“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”
My dearest friend spoke with me just the other day.
And, as is the case when our two minds ponder-wander together…something most beautiful is most certainly always born.
He was telling me of a time many years ago, and when he was just a young little boy. He was playing outside, and lost inside the beauty of his thoughts, when just like that—he became surrounded by twenty or so of the most hate-filled of hearts.
They shouted at him—racial slurs born of ignorance’s venom, and fueled by the desire to bring a young soul down.
He looked around, pleading, with hope in his eyes—but not even the grown ups stepped in to help save him.
I don’t understand racism.
I don’t understand hate.
In my world, what I understand is love.
So, imagine my horror as I looked in his eyes and saw this memory of humanity’s tumor.
And, as I close my eyes, and still to this day—their hate-filled words pierce through the delicate skin of my very own soul.
I don’t understand intolerance.
And, I don’t understand the inability to see the beauty of another human spirit.
In my world, I see all souls through compassion’s eyes.
But even this…is still, very much a part of our world.
Growing up, I had a most wonderful teacher—her name was Mrs. Li. She was my very first exposure to the rest of this much bigger world, having fled here following the Cultural Revolution of China. I remember one day looking to the scars that were tucked away neatly in the cuffs of her shirt—she had always worn such long sleeves to ensure these scars were covered.
“What happened,” I asked.
Her eyes filled with tears, as she began to relay the story of her imprisonment. The scars on her wrists were the result of her arms being cruelly bound behind her back, for four very long and difficult years. In that time, she was persecuted for her beliefs and beaten for her conviction.
In my eyes, I couldn’t imagine anyone doing harm to this most wonderful spirit. And, because of her experience, my heart felt also broken.
Sensing my upset and inner-unsettledness, she reached forward to gently touch my arm.
“In life,” she said, “everyone is our teacher. Even those, who try to cause us harm. Because, in the end…they will always help us to rise above.”
I’ll never in this life forget these most beautiful words from my teacher, my mentor—who in the span of just a few very short words, taught me the true meaning of unconditional love and compassion.
Indeed, everyone is our teacher. Even those, who intend to cause us grave harm.
My thoughts trailed back to my dearest friend, who sat across at this coffee shop table. I thought of his most beautiful spirit, and I thought back to this little boy standing, crying—as he stood in judgment before racism’s door.
And, then, in one most special moment—I thought back again to Mrs. Li’s words.
“In the end, they will always help us to rise above.”
These misguided souls, who tried with all of their might to strip away this young boy’s freedom—never once thought of the true impact of their words, and that one day ‘Freedom’ would rise above.
And, as he sat smiling gently back at me—I could see the shimmer of light in his eyes.
Truth be told, it’s the same glint that you’ll see in my own eyes and when I smile—it’s a light that can only come from the very deepest part of our hearts, that little space where our inner hope lives.
And, in the eyes of his children and all others he’s met—you’ll see the glint of Freedom’s light forever gleaming from their eyes, too.
But know this, that no matter how hard they might try to convince us of such awful things—in the end, the only voice that matters most is the one crying out from within.
These bullies thought they were crushing Freedom’s spirit—how ironic, that their words gave Freedom his wings.
And, no one—not even these most hate filled of hearts—shall ever keep Freedom’s spirit down.
That’s the real tragedy of that day, isn’t it? When people become so locked up inside their own hatred and fear; that they lose touch with the very best part of this life and of living.
And, as for all of those twenty or so most hate-filled of hearts…I suppose to this day, they’re doing their best to chase Freedom down.
After all of these years, they’ve still not realized—that Freedom shall always rise above.
And so, my most beautiful friends…the lesson is just this, nothing can ever dim the light that shines from within.
So, just for today—why not go out there, and try to find ‘Freedom’s spirit’.
Bonus: “Free as the Light” from artist, Gary Talbott (and, the song that inspired these words).
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