What A Small Foreign Island Taught Me About Spreading Love: [In Memory of Parkland, Florida Shooting Victims]
This past December, I walked across a university stage to get my Master’s degree. Also in December, I bought a solo plane ticket to the other side of the world.
In January, I did a day-trip to a few New England wineries so I could turn 30 in places where day drinking was considered acceptable. Also in January, I printed that plane ticket and boarded my flight. (Just kidding – who prints plane tickets anymore when you have apps?!)
In February, I returned home to South Florida.
Also in February, the unthinkable hit. And this time, it was too close to home.
Allow me to explain.
For a post-graduate and also “Shit-I’m-30” trip, I specifically wanted to pick a place with so much culture and history I wouldn’t know what to do if it slapped me in the face. Fortunately, that’s what I got.
I traveled 24 hours on three different planes to get to an island where you’ll find strong-nit communities that love and look out for each other. Within any region of the island, systems are in place designed to devote energy to a higher self. They have strong spiritual connections to their villages and even stronger family ties. As a result, people don’t fall through the cracks.
This is of course the island of Bali, Indonesa. When some people think of this destination, they picture party and nightlife. However, thanks to other bloggers who passionately write and share their experiences, I knew to stay away from those places.
Many of the locals I met in Bali lived in huts on the sides of the road. And somehow, they seemed to be 100x happier than the average American. Let that sink in.
Today is March 14th. One month ago, I was recovering (or trying to) from some serious jet lag after getting back to the States. Also one month ago today, five miles down the street from our home, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was shot up by a deeply disturbed individual in what should have been the safest community in Florida.
May the 17 angels rest peacefully away from the dangers of this world. ♥
I pray for our country.
For those who do not believe in the energy of prayer and/or meditation, a plane ticket to Bali cost under $500 out of New York.
There’s A LOT of flack online about “sending thoughts and prayers”. The criticism is based on the notion that just thinking about something isn’t going to make a difference. I get it, I do. You want to see action.
However, what if I told you that any mass-shooting incident in the history of these new-age tragedies has always begun with a THOUGHT. A thought of the shooter not feeling worthy enough, feeling unloved, feeling angry, feeling spiteful, feeling violent and reckless.
It’s so easy to rush into political views when these events occur, but I’m not going there, so stay with me. I’m at a different place right now. A place to talk about something we need so much more of:
Love for ourselves, love for our communities, love for our planet, love for those who seem not to have it.
I was only in Bali for two and a half weeks, so I can’t pretend that I’m an expert on their culture. And I can’t sit here and give you a history lesson. But I can tell you how I FELT when I was there.
For one thing, I felt safe.
I felt safer walking the unfamiliar streets at night in Bali than I do on the familiar ones back home. (I comment on safety in foreign countries here.) In Bali, you walk by many locals with beautiful, contagious smiles. Seriously, in a country where braces aren’t prevalent I don’t understand how they have the nicest smiles I’ve ever seen!
I got caught off guard one day by a series of storm clouds rolling though (hi rainy season). I found myself on my rented moped without a poncho or glasses or anything that said, “I’m ready to get stuck in a rainstorm.” I pulled over on the side of the road to a small hut. Underneath now covering were two families and two teams of local men, whose volleyball game had also been disrupted by the storm. They waved me in and pulled up the last open chair.
The extent of their English started with “Where you from?” and ended with repeating “USA!” That was it.
I spent the next 20 minutes waiting out the storm with my new foreign friends that I couldn’t have a conversation with. The families were feeding the kids chicken kabobs off the grill. The men were laughing and teasing each other as any group of men do. When the rain let up, the women left with their children on the mopeds and the team returned back to their match. I thanked everyone and waved goodbye as I headed back to my homestay.
Before I had figured out how to drive the moped, I was exploring the dirt roads by bicycle a few days earlier. The sun began to set faster than I had planned and I found myself lost in a maze of pitch-black side streets. The only lights were from a pair of eyes of a stray cat watching me retrace my steps. A woman on her moped stopped as she drove by me a second time. She also spoke zero English, but recognized the word “hostel.” (Not to mention she likely knew where the blonde girl dragging a squeaky bicycle was trying to get to.) She was with her young son, and couldn’t understand a word I said. She didn’t have to stop and she certainly didn’t have to lead me the way to my hostel. People helping people is something I experienced every day on my trip to Bali.
I felt gratitude.
Locals practicing the Hindu religion (different than Indian Hinduism) make up about 85% of the country. The Balinese pray A LOT. Women create offerings every day and walk around leaving them in streets, on doorsteps, on stairs… anywhere you can think of. They give worship to the very earth they walk on; They worship the fire, water, and mountains. They give thanks to fertility and they give thanks to technology.
There are temples in every home and in every village. There are temples in the rice fields, on the volcanoes, and on the beaches. The devotion to a higher-self teaches them discipline and ultimately, respect for one another. As mentioned, I can’t pretend I know everything about the practices, but I FELT the peace in the air throughout the island, just like we feel the tension in the air home in the US.
Lastly, I felt community.
I hired a local driver on the island of Nusa Penida to take me to places I thought only dreams were made of (check out Nusa Penida on my Bali itinerary). On our way back, we waved hi to his friends passing through the different villages. For the record, I was SHOCKED at how many small villages there are scattered throughout the middle of a tiny island.
The strength of community can also be seen with the irrigation system keeping the rice terraces plentiful. Each person has their own role and on a bigger scale, each village plays a role in maintaining the complicated and in-depth process. Without the contribution from everyone, the system fails. (And as a faithful Queen of carbs, I personally cannot imagine a world without rice.)
Point being, in our country, we’ve managed to reach a point where people fall through the cracks. People end up not playing a role in anything, resulting in the complete destruction of their self-worth, and ultimately the respect or regards to others.
We’ve allowed angry, young adults with physically or emotionally dead parents to have nowhere to turn. And worse, we haven’t even been able to recognize that they’re that far gone.
We’re told we can do anything when we’re little, but we’re not told that we have to work hard for it. As a result, disappointment and entitlement sneak in like bandits when we don’t get what we perceive life has only given others.
Today on March 14th, one month after the shooting, it is “National Walk Out” day, promoting a 17-minute walk-out session in high schools across America. I have mixed feelings about the movement, but there is a post circulating the internet that resonated with me. It encourages students instead of walking out, to walk UP. “Walk up the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group. Walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room and sit next to her, smile and say hi. Walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know them – you may be surprised at how much you have in common. Build on that foundation instead of casting stones. Walk UP, not out.”
It’s time to think differently.
The “we need to do this because we’re right and you’re wrong” mentality has taken over both sides of the political aisle. It’s an outdated way of thinking. “We need ACTION A, B, and C to happen and if you’re not 100% with us, you’re against us.” (Talking about both parties here, folks.)
What we’re forgetting is that it all starts with the THOUGHTS.
Where are your thoughts coming from on a daily basis? Are our scared of losing something or never getting something to begin with? Or are you secure? Truthfully… Are you agitated throughout your day? Or at a place of peace for the given moments? Do you find yourself living under a cloud? Or are you shining your light to others around you? By generating positive energy (a lot of the time from prayer or meditation), it in turn leaves less room for negative thoughts.
May we learn to treat ourselves, our communities, our planet, and our legacy as human beings better. Plot twist: That includes talking to those with opposing views with respect. Spreading love is more important than “being right.” Can we agree on that?
This post is dedicated to the victims of MSD Highschool. I didn’t know any of you, but I know the community misses you dearly.
Chris Hixon, 49
Aaron Feis, 37
Scott Beigel, 35
Meadow Pollack, 18
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Helena Ramsay, 17
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Luke Hoyer, 15
Peter Wang, 15
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
Jamie Guttenberg, 14
Cara Loughran, 14
Gina Montalto, 14
Alaina Petty, 14
Alex Schachter, 14