Healing After the Paris Attacks: A Thanksgiving Wish
Since the Paris attacks of November 13th in which 129 lives were lost, Americans have been on high alert, first against attacks promised for Washington, DC, and now New York. The unpredictable murders of innocent people going about the most pedestrian of activities is shocking and generates the feeling that nowhere is safe.
A Wish for Healing
Westerners may feel particularly connected to the City of Light, but I encourage everyone to remember that so many others around the world have died due to ISIS and its affiliates' acts of terrorism in, to name only a few countries, Lebanon (43 killed in November 12th suicide bombings in Beirut), Russia/Egypt (explosion and crash of plane traveling from Russia to Egypt on October 31st, 224 killed), Turkey (two explosions at an October 10th peace rally in Turkey's capital, Ankara, 102 killed), and Yemen (March 20th bombing of a mosque, 130 killed).
I personally wish for the healing of those in the world community who are grieving the ISIS related loss of friends, colleagues and family members, not to mention the hundreds of innocent people who escaped death, but sustained both physical and psychological injuries in these and other related incidents.
Another Place and Time
In 2010, a time of relative quiet in the Middle East, I had the great pleasure of traveling to Lebanon. Visiting a friend who was completing an assignment with the United Nations, I stayed in Beirut, Lebanon’s fascinating capital city. Called the “Paris of the Middle East,” Beirut is home to fun loving people who enjoy food, wine and art with great gusto. The city still showed evidence of the brutal Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990 with an estimated 120,000 war related deaths) but at the same time, new buildings had sprung up and Beirut was bustling.
Among our excursions was a day trip to a vineyard. It was a gorgeous day, an interesting drive from urban center to rural countryside, and our destination was stunning. We met the vineyard owner and his family, tasted wines, ate a delicious spread prepared by the owner’s mother, and at one point sat chatting, looking at the vista, Syria in one direction and Israel right next to it.
The vintner and our guide, one Christian, the other Muslim, in a matter-of-fact manner shared with us their belief that war was coming within the next few years—and they were right. I was stunned. How can you sit at a vineyard, where it takes years for the grapes to mature and be turned into wine that can then be bottled and sold, and comfortably state that war is coming?
Both had lived through and were shaped by the Civil War, which they admitted was terrible. When I asked them more about it, they acknowledged my questions, but quickly brought me back to the present. I was amazed. They were fully grounded in the present moment, exercising care in their remembrances of a difficult past and avoiding becoming overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the future. They appeared fully satisfied with the beautiful day, the delicious wine and food, and the pleasure of each other's company.
Embracing the Present: Letting Go of the Past and Future
And, just as the vintner and guide had let go thoughts about war (past and future) over which they had/have no control, I made the conscious decision to be fully in the moment I was sharing, thoroughly appreciating the loved ones with me, the new friendships I had made and the all around richness of the day. So immersed in that experience was I that the wonderful smells, sights and tastes of that day remain with me as I write this blog entry.
As we head into Thanksgiving, a holiday of fellowship, family, food and the expression of appreciation, I encourage you to follow the safety advice provided by our nation’s protective forces, then suspend your anxiety and fall into whatever way you and your loved ones choose to celebrate the holiday.