"My Life is My Message.” Mahatma Gandhi’s words live on near the United Nations in Geneva.
Exiting the International Red Cross Museum in Geneva, the lump in my throat has softened, the near-tears in my eyes have dried but my heart still seems to take up a vast space in my body.
I went to the museum with my 21-year old daughter, Lauren, and my partner, Mitch, expecting a pleasant tribute to the Red Cross and a little history that might liken to reading a novel about Florence Nightingale as the founder of nursing. Oh, little do I know.
Instead, we were captivated by a skillfully designed museum that had us individually and silently sitting across from 'witnesses' of great human suffering. These witnesses shared their stories, from genocide, war, cyclones and tsunamis across the globe. They were digital projections of real people but their stories were impactful as we touched our hands to their projected hands to show that we were ready to listen.
Through this permanent exhibit, The Humanitarian Adventure, I came away with a deeper understanding of political and natural contemporary problems of humanity and the evolving roles the Red Cross plays in prevention, aid and ongoing support to victims of such tragedies and therefore humanity as a collective.
I was most reminded of the resiliency of the human spirit. I bow to this gift of humankind that is a seed within each of us.
Yes, each of us.
Race, age, political or geographical borders cannot touch that seed.
It can be said that the seed of resilience grows stronger through challenge, like a plant stalk strengthens against the wind.
If in our own life, if we have not experienced great trauma — great winds of challenge — we have certainly have experienced occasional gusts or breezes of trauma. By acknowledging these experiences and leaning into the roots of our very humanness, we discover strength, endurance and self-compassion.
And yet, it takes skill and understanding to lean into that which has been very difficult. To catch fully catch the gifts, we may need help from a loved one, a doctor or professional therapist.
We might say it is from this development of resilience that compassion for others flourishes.
Is this not true in your own experience? Can you think of a particular challenge in your life that fed your understanding and compassion for others?
As we strolled Ariana park near the Red Cross Museum, the statue of Ghandi seemed to pull me toward it despite being on the opposite side of a busy street. Mitch knows there are certain things that pull me into abandonment of whatever I am doing: like when I slam on the bicycle brakes at the sight of a wild berry patch, or veer across lanes of bike traffic in Amsterdam to pursue a "niew herring" stand. He recognized the potential pull of the monument and safely guided me across the street. The inscribed words seems a fitting capstone to our time in the museum, "My life is my message".
This seems vividly true for each of the 'witnesses' profiled at the Red Cross museum and is it also true for each of us?
Feel into your heart and let the answer reveal itself.
Then, do what you need to do to let your message ring loud and clear, as uniquely as this life that lives through you.
If you would like help moving through challenges in your life, or opening to the messages of your heart, I am here for you in one-on-one sessions online or in person. Or join me on an online course or on retreat.
With respect for the resilience within you,