From extremist groups to our political system, we are a nation that is continually bombarded by negative messages. Haters get the headlines, negative campaign ads take speeches out of context to skew the message against the opponent.
Yet in Eagle Creek, Wisconsin today, there were no calls for revenge...there were stories of heartfelt support by members of other faiths both in and outside Wisconsin. Children spoke of the selfless nature of the parents that they must now live without; friends and family members talked of the successful American citizens these immigrants became - how they worked hard and embodied all that is good about our country.
We must hang onto that hope for commonality. Our similarities far outweigh our differences. Tolerance, compassion and mercy are vital if we're able to get along. We can't keep killing people we don't like, whether due to mental illness or ignorance.
One mourner who lost his father in the shooting said that his father told him this Cherokee legend (courtesy of firstpeople.us):
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
Here is the same story, but it is called "Grandfather Tells" which is also known as "The Wolves Within"
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.
I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.
Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."
Today's memorial has led me to think about my own behavior. I'm not a hater, but I have posted pictures in Facebook that don't present this positive message. I have been judgmental of those whose culture and lifestyle I don't know or understand. I am going to try to do better. I think I'm pretty tolerant of others' differences, but there is room for improvement.
The takeaway to the service was that while we grieve for the lives that were lost, we must strive to make sure that this type of tragedy never happens again. It is time for us to work hard to bring tolerance and acceptance to all people we meet.
My question today: What wolf will YOU feed?