Recent events have caused me to want to ignore the daily news, hiding away in my little cottage, shutting out the stresses of the world. Violence leveled at innocent people, regardless of race, sexual orientation or identification, political persuasion, religious belief, career choice, etc., is beyond my ability to comprehend. I mourn those impacted in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, Orlando, Charleston and elsewhere. In fact, I mourn for us all, as this impact on any one of us is an impact on all of us. And I thought long and hard before deciding to add my voice to the clatter offered by every talk news host, editorial writer and elected official across the land. What could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said?
My thoughts have centered on where can peace be found in such a world as this, and what can we say to our children and grandchildren that will offer comfort? What can we say to our neighbors and friends? What can be done?
An old fable may offer some insight:
A wise king once offered a prize to whichever artist could paint the best representation of peace. Many artists submitted paintings to the king. After a serious study of each and every entry, there were only two that stood out for him.
One painting was of a lake – calm and beautiful. Mirrored in the lake were the peaceful, colossal green mountains encircling it, along with a perfectly blue sky and glorious puffy clouds. Everyone agreed it was the perfect depiction of peace.
There were mountains in the other painting as well. But these were rough, jagged and gray. The sky was stormy, filled with rain and wind and lightening. A rushing waterfall poured over the side of one of the mountains, sputtering and thrashing as it went. This picture seemed the opposite of peaceful.
The sharp-eyed king noticed a tiny shrub growing in a break in the rock wall behind the waterfall. In this scraggly spot a mother bird had built a nest. There, in the heart of the furious water, in the turbulence of the storm, sat the mother bird on her nest, protecting her brood—in perfect peace.
To everyone’s surprise, the king chose the second painting. “To have peace,” he said, “does not mean to be where there is no turmoil or clamor, confusion or hard work. Peace means to be in the center of it all and still be calm deep in your soul – to be in the center of it all, and still have hope.”
The word PHILANTHROPY is derived from the Greek and means “love of humankind.” And if I have learned nothing else in my long career in this field, I have learned that there are always good, kind, hard working folks in our midst. There are those who are willing to face the noise, to listen and talk with each other to try to bring solutions to the forefront, and to live calmly in the middle of the madness. They are willing to “love humankind” and in this case, love is an action word. Perhaps if we look to find our own peace, and live generously, we can together find solutions. Perhaps if we each promote love, fairness and justice in our daily lives, modeling these things in our homes and schools and workplaces, we can make a difference in our corner of the world. Hiding away in my cottage is not the answer. I will not find peace there. Peace is in the hope of the work. My friends, I wish you peace.
Denise K. Spencer
President and CEO