What Shall We Celebrate?

Lady Liberty, Symbol of Strength, Peace, and Freedom. Courtesy Pexels.

As most of us prepare for the Fourth of July, with its fireworks, barbecues and picnics, vacations, and joyful gatherings with friends and loved ones, perhaps we should take a few moments to set forth some prayers for those who have not yet fully gained or even partially gained their freedom throughout the world.

Frederick Douglass had it right when he delivered a famous speech on July 5, 1852, in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. The speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” In the speech, he brought out the contradictions to a celebration of liberty, citizenship, and freedom as an offense to the black slaves, who had none of those things. The Fourth of July was supposed to be directed to ALL citizens of the United States.

Frederick Douglass, courtesy Wikipedia.

The times have changed, but the inequality has grown out of proportion. Today, as we prepare for the Fourth of July, let us offer a prayer for those living under modern slavery, which encompasses more than some nearly 30,000,000,000 enslaved people (as of 2013) – adults, children and babies alike – no longer black slaves alone, but all colors, races, political, religious or spiritual or other beliefs – in every manner of slavery imaginable. The highest number of enslaved people is in Asia, but the United States has a huge number as well. No matter where these human beings are located or how many of them there are, we cannot blindly celebrate without remembering those who are not as fortunate as we are.

“Oh Lord, thank you for this freedom that you have bestowed upon me and those I love. I know how precious it is when I see how many people in this world are suffering every day because they have no hope. I have difficulty understanding this inequality, and I honestly don’t know what I can do to help except to offer this small and perhaps inadequate prayer. But what my soul cries out is WHY? Why must innocent people suffer in this manner when you have provided enough for all of us? I have no answers, Lord. I want to believe that there is some power in this world that is good and that can nourish and care for people who have done nothing to deserve what they are suffering. Thank you.”

My Prayer for Those Who are Homeless

Oh God, today I looked out into the hail and the sleet and the thunder,
And I felt safe and warm inside with my animals.
But then I thought about all those who are without homes or shelters.
I thought of all the people in this world who go to bed hungry and cold,
Or without something to help their thirst.
I thought of the little children, who live in rags, dirty, and perhaps without shoes.
And I felt ashamed, God.
You created this world full of people of every color and culture, every language, every political and spiritual or religious belief system. You created all the creatures on this earth, and all the plants, and everything including the tiniest grains of sand.
And it was good. We were all meant to be on this earth and to help it survive, or we would not be here.
But instead, we hate those whose languages we cannot speak, whose cultures and spiritual or religious beliefs are not ours, and we seek ways to overcome every enemy, when in fact, our worst enemies are those in the compass of our hearts and our minds. We want to destroy those whom we believe are against us, and worst still, we create people who are invisible to us. They cry out in the streets, and in the bare spots along the train tracks. They look up with hope, but instead find empty stares, or people who don't even look at them. God, we have done shameful things to our fellow human beings, and to the creatures and the plants, and perhaps even the tiniest grains of sand. As we looked past the invisible ones, God, we looked past you. We go to churches and cathedrals and to our places of worship, and we proclaim loudly that we love you and we praise you, but we look right past you as you sit in the street with an empty cup, or we turn away in disgust at a mother with nothing to feed her child. We perhaps throw a rock at a stray animal, and God, you are in all of us, so we cannot say we love you when we have made you invisible. You created us ALL in your image, and so God, you are all the people who live on this wonderful earth, and you never told us that you loved everyone but the invisible people.
Help us to truly open our eyes, God, and to open our hearts and our minds. Help us to see that every human being, every creature, every plant, and even the tiniest grains of sand are you, God.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Dachau Holocaust Memorial

Before you mistakenly think that I am a Jew, I am not. I believe that we are all sacred on this earth, and we were put here for a purpose, so we all belong here – be you Chinese, Mexican, Black, Indian (East or West), Muslim, or any other race of people or culture, regardless of what God or spiritual belief you follow, regardless of your political beliefs, or any of those other things we associate with human beings. We are ALL sacred, and none of us would be here if we were not meant to be, along with all the types of creatures and growing plants, right down to the smallest grain of sand. Our greatest challenge today is to accept all the people in this world as being essential for the survival of the world and the universe. Together, we can accomplish so much, but as long as we keep considering that any particular group, any creatures, any plant or grain of sand, we will be continuing to tear down what was given to us as the greatest gift.

Holocaust Memorial

Let us not be separated by barbed wires, by men and women with guns, or other instruments of torture. Let us look to see the beauty in all the individuals and the creatures, the plants, and the smallest grains of sand, and work together to help this universe to continue to live. Every time we harm another human being, be it physical or with our words, we harm our own selves because we lose more of our souls until there is nothing left to show that we were once human. Take a moment out of your day to say a prayer for all of the humans, the creatures, the plants and the grains of sand and how thankful we all are that we have been given this beautiful diversity. Thank you one and all.

In Prayer We Ask . . .

Photo by Anne

Many years ago I came across a book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. In it was a prayer by contemporary theologian, Jack Riemer, Likrat Shabbat. The prayer was one of the most memorable I have ever read, and I made a copy of it and have carried it in my wallet ever since. I periodically pull it out and reread it every now and then when I forget its message.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end war;
For we know that you have made the world in a way
That man must find his own path to peace
Within himself and his neighbor.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For You have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God,
To root out prejudice,
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all men
If we would only use them rightly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease,
For You have already given us great minds with which
To search out cures and healing,
If we would only use them constructively.
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.