviate suffering, our tiny, insignificant-seeming actions would start a ripple of change that could grow and swell until something happened for the better?

To take part in this experiment, all that’s required is that we each do whatever we can do – however small and useless that seems.

A ton of feathers still weighs a ton (I made that one up)

Butterfly Effects for Change, is a collection of real stories – true accounts of ordinary people doing just that – whatever they could – and the change that resulted.

I’m trying to collect these stories and while I already have some, I’d like to invite people to add their own stories – or stories they know – or even send them to me if that seems like a better option.  I’d love to read them.

So here’s story number 1 –

Standing Up for Each Other*

In 1992, thousands of people died in HinduMuslim riots triggered by the destruction of a mosque at Ayodhya by a group of Hindu militants, yet in the state capital of Lucknow, only forty miles away, there wasn’t even one casualty.

This was partly due to the influence of the largest private school in the world, the City Montessori School. Founded in 1959, the school has over twenty thousand students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

During daily reflection time, teams of students use stories and texts from the world’s religions to engage their fellow students in conversations about virtues like love and truthfulness.

Students also visit India’s holy places – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha’i, and Jain – in order to learn understanding and respect for other faiths.

Classroom activities center around collaborative problem-solving and teachers go out of their way to commend and reward students for consideration of others.

The school actively encourages parents and grandparents to be involved in designing the school curriculum and to reinforce the principles of tolerance and cooperation at home.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, during the 1992 conflict, thousands of students and parents responded by marching through Lucknow, singing songs of unity and carrying posters with slogans like, “The name of God is both Hindu and Muslim” and “God is One, Mankind is One, All Religions are One.”

Meanwhile, all the city’s religious leaders met at the school and, addressing members of the community, spoke out for coexistence, surrounded by models of a Hindu temple, a Muslim mosque, and a Christian church. Such efforts helped Lucknow escape the violence.

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Story taken from The Third Side – *http://www.thirdside.org/stories_14.cfm

Related articles

Why Virtue?


Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle said, We are not studying in order to know what virtue is, but to become good, for otherwise there would be no profit in it. (1)

The acquisition of virtues is not an antiquated mode of being, it’s a vital framework for human life.  Virtues are like instructions in a manual for living productively.  We think of things like love and kindness and loyalty and trustworthiness as pleasant optional extras that will make our lives more pleasant – but they are much more than that.  Cultivating real virtues – not nominal ones – creates the environment necessary for spectacular human growth.  And that, as Aristotle might have said, is where the profit in virtue exists.

…for the human reality may be compared to a seed. If we sow the seed, a  mighty tree appears from it. The virtues of the seed are revealed in the tree; it puts forth branches, leaves, blossoms, and produces fruits. All these virtues were hidden and potential in the seed. Through the blessing and bounty of cultivation these virtues became apparent. (2)

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(1) Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

(2) ‘Abdul’Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.87