Back in my hippie days, this was of course my mantra. A simple expression of what life should be all about. Surround yourself with love and peace and everything will fall into place. And everyone will love you.
Of course, in the real world life wasn’t quite like that. In today’s Jamaica, there are so many barriers and walls and divisions. Love struggles to overcome them; peace flies in and shatters itself on the walls – just like a wild dove did recently (but our dove was only stunned; after a while she recovered, and flew away).
A week or two before Christmas, I heard these words repeated again at a seasonal celebration to which I was invited by the non-governmental organization Eve for Life. I have written about this organization before. It is “lickle but tallawah,” in Jamaican parlance - small, but strong. Two women run the organization: Joy Crawford and Patricia Watson, whose capacity for love seems to know no bounds. All-encompassing. Eve for Life provides care and support for young mothers living with HIV/AIDS; and most importantly, empowers these very marginalized young women (many of whom are in their teens) to achieve more than they could ever have dreamed. For example, there is Georgia Green, an Eve Teen Mom, a Top Performer in Food and Nutrition with awards for Outstanding Work in Mathematics, Spanish, Human and Social Biology and Food and Nutrition from the St. Andrew Technical High School in Kingston. And there is Keisha, about whom I wrote a few weeks ago (see “Everyday Courage” - link below), who is now studying Practical Nursing and looks forward to graduating in 2014. At least I can show Georgia’s picture.
This celebration was a Christmas party with a difference. When I arrived, the room was already filled with laughter and loud voices. The ice had been broken (although, as with any party with young people, there were some who were shy and a little awkward). The room was full with men and women – clients of Eve for Life (mostly aged 17-23 years old), and young gay males. Two of the most marginalized groups of young Jamaicans, but there was so much enjoyment and fun in the air, you would never have known. The theme of the Christmas session was “Finding Common Ground.” The participants all introduced themselves and then paired off to reflect on, discuss and present their thoughts on some photographs that were handed out. The photos depicted creatures (cats, dogs etc) living in harmony. There was much humor, but serious comments too. “If all these different species can live together and love, why can’t we?”
“We all have spaces in our hearts for love,” said one young man.
There was no looking back during these discussions. Why look back? The present is much better than the past for most of these young people; and the future looks hopeful, too. If, that is, the young people can hold strong. Joy Crawford gave a presentation on how to have a “Safe and Satisfying Season.” The practical, sensible advice was all looking forward, beyond the fun of Christmas to the New Year. “Identify one wish for Christmas Day 2012,” said Joy, and compare it with the wish you made a year earlier. See where the “gap” is. Did your 2011 wish fall through the cracks? Was it too ambitious, or too timid? Then do better this year. And make plans: plan “one action to make Christmas Day special” - whether it is taking your child to Grand Market downtown, or visiting a relative. A happy memory to enjoy in the coming year.
The message for New Year was about self-affirmation. On December 31, meditate for thirty minutes on the coming year, Joy advised. “Affirm the I Am.“ Resolve your “I Am” for 2013. Whatever your circumstance, no matter how hard, work on that “I Am.” Deep introspection that should lead to action. Light a candle for those whom you loved, who are no longer with you – parents, boyfriends, friends. Eve for Life is a great believer in clients taking responsibility for their lives – going out and doing. Inaction, loneliness can lead to a kind of letting go, losing control, depression, inertia, self-pity. The other all-important aspect of empowering Eve’s young women is sharing with each other, supporting each other. Stay in touch.
The party continued. Groups of young men and women sang carols. One group began quietly, then in the later verses gave the song some true Jamaican verve and swing. I have a wonderful photo of their laughing faces and dancing feet, but cannot share it here. One young man sang so beautifully that his voice was almost swamped with whoops and cheers.
So, as 2013 comes into sight, what are the opportunities and challenges for Eve for Life and these courageous young women? (Yes, they are courageous, believe me.) According to Pat Watson, the children need more support. Some are finding challenges at school, and they would like to set up a homework program for them. And most of their mothers are now at school, many of them in HEART training programs learning IT skills. They will emerge well qualified, eager and optimistic for a job; Eve for Life needs to find work for them, or all the hopes these marginalized women have of establishing themselves in a full, productive life will be dashed. Employers, please consider offering work to the disadvantaged – to those who just need a “second chance” in life…. And everyone, please consider supporting Eve for Life, and other organizations who help to hold together the lives of Jamaica’s most vulnerable citizens.
As I left, the party showed no signs of winding down. There were hugs, gifts, smiles, music, the exchange of contact numbers. The children chuckled, cried, chased each other.
This was a Christmas party with a difference. One I would not have missed for the whole world…
Love and Peace.
Related articles – several bloggers’ thoughts on peace are listed below:
Christmas is a state of mind: On respect, love and understanding (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/everyday-courage/ (Everyday Courage: petchary.wordpress.com – my entry for the UNICEF #HashCon blog contest)
http://www.eveforlife.org/default.html (Eve for Life website)
Peace Mantra: Preserving Peace Series (bringingspirit.wordpress.com)
Go Into the New Year as if it Were Your Last! (lipstick-chat.com)
The Symptoms of Inner Peace (mindmindful.wordpress.com)
Bloggers For Peace: WE Can Make A Difference (theobamacrat.com)
We Are All One (joejeeber.com)