As told to Zaiceka Ahmed
A Story for Christmas Day – Kia Scherr
This story began in the Unites States on the eve of Thanksgiving on November 26, 2008. On the other side of the world in Mumbai, India my husband and 13 year old daughter hunched under a table in the Tiffin restaurant at Oberoi Hotel. Two terrorists had stormed in and began shooting everyone in sight. The end came quickly. Two days later their bodies were identified. I was told they were head to head, arms outstretched holding hands. This event was later called an act of war. There are no winners and there is no resolution. But I discovered in the course of these past eight years, something more, much more. As we sat in shocked disbelief while watching the aftermath of this attack on the news, the face of the lone surviving terrorist appeared. How could he have become so disconnected from his humanity? I felt a surge of compassion move through my heart and remembered the words of Christ “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”
There was already too much hate.
I said to my family, “We must send our love and compassion. We must forgive.”
I am not sure I knew what this meant at the time, but I felt a ray of peace and knew that forgiveness was the way forward. As this was an international terrorist attack, the news was all over the world. Alan and Naomi’s photo appeared on every major TV channel and newspaper. Emails from people of every religion came to me through the website of our meditation group.
I was not accustomed to such attention – we had been living a secluded life in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. My life was now public overnight and the idea of ‘one world family’ became a reality as a tsunami of love came through the email messages. This was enough to show me who we really are as humans – a compassionate and caring race. It was the power of this love that gave me the inspiration and strength to move beyond the grief so that I could renew my life.
I had spent years exploring inner peace through meditation and now it was time to activate love, peace, compassion and forgiveness in every way possible in the outside world. As Lao Tzu famously said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” For me, each step is a choice. I had friends, teachers, guides, healers, and family members to encourage, inspire, support, advise and love me every step of the way. When I felt alone all I had to do was reach out.
Sometimes I was able to reach out and other times I had to just be alone with myself so that I could reach in.
I discovered a wellspring of love within my own being that continues to flow as long as I am open to it. Forgiveness is the key that keeps me open to the flow of love. I discovered it is a choice I make over and over again. It is a choice to accept what happened. Even though it grieves me still, I cannot change this hard reality. If I accept this, I can allow life to unfold around me and embrace new experiences.
Every encounter with another human being is an invitation to love. When I remain loving, I experience love. When I experience love, I am not a victim. I will never be a victim if I continue to forgive. I refuse to be held hostage to terrorism. If they choose to hate, I choose to love. If they destroy life, I will respect and honor life. I will honor the dignity of our differences.
On Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ. His birth is a birth of pure love. His message to all of us is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine if we paused to remember this each day, each time we need to resolve a conflict. Imagine if our leaders remembered this and paused to consider actions which affect millions of people. My survival of this horrific loss of my family is to pause, feel the love that still shines, feel their presence in my heart and let their love envelop me as I continue to live and bring forth my very best. This journey brought me to Mumbai where I went straight into the heart of that magical city, straight into the heart of the location of the terrorist attack. I have shared many tears, hugs and smiles with Indians all over Mumbai and also in many other Indian cities. I have talked with survivors, police, Chief Ministers, hotel staff, doctors, nurses, business groups, teachers, students, families from the upper class and families from the slums. I have had dinner at the Taj Palace and dinner sitting on a plastic chair in a slum. I have seen the most beautiful smiles in the world. There is one thing that runs through all of this and that is love. It is the common thread that connects us all and it is there to be held – it is ours for the giving and for the taking. Love never dies. Love cannot be destroyed no matter how powerful the weapon. Love will overpower all fear and hatred. This is the message to be shared on Christmas day and on every day. This is our legacy as human beings.
(Kia Scherr – extreme right)