What matters

In a group of friends, we recently shared stories of our respective childhoods. We were all a bit surprised to find so many parallels in our histories. Tales of physical and emotional neglect or abuse. Sometimes to the person telling the story and sometimes to one of their parents. Tales of loneliness, fear, and anger. And – invariably – a tale of transcending all this to become a strong, wise, and loving human being.Peacock Butterflies

That which binds this particular group of friends together is the love of nature and its beauty, love of reading, and a deep-felt longing for a better world. A more humane world where humans are respectful of the earth and all living things. These are all passionate and compassionate individuals.

When I look at the perpetrators of violence, abuse, or simply uncaring behavior, it helps me to realize that these people are usually passing something on they received themselves. Those of you familiar with systemic work know that patterns can be carried on from generation to generation in a never-ending cycle.

In my autobiographical book, Passage of the Stork, I describe some of these patterns and how they shaped me. And I describe the long and arduous process of transcending them.

So why is it that some people are capable of transcending the violence that shaped their young lives, and others aren’t? The friends I describe come from different backgrounds and social strata. Some are in a loving relationship with another person; others are single. I’m not sure what the key is to the fact that we broke out of the patterns; I wish I did know.

What is the secret to learning how to care about all human beings, all life on earth, and the earth itself?

These days I hear some people mourn and pray for the cops killed in Dallas or the bomb victims in Paris and Brussels. But I don’t hear the same people mourn and pray for the black men killed by white cops for no reason or the bomb victims in Baghdad and Istanbul. Is selective compassion becoming the norm?

What can I do to infect all humanity with the ability to feel compassion for all life? Because life does matter!

Black lives matter
White lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Hindu lives matter
Cops’ lives matter
Homeless people’s lives matter
Bees and butterflies matter
Birds and wildlife matter
Clean water and air matters
The world we pass on to our great-grandchildren matters

If you are struggling with anger and fear, if you are aware of being a victim of patterns passed on by previous generations, if your hatred of some people is stronger than your ability to be compassionate towards them… find help! Find some way of breaking the pattern and loving the world. Please.

Madeleine Lenagh is blogger, nature photographer, and author of Passage of the Stork: Delivering the Soul. Her book can be ordered at most online bookstores.


  1. Mary-Lou Gillette

    Dear Maddi,
    Our struggle with injustice is heartbreaking. I grew up listening to elders speak ungraciously of groups of people, careful not to speak of individuals. I had the good fortune of having a very wise and kind mother who would quietly take me aside and tell me that while I must not ever contradict my elders, she wanted me to know that, “We do not believe that way.” She also told me, “Never judge another until you have walked a mile in his shoes.”
    When our son brought home a black girl friend from college, I watched the reactions of friends and family, and saw the effort they were making to act normally. It caused me great concern.
    As a nursery school teacher, I had the opportunity to mentor a black high school girl in my classroom for awhile. I was given an evaluation form to fill out by the high school. Some time later, I received a letter from the guidance counselor at the school telling me that when she had read my evaluation to the student, the girl broke down sobbing. She said no one had ever said anything kind about her ever before. That made me sad.
    Today I live in one of the most racially diverse cities in America. Over one hundred languages are spoken here. I am proud of my city and grateful to live here. Our grandson is half Vietnamese and is surrounded by classmates whose parents and grandparents have come from all over the world. The children in his school see no difference in their skin colors. They are every shade imaginable of skin color. When I pick him up at school, there are many other grandparents there too. Some do not speak English, but we speak the same language of the heart. We all love our grandchildren and wish them a life free from prejudice and injustice.
    I truly believe that it is with these children, that we will see a better world.
    I am heartbroken by our world today, but I will continue to believe that if children can so freely accept one another, eventually they will be able to change the world.

  2. What can you do? I think you are doing it – spreading “the message.” I found this post uplifted my day.
    Nice that you have friends to talk intimately with – it has been a long time since I shared such stories ( a couple of things I have never told anyone). But as you say you grow and let it all go.

    • I’m glad to hear this, Cinda, thank you! Writing about it helps me find my way out of the quagmire of anger and sadness the news often plunges me into. So I’m happy it helps others to read it. And I do hope the message is spreading!

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