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When Tragedy Inspires Love

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ARIZONA MEMORIAL FUNDS
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Gabrielle Giffords smiled, Sargent Shriver was honored in a memorial service Saturday, and our nation is experiencing a wave of open-heartedness that offers such a refreshing change from the exhaustive finger-pointing of politics and the black cloud of recession depression. Those moments are easily swept under the rug, but they deserve a moment to be explored a bit further. Why do we only allow ourselves mere milliseconds to be happy or joyful?

There were several moments in the past week that I was moved to weep with joy in the face of tragedy. When President Obama spoke at the memorial service in Tuscon, the outpouring of emotion was so strong that the crowd was moved to whoop, cheer and burst into spontaneous applause. The sadness could not stand alone; joy came, too. When we heard that "Gabby opened her eyes," the outburst of love at that moment was palpable, collective and overwhelming.

Something important happened in that moment. We forgot about our squabbling, and the "face of politics" was restored to the purity of the values originally created. A bright, smiling, integrous and very human politician captured our hearts. Gabby's "Congress on the Corner" reminded us of the incredible gift of our public servants and inspired a recommitment to our democracy.

Our collective connection to a relatively unknown Congresswoman demonstrates the emotional contagion of positivity over hate or bitterness. Tuscon, Ariz. could have dissolved into rage, anger and retribution for such a senseless act of violence, yet instead they chose to create gigantic altars of candles, flowers and balloons, come together as a community and literally "love for no reason."

Marci Shimoff is the author of the newly released book aptly called, "Love for No Reason," exploring the notion of "big love" that transcends a particular relationship. Shimoff said she wrote the book to "find out if people can live in a sustained state of love all the time, and have so much to share, they become a 'love philanthropist.' The answer is yes!" I asked her last week about the dichotomy in Tuscon.

"There is a huge shift happening in our national and global consciousness, evidenced through this example of joy through so many tragic events," she explained. "The question we are all asking ourselves is, 'What really matters?' And the answer is to shift away from fear towards love. Not the romantic kind of love that is dependent on another person, but the essence of love that radiates out from you into the world."

Captain Mark Kelley, Giffords' husband, spoke publicly for the first time this week about the tragedy. Certainly he had no reason to be in a "big love" frame of mind. But, astonishingly, there was only compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude to the world for their support while he kept a constant vigil at Gabby's side, waiting for the right moment to tell her of the losses.

He had no anger or thoughts of political tit for tat. Instead, this decorated NASA space shuttle captain reflected, "When you go up in space, and you see that little blue ball that holds almost seven billion people, you realize there is nowhere else to go, and we have to get along with each other."

We cannot lose the power of those rare moments in our fragile societal shawl. It is time to change our conversation. We feel these sensations of collective love, yet we allow them to slip away a moment later as we are drawn into the pundits' seductive blame game -- sneering, mudslinging hogwash. Ed and Deb Shapiro called for a "kindness revolution" in their recent blog. It is time to refocus our attention, let the heart take a lead, and not back down.

The death of Sargent Shriver at age 95 reminds us of the shoes left to fill in acts of "big love." Shriver chose to "love for no reason" every day and illuminated the world with the development of the Peace Corps and the Special Olympics with his wife Eunice. Shriver's legacy is the belief that the world could be filled with peace, compassion and love.

"Sarge" Shriver never chose to see the world as jaded and broken, Tim Shriver said during the memorial service. Instead, he saw it as "infused with God's spirit. Awe breaking through at each moment."

Bono continues to carry the torch of Sargent Shrivers mission, as reflected in his New York Times article "What I Learned from Sargent Shriver": "Injustice could, in the words of the old spiritual, 'Be Overcome.' Robert Sargent sang, 'Make me a channel of your peace,' and became the song."

Here is Bono saying goodbye and singing this clear message for Sarge -- and for us all:

Have you had an experienece of that "big love" in the hymn, or a sensation of "love for no reason"? How do you think we can build on the uplifting face of tragic events to change our collective conversation and break the glass ceiling of love? Do drop me a note below -- I'm listening!

Join me for my new interactive teleworkshops, including a new "virtual book club," at www.gathercentral.com.