Remembering Who We Are

This post is by contributing blogger Lynne Westmoreland, long-time music instructor and a humane educator. Lynne is a graduate of our M.Ed. program, and is the instructor for our online course, A Better World, A Meaningful Life, which is designed for people who want to put their vision for a better world & a more joyful, examined life into practice (next session starts November 4).



I'm the co-chair of the Social Justice and Action ministry at my local Unitarian Church. On September 11, I had the honor of taking part in an ecumenical service in remembrance of 9/11. I wanted to share what I shared with the congregation:

Will you enter with me into an attitude of prayer and meditation with this chant, often repeated by Buddhists to send loving kindness into the world.

“May all beings be peaceful,
May all beings be happy,
May all beings be safe,
May all beings awaken to the light of their true natures,
May all beings be free.”

Thank you so much for being here today to remember one of the saddest days in our nation’s history and to pay tribute to all of the lives lost on September 11, 2001. But we are also here to honor and remember all of those precious souls lost since then as a result of the continued violence sparked by that day. We have seen over the last decade that returning hatred for hatred and violence for violence only accelerates and feeds the cycle of misunderstanding, tension, pain, killing, and vengeance. Mahatma Gandhi addressed this response by reminding us that “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”


There is an organization called September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, founded by family members of those lost in the terrorist attack of 9/11. In the days after the news of Bin Laden’s killing they issued this statement: “It is our hope that the rule of law, underpinned by our Constitution that was so terribly strained in the name of September 11th, will again become the guiding light of our policies at home and abroad. One person may have played a central role in the September 11th attacks, but all of us have a role to play in returning our world to a place of peace, hope and new possibilities. We hope that process will begin today.”

Andrea LeBlanc, whose husband was on the plane that hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center, has worked for peace ever since the attacks on 9/ll. She does not believe that anger and despair are the most appropriate responses to being harmed. She believes that we all always have a choice in how we will respond. In her words she stated that “Human beings are born with the ability to be empathetic and compassionate, equal to, or maybe greater than, our ability to be aggressive. It’s about what you nurture.”


Recently, the people of Norway were given the chance to choose how to respond to the tragedy of the attack on innocent people that killed more than 70 and injured more than 150. One little girl was quoted as saying “If one person can create so much hatred, think of how much love we can all create together.” The politicians from the eight major parties in Norway put aside their disagreements to declare “We have a common enemy to fight -- hate, revenge, and intolerance. Our answer shall be love, openness, tolerance, and democracy.”

In 2006, a gunman entered an Amish schoolhouse and killed several schoolgirls before killing himself. In the aftermath of that terrible loss, the Amish extended forgiveness and comfort to the family of the killer. They modeled for the world a different way of shaping a terrible act visited on innocent people. They chose to respond with love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

There are so many people who have called for peace, dialogue, forgiveness, deep listening, and striving to understand each other as a way to interrupt the knee jerk reactions of violence, hatred and revenge. Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Buddha, Nelson Mandela, and all the major religions throughout time have taught that the most courageous way to respond to wrong being done to us is to invite the one that has hurt us into our circle of kindness and compassion. The idea that we are all whole and complete at the core of our being is one reflected in the Buddhist belief that, when we are behaving badly, it is because we have forgotten who we are. We are then encouraged to remember that we are loving people, designed to forgive and build compassionate relationships with all other sentient beings. While today is a day of sad remembrance, it is also a day to celebrate. It is a day that we can remember who we are and honor those whose lives were lost by working toward peace, justice, and respect for all from this day forward.


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