I have fond memories of attending college in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
I graduated eight years ago and I like to visit the town occasionally to see old friends and attend special events. Last weekend’s trip brought mixed emotions.
When I arrived, I learned that less than two months ago a dress boutique in town denied service to a lesbian couple. Last month, a black university student was verbally harassed by a man dressed in KKK garb.
In response to these shameful incidents, there was a large gathering outside Bloomsburg’s town hall in support of equality. Two hundred residents showed up to proudly express their love for a diverse community. On the sidelines, a man protested the gathering by wearing a shirt with the image of a hand giving the middle finger to Islam.
The speakers at the event were, in a word, inspiring. I think most people left feeling hopeful for positive change. On the walk back to campus, my friend was conversing with one of the speakers, a very influential and generous student at the university. A car packed with teenagers drove by and the driver yelled the n-word out the window at the student. Laughter erupted from the car as they sped away.
Earlier that day, I spotted a truck in the parking lot of Weis that had two massive, metal pipes installed on the sides. My friend explained that these pipes can emit large amounts of exhaust smoke on command to make a strong statement against environmentalists, especially those who drive eco-friendly cars.
The night before, at the famous Bloomsburg Fair, I saw an old man violently and repeatedly hit his small (toddler) grandchild when he thought no one was watching.
The grade school students in the area get the first day of hunting season off. I was speaking with a teacher who casually remarked, “Teachers should be able to carry guns,” as if that would solve the problem of violence in schools.
I often wonder what has happened in someone’s life and in their mind that promotes such actions and ways of thinking. It’s usually quite simple: People are raised this way. Family, friends and even large social and political groups consistently reinforce these perspectives and behaviors.
As I enter into the last decade of my childbearing years, can I, in good conscious, bring new life into a world where such hatred is spewed? And in the very state where I was raised and educated?
When I witness the condition of our global health, both our physical and mental sickness, it almost seems cruel to pro-create. But if a bunch of people that don’t consider these issues to be important are churning out kid after kid, maybe I have a responsibility to raise one conscious change-maker to balance out the population. Maybe that’s wildly egotistical of me. I really don’t know.
I do know that there will always be people and circumstances that challenge our ability to respond lovingly, but never-the-less, we must try. We can raise fearful children or loving children. For lasting positive change to be possible, it may take several generations of ignorance being exposed to a few mindful, inspiring citizens using their voice for good to make small attitude shifts.
The morning after the rally, I paid a visit to my very first yoga teacher, a woman who I credit with opening my eyes to a new way of seeing. After the opportunity to move and breathe with 10 like-minded Bloomsburg residents, my hope for humanity was somewhat restored. I remembered that I have the gift of a regular eight-year yoga practice on my side and I shouldn’t let that go to waste by being consumed by the hatred I’ve witnessed around me. Now, more than ever, my voice for peace and equality can be of service.
“Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with empathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Love is the weapon of the future.” ~ Yehuda Berg
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: Wiki Commons
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