My prayers for 2014 are simple, but I am almost certain they will go unanswered.
It isn’t that I believe God won’t grant them, though. I hope that my prayers follow His wishes for the future. It is we humans who won’t let them happen, who will not work together to make them happen, who brush off the difficult as impossible. Worse, there are many who do not share these tenets I learned through study and much personal reflection.
First, when I go to sleep at night, I would like to know that every person on Earth has shelter and food and is healthy. I want to know that no one is hungry, or frightened, or sick because they cannot afford those basics of life. Moreover, it is not the right of any individual or group of individuals to determine whether anyone else deserves to exist. If that person exists, we must acknowledge their humanity and its attendant fundamental rights to shelter, food, and medical care. Cost should not figure into the equation.
Second, I want every person on Earth to have meaning and purpose in their life. Whether it comes through the work they do to provide for life’s necessities or through avocations that nurture their souls, I want all people to know that they matter. Their ideas, their actions, and their existence matter. No one is unimportant. Worth is not based on how much or in what way one contributes to society. Many are incapable physically or mentally of ‘giving back.’ Yet those who cannot contribute in tangible ways actually do by their existence; they remind us that all life is sacred and that our needs are truly simple. We live, with grace, because we want everyone to live, want it badly enough to work to make it happen, and that makes us all better people.
Third, my heart longs for the day when fear doesn’t drive us to actions and thoughts that we seemingly cannot control. I want all people to feel safe in their own bodies. I want them to be judged on what Martin Luther King called ‘the content of their character.’ Lengthy lists of whom we cannot discriminate against should disappear. We should not discriminate against anyone. Rather, I would welcome the day when we no longer accept any mistreatment or shunning of someone based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, intellectual capacity or attainment, religion or lack thereof, political views, wealth or poverty, health or sickness, or any of the myriad other characteristics by which our arrogance leads us to judge people.
Fourth, we must work together. The unwillingness to accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses has brought stagnation to humanity. If we cast aside our fears, we can learn to accept our differences. If we stand together hand-in-hand for solidarity and, when life is dangerous, back-to-back for safety, we will do more than survive. We will move forward to a future we truly want to leave to our children. Without cooperation, we will not survive.
Finally, conflict must not become war. Disagreements must be solved with words, not weapons. This lesson appears in most religions, yet we still ignore it. We teach it to our children: “Use your words, not your fists!” Still we adults ignore it. Whether we create groups of people or use existing agencies such as the United Nations, it is time to ‘give peace a chance.’