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Modern Heroes

Editor’s Note: In our attempt to uncover and offer some contemporary, alternative “heroes” to those so often annointed in the mainstream media, we asked some of Creations favorite, long term contributors to share their personal heroes...

by Donna Henes, Exotic Brooklyn

Step by step…Mile by mile… Walking…Marching…Dancing…Becoming a moving force for peace.
Peace Pilgrim devoted almost 30 years of her life to walking and talking for peace. When she was in her fifties during the early years of the Cold War in the 1950’s, she spent a period of concentrated inner questioning about what she, one person, could do in the cause of peace. This midlife meditation culminated in her experiencing an intense spiritual awakening. She came to understand that it was her destiny to be "a wanderer until mankind has learned the ways of peace."
She gave away all of her possessions, including her name, and prepared to embark upon her incredible pilgrimage. On the morning of January 1, 1953, Peace Pilgrim, as she now called herself, set out to walk 10,000 miles for peace. She carried her few belongings– a comb, a toothbrush, a pen and some postal stamps– in the pockets of her tunic. She pledged to walk until she was given shelter and to fast until she was offered food. She gave everyone she met a printed explanation of her walk that bore the simple message. "This is the way to peace– overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."

To attain inner peace you must actually give your life, not just your possessions. When you at last give your life– bringing into alignment your beliefs and the way you live– then, and only then, can you begin to find inner peace.— Peace Pilgrim

Mama Donna, Urban Shaman, has offered lectures, workshops, circles, and celebrations worldwide for 30 years. She is the director of Mama Donna’s Tea Garden & Healing Haven. CityShaman@aol.com

by Puja Thomson, New Paltz, NY

When thinking of heroes, the first person to pop into my head was Archbishop Desmond Tutu– and alongside him President Nelson Mandela and the others who created South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They gave the world a truly pioneering system, based on understanding rather than vengeance, reparation rather than retaliation. They exemplify the kind of "team-player heroes" we need right now.

After the brutality and incredible suffering of apartheid, South Africans faced the enormous challenge of finding ways to deal with their past and unite a deeply conflicted nation. They asked how they could break the cycle of violence, go beyond the roles of victim and perpetrator, and even bring forgiveness after horror. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found a way to acknowledge the truth of atrocities openly and begin reparation and healing of wounds. In balancing these two forces, they went far beyond other known systems of handling the aftermath of oppression or war. For example, the Nuremberg Trial paradigm in Germany brought all the perpetrators to harsh justice. On the other hand, there was the blanket amnesty and self-pardoning of General Pinochet in Chile. Both carried forward simmering resentment.

I keep returning to Desmond Tutu's powerful book, No Future Without Forgiveness, to remind me of the possibility of the heroic. Persons of truly heroic proportions, like Tutu and Mandela, emerge from events that scare, threaten and intimidate most. Tutu was committed to build a peace on behalf of the women and the 'little people' of South Africa, to whom he dedicated his insightful compassionate book. I wonder who will emerge from among us to forge a path of justice, reparation and reconciliation in post-Iraq USA?

Puja A.J. Thomson is a healing facilitator, counselor, educator, author and Minister of healing. Her website is: www.rootsnwings.com. Email her at puja@rootsnwings.com

by Alan Cohen, Haiku, HI

The shuttle van was late and the hotel guests waiting at the curbside were bugged. Everybody needed to get somewhere quickly, and each one knew their need was the most important. The African-American driver, forty-ish, stocky, slightly balding, was doing his best to move the passengers onto the van smoothly. As he passed I caught a flash of his name badge: "Doug." I didn’t envy Doug that morning. The final passenger to board was an Asian woman with a splint on her knee.

Doug had saved a seat by the door for her and her young son, about seven years old. In contrast to the frenzy around him, Doug carefully helped the woman into her place and set her leg on a little stool. Then he turned to the boy and had a heart-to-heart talk with him. "You know your momma needs you now, don’t you?"

The child silently nodded.

"She’s counting on you to help her. Now you ‘de man,’ you understand?"

Again the boy nodded. Doug gave him a friendly pat on the rear and lovingly lifted him onto the seat next to his mom.

Doug matter-of-factly slid the side door shut, took his driver’s seat, and got the vehicle rolling. My mind, however, was still at the curbside. I had just witnessed an act of extraordinary love. In the midst of a sea of self-centeredness, this humble man had deftly taken care of God’s business. "You de man, you understand?"

The world teaches us that greatness means volumes of bucks in the bank, celebrity status, or good looks. But there is one measure of greatness that exceeds them all: Kindness.

Alan Cohen is an author and teacher. Phone 1-800-568-3079, visit www.alancohen.com, email admin@alancohen.com.

by Connie Burns, Black Mountain, NC

When thinking about heroes, a couple came to mind. One is Alice Miller, a psychoanalyst who I have always admired for her commitment to telling the truth of the patients she’s worked with. She’s a voice for the unheard, those who’ve suffered subtle abuse in a world that only recognizes the intense and overt. My favorite book of hers is The Drama of the Gifted Child.

Derrick Jensen came to mind as well, because of the huge impact he’s had on my vision of the world. We’ve printed articles from two books of his in Creations; A Language Older than Words, and The Culture of Make Believe. I have to say these were two of the hardest books I’ve ever read– in terms of their content, not the language. Derrick looks at the very darkest sides of humanity with clear eyes, hiding and denying nothing, gazing with horror on the devastation that we are wreaking on this beautiful planet and on each other. Yet he is still able to bring compassion with him. I wept many times reading those books.

I met him once at a book reading in Asheville. I was nervous, thinking he might judge me because most of my energy goes into my psychotherapy practice, and I have so little left over for any type of social activism. I said as much to him, and tears came to my eyes when he affirmed me for what I do with compassion, respect and kindness. We need more truth tellers who can look at and speak of the very worst that people are capable of, and still hold an open and compassionate heart.

Connie Burns is a psychotherapist in private practice, and Creations’ Managing Editor. connie@creationsmagazine.com