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Mississippi Shining: Good News for All

Posted: 05/25/09 02:58 PM ET

The election of James A. Young as the democratic candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi, is the living proof of the Taoist adage, "Furthering through Perseverance."

In 1964, in Philadelphia, three civil rights workers who were in Mississippi to register black voters were murdered. In the same time period, Mr. Young integrated his Philadelphia elementary school sixth grade as the only black student.

Who of us can begin to know what he felt as a young boy facing the rejection of the white authorities and the real danger of resident murderers? And yet here he is today, forty-five years later, quoted from Robbie Brown's article in The New York Times,"When I campaigned, the signs on the doors said, 'Welcome,' and I actually felt welcome."

This is an inspiring story at many levels, all of which are important. Certainly, politically it is inspiring, since Philadelphia has a majority of white voters. It is socially inspiring because Philadelphia was and is Mr. Young's hometown, and he stayed there even when he wasn't wanted and was in real danger. It is a morally inspiring story of what is right winning, not through violence and hate, but through resolve and love.

We can never fully know the back-story, or the inner struggles from Mr. Young's perspective, but we can relate his ultimate victory directly to our own inner struggles and find nourishment in his example.

In the same article, Mr. Young "recalled the cold stares of his all-white classmates at Neshoba Central Elementary School. Even though most of us have never had to directly, daily face the unreasonable yet emotionally certain hatred of classmates (and their parents, and certainly most of the school teachers and administrators), each of us has had to face rejection in life, and perhaps even unreasonable hatred.

So we know in the depth of ourselves what the choices are. We can hide, we can run, we can fight, we can hate back, or we can feel whatever fear or anger or despair appears within us and simply not move. Each of these choices can be appropriate in particular situations. Yet, regardless of the situation, at some time in our lives the truer choice is to not move, to meet what is present, whatever pain may accompany it. In the willingness to not move, there is the opportunity to discover the unimaginable fortitude that generates perseverance.

For a sixth grader to discover this is miraculous, and we marvel and revere the courage that allowed it. For us as adults to discover this same immovability, we need only to be willing to dive into the core of our hearts. For there lives the source of inner strength.

Support must have been huge for this young man, from his family, community and church. The openhearted people willing to stand behind him and for him and to transmit to him true support, are the heroes in the background. We must also salute them deeply.

And in your life, whatever the obstacles of non-acceptance or even much worse placed in your path, there has also always been support. Perhaps support in your family, or community, or religion, or perhaps in ways unrecognizable at the time. Support can appear in the story from another time of a child willing to face hatred to take his rightful place, or support through the prayers for peace and freedom that have been prayed throughout the centuries, or -- even closer -- the love and acceptance in your own open heart.

Perseverance furthers love when the heart informs it. And miraculous events follow in time.

Mr. Young won, and we all win if we allow his story to inform our inner struggles, the struggle with the parts of ourselves we deem hateful and unworthy; the struggle with others we deem hateful and unworthy.

Now the town that was the subject for the movie, Mississippi Burning is Mississippi shining.

The shining is the glow of the victory of the heart in the place where hatred lived. Whatever our superficial skin color, whatever our deep conditioning, whatever our unreasonable hatreds, if we turn to this shining within us, we find all is welcome here. All of us are welcome home.

Gangaji is holding a silent retreat at Lake Tahoe June 7-12 and will be touring Europe this summer. Read more about Gangaji's events and catalog of books and videos online.

 
 
 

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