Listen

flag of america
Photo by Todd Trapani

In case you have not picked up on the theme.  Today is Veteran’s Day.  It began as Armistice Day after World War 1.  The “war to end all wars”.  Apparently it didn’t end all wars.  

I want to take a moment, first of all, to honor our veterans (moment of silence).   

We’ve come to live in what seems to be a very divisive world.  Simple, obvious things seem to be coming under fire and lines for sides are being drawn.  There’s a world of black and white and all those grey areas feel like they are getting smaller.  

I know many veterans who feel under fire.  They feel that there is a lack of appreciation for their sacrifice.  

I know many pacifists who feel under fire.  They can not protest war without it being felt that they dishonor the people who are fighting the war.  There’s a lot of anger.  

Factions.  Sides.  Then there’s the middle ground.  That, I find, is where most of us are.  In the middle ground, so I haven’t figured out why it feels like we’re so divided.  Like everything is a constant battle.  As if, if you believe this one thing, you can’t believe this other thing, and you’re sorted into sides and boxes and groups and whatever.  It feels like we keep getting pushed, or are pushing, people into corners and sides.  

Here’s an interesting example:  I was asked a little while ago why I flew an American flag.  I didn’t understand the question.  I have this beautiful old American flag.  I’m an American.  “But you’re so liberal” was the explanation.  I’m not exactly sure how being fairly liberal made me less American…that I shouldn’t fly my flag?  I actually thought: gosh, should I stop flying my flag?  Am I giving off the wrong impression? 

What?  Aren’t we all united under our American flag?  Isn’t it a gift that we don’t all think the same and live the same stories that brings us to the exact same answers?  It should be a gift.  Diversity is what makes us strong.  

What exactly is veteran’s day?  We have parades.  We fly our flags and lay flowers on the tombstones and the markers.  But what is is?  

It is a day of remembrance.  I think the thing that makes Veteran’s Day so special is that it is a day to honor the stories (spoken or not) of our veterans.  Each of us has a story to tell.  Are we listening?  

I’m guilty of not listening and dividing stories into what counts and what doesn’t count.  

My brother is a war vet.  But, well, he’s my brother.  And he worked on submarines.  His form of combat was pretty…I don’t want to say ‘safe’, but he wasn’t front lines.  And, probably, in my own self defense mecahnisms, I don’t want to think of my brothers in danger.  I never asked him for his stories.  Someone else did.  

Then I listened to a story and thought about being in his shoes [personal story removed for privacy].  

Stories.  I think that’s is what Veteran’s Day is about.  Stories.  We become divisive by not listening.  I think it’s an opportunity to practice listening.  Hear the stories.  And share the silence with someone who can not tell their story.  

I think this is where church and community is so powerful.  Space to simply be together.  Safe.  Quiet.  Sacred.  Protected space.  Where one can share stories or sort through their own stories in silence.  And maybe through community.  

Sometimes, on days of remembrance and in this safe, quiet, sacred space other stories come up.  Like increases like as we would say in Ayurveda.  Trauma and traumatic stories awaken other stories of trauma.  And maybe they don’t ‘fit’ the mold of Veteran’s Day, but sometimes the journey or grief, loss, and pain feels like a war.  And sometimes…it doesn’t matter.  Listen.  Allow.  Try not to divide into that doesn’t count, that’s not a story for today, and instead be open and listen.  

I usually start my reflections on the internet.  Finding poems, facts, tidbits, whatever about the topic I plan to talk about.  Sometimes I use the finds, sometimes I don’t.  I came across the title of an interesting article.  It was titled:

Using Veteran’s Day as a Time to Support Victims of Abuse.  My initial thoughts was “huh?”  How does this relate…I mean, I know how it might fit together, but it’s not really the topic for the day.  It’s Veteran’s Day.  I wanted to talk about the men and women of our armed services.  I sorted it into sides.  Today is about the Vet.  Another day is about trauma victims.  Grace provides in mysterious ways.  

I began reading The Body Keeps the Score.  It’s a great book on trauma and the neuro-pathways of the brain and how trauma impacts the mind and the body.  It’s got a great chapter on Yoga and mindfulness on PTSD and rewiring these neuro-pathways…but I digress.  In cases of PTSD on war vets the neuro-pathways of the brain actually change and become distorted so that there is a physical disconnect from what’s happening around them.  It short circuits the pathways of connection, safety, and actually impacts the physical body.  

This is the same exact thing that happens to victims of other forms of trauma.  Abuse, neglect, and the like.  Situations that feel out of our control and not safe form the same protective disconnective neuro-pathways in the brain. 

There is definitely a connection.  But I think the most important thing is to not compartmentalize.  To not shut down conversation and listening.  Like increases like.  Trauma awakens trauma.  Practice listening.  

I shut down communication.  I never actually read that article.  It didn’t fit my version of Veteran’s Day. 

Fortunately, my shut down of conversation meant I didn’t read an article.  No big deal.  But, what if the shut down is another person’s story?  A story that’s not today’s story?  What if we decided to stop practicing listening?  

Regardless of what comes up.  Safe.  Sacred space and community.  Practice listening.  

Honoring is listening.  

Honoring is holding silent space.  

Yes.  Enjoy the parade.  Yes, please, thank a vet.  Thank you.  Fly a flag.  But what really matters is listening and hearing.  Tell me a story.  Ask for a story.  And listen.  Big, small, insignificant, unrelated, related…listen.  

Connect in a disconnected world.  

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