My brother, Roshi Genro Gauntt is in Kigali, Rwanda for the next three weeks. Twenty years ago this month the genocide began and over 800,000 Rwandans were killed over a three month period. There will be ceremonies observing this tragedy and my brother and other members of Zen Peacekeepers together with Rwandan NGO representatives will lead a Bearing Witness retreat to continue with the healing and maintain the awareness that mankind does horrible things to mankind. I wrote about my brother and his work in Rwanda in Yvonne’s Story posted on the site in February. Yvonne’s Story
I sent the story to a colleague of mine in Philadelphia and she sent me this letter a few days later.
I was touched by the post on your brother’s work—eerily so after this morning’s conversation with my 16 year old son. I drove Jack to school this morning and he announced “I have to do something crazy today” “Oh, Why?” (this has taken us to the end of our block and the first stop light — its a 5 minute drive if I hit all the lights wrong but I love the moments with him) He answered “y’know Mom, I really want to believe in God and religion but I really I really can’t take it all in. Everyone around me is having the same complicated life with challenges and complexities and I cant fathom it all. So I think now that God, or whatever, is really all about helping us find each other, and bearing witness to each others lives” “How so?” “Well, I went to Kenya (this past summer) thinking I could change things and there I was, in the slum, and all I could think is “I am 16, what can I do to change this?” and realized that sometimes, just making eye contact and a smile is enough. Just being there to bear witness and let them know someone cared about them and that they were in the world. So my mantra now is to do crazy stuff every day and make someone realize I noticed them and entered their lives. I can’t help a kid in the slums, I couldn’t give them a better life, I could try to teach them math maybe but they still went home to a shack with 10 other people in it and a sewer out front. So I decided I’d give them something to talk about over dinner. So each day now I try to notice people. Today, my goal is to make someone laugh, someone feel noticed, and take a minute to listen to someone’s random story. It might change a life! I really like this idea of ‘bearing witness.” With that he jumped out of the car and ran into school.
I am very encouraged that 16 old Jack has discovered the power and beauty of Bearing Witness. So is my brother. Thank you, Jack, for this lesson.