The Dilemma of a Gentle Heart in Terrible Times

Your gentle heart is at a loss for words. It has been excruciating enough to witness how anger, fear and disillusionment has emptied love and compassion from the hearts of people in your country, not to mention around the world. The news has made you cry so often during this intense and difficult year.

You hadn’t even watched the election the night before, choosing instead to meditate in peace.

But the plight of the world outside your bedroom would not let you stay asleep. You woke up suddenly at 2am, with a heaviness in the pit of your stomach. And you just knew.

You are thankful for the spiritual practices that keep you steady— your prayer altar, your angels, and meditation. And yet deep down, when you feel the fear and helplessness rising up to challenge your faith and trust in the Divine, you question your own beliefs.

“What will happen now?” you ask in prayer, a slight trepidation to your inner voice.

As you feel the collective fear of “what if?”, you remember little things growing up as the child of immigrants in this country, the land of the free.

You were six when you went to that department store with your father, excited because he was going to buy you that pretty necklace you wanted.

He asked the cashier a question. She answered by rudely mocking your father’s thick, foreign accent. The smile drained from your little face. You knew what she did wasn’t right, but you were too young to know what to say. Yet it was you who wanted to shrink away in shame, and take your father with you. In 30 seconds, she made you feel that you and your family didn’t belong there, that you were less-than.

You also remember worrying, at that young age, when your father traveled to the South on business trips. You’d overheard, whenever your parents watched TV, about the uprising racial tensions there. What if someone attacked him for being brown-skinned? You later grew up avoiding certain parts of this country, the place where you were born, because you might not be accepted- your hair might be too black, eyes too Chinky, skin too yellow.

And you knew that this was not just an issue in America, and not just for those with certain skin tones.

You’ll never forget when you were 14, living in Germany, and your class took that field trip to Dachau. You packed a corned beef sandwich for lunch, only to leave it untouched after the tour.

You, with your gentle heart, completely lost your appetite after walking through those empty gas chambers. They were filled with the heavy energy of unspeakable horrors lingering in the air, decades later, as if to silently warn those who dared to look history in the eye.

And how could you ever forget staring at those giant black-and-white photographs of the shoes?

Mountains and mountains of shoes that belonged to millions of people doomed just for being Jewish. You still don’t understand.

You also remember the time, a few years later, when that tall man sat right next to you in the train and began singing Nazi songs, his voice growing louder as he banged his long, black umbrella menacingly against the floor. You were trapped; he had blocked your way.

Those were the days when Turkish people, many of them born and raised right there in Germany, were being attacked by Neo-Nazis. Did he think you were Turkish??

You will never know, but you will never forget feeling silently terrified, vulnerable and alone. Because not a single person in that train said a damned thing.

You, with your gentle heart, remember all of this and feel bewildered and overwhelmed, praying that humanity will do better, and make different choices this time.

But, truth be told, what you secretly wonder, deep down, is whether Love will really solve anything in this messed-up world?

From somewhere within your gentle heart, as soon as you ask the question you feel a steady, quiet knowing rise up to say YES —even though it doesn’t mean that Love will always be the easiest choice.

With that thought, you breathe a long exhale of relief, release the collective fear of the world for a moment, and return to your meditation mat to gather your inner strength for the times ahead.