From Our Readers

Yes: We: Can:

Demaris Wehr

YES: There is power in the word ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ affirms
our commitment. ‘Yes’ focuses us, strengthens us, enables us to move
mountains. Ambivalence, hesitation, fear and apathy, by contrast, foster
the status quo.

On the other hand, sometimes an informed, conscious ‘no’ is a
prerequisite to a truthful ‘yes’. An honest ‘no’ is an affirmation of
our integrity, sorting out what is important from what is not. This
allows us to move forward into the fullness of ‘yes’. Powerfully.

WE: Barack Obama has called forth a sense of promise
and hope all over the world. The time is at hand for a seismic shift in
how we see ourselves in relation to each other. The problems are so
huge that the words ‘united we stand, divided we fall,’ were never more

I learned from Vahidin Omanovic, a young Muslim priest with whom the
Karuna Center worked in Bosnia, a profound lesson about ‘we.’ When I
interviewed him about the transformation that took place in him during
and after the Bosnian genocide, he said this:

“I felt betrayed by everybody, even internationally. Islamic
countries are our brothers and sisters according to faith, but they did
almost nothing for us, especially Saudi Arabia, where the holy cities
are placed. I think of Mecca and Medina as my spiritual home. People
sent money from there, but that wasn’t enough. When will we learn that
we’re all in this together? It’s not enough if I know that you’re
hungry, and I give you lunch today and say good-bye. How do I know
you’re not going to be hungry tomorrow? As human beings, we are
responsible for each other. I never thought this way before the war. I
didn’t care what was going on out there. I was sorry that people were
getting killed, but I felt it was up to them. They should take care of
it. Now I understand.”

CAN: If we get through our resistance to a full
‘Yes’ and we convert from the pernicious habit of the individualistic
‘I’ to ‘We,’ where we palpably both receive and give care, then ‘Can’
becomes visible. What frightens us is the feeling of isolation and
personal responsibility in a world that is collapsing in on itself. Any
of us could be in the victim position Vahidin describes. What empowers
and encourages us is the comfort, even joy, of knowing that WE will show
up. In fact, WE won’t even allow it to happen. Together, not alone,
re-finding our collective wisdom, we CAN find ways to move forward.
Alone, it is terrifying and impossible. Together, we can.

Demaris S. Wehr, Ph.D.
Associate of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding

Author, workshop leader, psychotherapist in private practice