Paris, France has been long known as “The City of Light”.  Nearly two weeks ago, a sudden darkness enveloped the city as terrorists struck at multiple locations where Parisians and others gathered, killing over 120 people and injuring several hundred more.I don’t have any easy answers or explanations for what happened, or any easy solutions to offer to end the cycle of violence and mayhem, either. What I sense, though, is that people who do not value and are willing to extinguish the lives of other human beings do not value their own lives as well.

It’s hard to tell where it all starts, this slippery slope of de-valuing people who do not believe, think, act, speak and look like themselves, to their willingness to denigrate and annihilate anyone and anything that represents what is threatening, which often means something they do not fully understand, nor wish to take the time and effort to better understand. How do people become so disconnected that they harm others and them selves? How do we do the same toward the environment in which we all live and depend upon?

We’re all complicit in this from time to time, casting for sound bite responses and solutions to complex issues, looking for the easy way out and to then move on with our busy lives, until the next crisis or misunderstanding arises. I would argue that until we start more compassionately connecting with others who are different from ourselves and the communities in which we live, not much will change, whether it is to reduce the conditions in which terrorism thrives worldwide, or to reduce the rate of global climate change that threatens our own and future generations.

Nature has and plays no favorites. There is no right or wrong, there are no favorites or rejects, their is no clear black or white. In nature, gray is o.k. Everything and everyone has a role to play and is of equal importance. We all belong-the question is “Can we all get along?”
Spending more time in the natural world breaks down artificial barriers humans create to divide and separate themselves. More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban and suburban areas, belying the need for people to connect more consistently and deeply with nature, which is the foundation of our human and planetary community, no matter where our feet are.

Maybe it all starts with self-love, understanding, compassion and forgiveness first. Maybe there’s a healthy dose of humility thrown into this messy recipe as well. Maybe it also requires us to turn off the televisions. computers, radios, and mobile devices, to not text, read newspapers or magazines for a little while, and to spend time in person having difficult and challenging conversations with people in your own immediate circle rather than expecting to change the lives of others half a world away.

About a week ago at a networking meeting, a fellow entrepreneur said that often, challenging and difficult conversations and conflicts ultimately create an opportunity for greater connection between people. She went on to say that this often means really listening and understanding where others are coming from before expecting and demanding others to understand them first. It’s a two-way street yet nearly everyone is in a hurry, trying to pass others in a rat race that humans and their institutions have created over time. As Lily Tomlin commented, “Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat”.

The City of Light, as myriad other cities, towns, villages and hamlets around the world have done before, is slowly recovering and rebounding after a senseless attack that plunged them into a brief darkness.

Let us give thanks that this will always be the path we choose to take when our instincts are to lash out and exact retribution from those who have caused us harm. If we take an honest and compassionate look at our own lives, we can find and seize opportunities to better understand, accept, forgive and love not only others, but ourselves as well.

Thanksgiving is a natural time to pause, reflect, and shine brightly our appreciation and love for all of humanity, and to take our own baby steps to creating peace in our hearts and world. As Jimi Hendrix once said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace”.

Have a wonderful, peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving!