From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

What Is It?

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence; toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. . . . The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the darkness . . . of annihilation.

Martin Luther King Jr.

The simple question continues to echo through my mind hours later.

“What is it, Mommy?” my nine-year-old Katherine asked. “What is it that makes some people do something so awful! What is it?”

The day was dawning as she questioned me. We were standing in our front yard, the sky turning from gray to blue as we prepared to take her to school. She looked up at me, her deep blue eyes round, her innocent face waiting expectantly for an answer. Her expression said, “Mommy will know the answer. My mommy can take care of anything.”

I paused, looking toward the sky. The same sky that had just turned passenger planes into weapons of destruction that plowed into American targets. Targets I had seen personally. Targets I could remember being built as a child in New Jersey. Targets that are visual icons of New York and Washington, D.C.

“Fear. Hatred. Misunderstanding. And the desire to keep people in fear, hatred and misunderstanding.” I looked at my daughter, who at nine is wise beyond her years. She was slowly nodding. I continued, “These people know that if you are afraid, you cannot feel love. If you cannot feel love, you cannot feel peace. These people do not want us to feel peace or love. They want to control us. We won’t let them do that, though, will we?”

In a very short conversation, Katherine had brought my resolve firmly back. She reminded me of a very important lesson that lives deep within me.

In the moments after I heard of the devastation that was occurring so close to where I had grown up, I was frightened to the point of near hysteria. I paced, frantically worried about my children, my friends, my safety, my country, my world. But Katherine reminded me that I could not feel fear and feel love at the same time. As I listened to reports from survivors, I saw gratitude in their words. I heard an unusual peace. I saw light among the tragedy.

We can love as we grieve the senseless loss of so many lives. We can love as we pray. We can love as we donate time, blood and money to the Red Cross and other charitable organizations. We can love as we talk to complete strangers, sorting out our own feelings about the tragedy. We can love as we hug our children, friends and neighbors. We can love as we take an extra moment to simply feel grateful for each breath. For each moment. For each person whose lives we touch positively. We can love as we put one foot in front of the other. We can love as we choose to trust. We can love as we serve our fellow world citizens.

Later that day I was with Emma, my four-year-old daughter, at the park. She came to me and I gave her a big hug. She looked at me and stated simply: “A plane flew into a building. Lots of people died. Let’s talk about it.”

So we did. Plainly, and with the vocabulary of a preschooler, we talked about what had taken place in New York City. She went back to playing.

Soon she returned to me and said, “Mommy, give me a nice big hug so the bad guys can’t get me.”

And I did. Hug. Love. Keep the bad guys away. And when the bad guys come anyway, remember to hug. To love. To trust. To feel peace deep within you.

Hug. Love. Live.

Julie Jordan Scott

STAHLER. ©UFS. Reprinted by permission.

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