The Susan and John Story (written in October 2001)
"I feel so incredibly frustrated," said Susan.
John looked at her. The muscles in her cheek were
He understood how she felt. He'd been feeling a great deal of tension
and anxiety ever since September 11....and then, the anthrax scares....
the war in Afghanistan...and now, possibly a war against Iraq... "Do
you want to talk about it?" he asked gently.
"Oh, dear, I’m not sure I can put my frustration into
hesitated, then, "That’s part of what is so very frustrating. I feel as
if I am in some new and unexplored territory in my life and I am
unprepared and uncomfortable. None of the old signposts work anymore."
She fell silent. John stood there, feeling an enormous
sense of love
and appreciation for his wife. She was always so honest, so insightful.
Maybe out of her insights he would learn more about his
Suddenly her words came tumbling out. "I feel so
frustrated because I
don't have any idea what we need to do to solve this current situation.
I mean, it was such a horrible shock when the Towers and the Pentagon
hit—we haven’t been attacked since Pearl Harbor...and that was so
far away. And of course, the terrorists can’t just get away with their
attacks. We have to do something. But I feel so uncomfortable about
what has happened in Afghanistan. I mean, several million people are
about to starve to death there unless food can be properly delivered to
them. And all the bombing.....I don’t know.....it just doesn’t make
sense. The more we bombed them, the more innocent people were killed or
injured. That’s not right. That’s a kind of terrorism, too, don’t you
John thought about the conversation he’d had recently
with the guys at
work. "Yeah, I know what you mean. The thing that Joey and
Paul pointed out is that the more innocent people get killed, the more
new terrorists will spring up. Those guys over there don’t think like
us. They think they’ll go directly to heaven if they die while on some
suicide bombing mission or whatever. So, it looks to me like a ‘no-win’
"What we are doing right now really IS a no win
situation," said Susan.
"But it\'s much worse than that. While we’re fighting this war, we’re
not paying attention to some really important things. In a way we’re
focusing on the wrong enemy. People’s REAL enemies are fear and
poverty, hunger...disease....And ignorance. Those are things that breed
She looked at him thoughtfully. "And maybe the biggest
"REAL enemy" is
the way we human beings think we can live however and wherever we want,
cutting down so many trees, polluting the rivers, the oceans, the
soil... I just don’t see how we can continue consuming more and more
resources?" The muscle in her cheek was twitching again. "I know THAT
is a big part of the anxiety and frustration I’m feeling. What will
happen to the Earth if we keep on like this? It’s a really scary
"You know," said John, "Paul said something similar—that
with the war on
terrorism, we seem to be completely forgetting the larger issues that,
if unattended to, will kill all of us, sooner or later. He gave the
examples of global warming and the holes in the ozone layer. But it’s
all related, as you say, to our way of living."
John sighed deeply. "It's as if people have gotten
hypnotized by the
ability to consume massive amounts of stuff….then they were hypnotized
by the actions of the terrorists....and now, they’re hypnotized by the
reactions of our government and military against the terrorists.." He
shook his head. "I love America as much as the next guy, but loving
America has got to be connected to…be part of loving the whole Earth.
America needs a healthy Earth to be healthy. We’re thinking too
small...we’re missing some really important things we can’t afford to
"Yes," said Susan. "I think we’re basically saying the
same thing. Our
leaders are so caught up in this immediate situation, scrambling from
crisis to crisis, that they—and we—never step back to get the big
picture. And, if we don’t get an accurate BIG picture of what’s going
on, we’ll never figure out a really good way to act."
Susan fell silent. She looked so sad. "I lost my dad in
II....my brother was badly injured in the Vietnam War....John, I’m
really scared that our two sons are...." she stopped, all choked up.
"It’s not right...." She was shaking...fear, anger, frustration,
incredible sadness..."And, over there in Afghanistan, over there in
Iraq, there’s another mother whose son will die...or another young
whose husband may die....it’s just not right. There MUST be a better
"Oh, sweetheart," said John, putting his arms around her
as she started
to cry softly, "You are so right. It’s as if there are houses all over
the village that are catching on fire... and the firemen are all
around to put out this blaze...and that blaze....but it’s never enough,
no matter how bravely they fight the fires."
"Yes," said Susan, wiping her eyes on John’s sleeve. She
took a deep
breath. "What we need is to step back and get the big picture...like,
what is causing the fires in the first place?" She was silent for a
moment, then, "You know what I keep thinking to myself? —If we're
enough to put a man on the moon, aren't we also smart enough to figure
out how to create a peaceful and just world, a world that works well
"Oh, jeez," said John, somewhat embarrassed. "I know a
lot of people
would consider that to be completely crazy, utopian thinking....but ,
tell you the truth, honey, I have the exact same thoughts myself. We
beings are pretty good at solving a problem once we make up our minds
to solve it. But we don’t seem to be asking the right questions. So,
we’re not solving the most important problems." He stroked her hair
slowly, thoughtfully. "Maybe if enough of us were to put our attention
into solving THAT one," he said in almost a whisper, "maybe we
They stood there, holding each other, feeling incredibly
could this be done? The task seemed so enormous. How could enough
people come to focus on this challenge — the challenge of how to create
a just and lasting peace in the world, one that is sustainable long
the future? They both sighed deeply, spontaneously....How wonderful
it would be, if.... if only....
....A faint idea began to take form.... "Oh, honey,"
pulling back and looking into John's eyes. Her eyes were very bright
and full of wonder. "Maybe we just did something just now... something
important in asking ...together...for help. You know, ‘...ask and it
shall be answered unto you’..."
John looked at her strangely. "I’m feeling something,
too, honey. It’s
as if...as if something has shifted....but I can’t put words to it
Susan was excited. "John, I think a lot of people are
these issues and are feeling much the way we do. Maybe we could start
by raising this question with our friends: How can we encourage people
to think constructively about how to create a lasting and just peace
in the world?"
"Now THAT is an interesting idea," said John, starting
to get excited.
"I think you’re onto something. From listening to talk radio and the
various news programs on TV and radio, lots of people seem to be
that some new way of thinking is needed." He lifted Susan up and swung
her around in a circle, a big grin on his face. "Tell you what—I'll run
this idea by the guys at work."
"Great!" said Susan, laughing softly as he put her back
down gently on
the floor. "After you get home this evening, let’s write an email to
to our families and friends. We can ask them also to pass it along to
THEIR families and friends, and so on. Maybe if enough people share
their ideas, we can all figure this thing out."
How can we encourage people all over the world to share
their constructive ideas for building a peaceful and just world?