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Compassion Speaks: Which Wolf Are We Feeding?

An Interfaith Concert and an old story raise some questions about how we create our society.

by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC       

Rabbi Shira Milgrom told this story at the Interfaith MLK Concert last Sunday:

[Wait a minute!  Rabbi Shira?  Who’s writing this? Isn’t it Sister Doretta, a Catholic sister? Am I reading the right blog?
Yes, you are at the right blog – read on!]

Rabbi Shira’s story: (I paraphrase)
An elder of a Native American tribe was teaching the children:  “Inside me, there are two wolves struggling to take control of my life.  One is a wolf of violence, aggression, anger, greed, and envy.  The other is a peaceful wolf, full of love and compassion and gentleness.”

As the children pondered this story, one boy asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The Elder replied, “The wolf I feed.”

Rabbi Shira’s story seems to me an excellent reflection for us for this weekend honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.

The Concert
The occasion for Rabbi Shira's story was the annual concert of the Interfaith Connection and Westchester Martin Luther King Institute for Nonviolence, in honor of Dr. King.  At this year’s concert, we were treated to the music of Shinnyo-En Buddhist temple; Kol Ami Jewish congregation; Mount Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church; Little Mount Zion Holy Church; the (Persian and Turkish Sufi) Amir Vahab Ensemble; and the Memorial United Methodist Church – all in the Roman Catholic Chapel of the Divine Compassion!  (You can hear highlights at the YouTube link.)

How does this relate to the Rabbi’s story?  If we truly want to have a world of equality and harmony, we need to experience being with and learning from people of other cultures, religions, and races, as equals and friends.  Our concert offered us an opportunity for groups who rarely have a chance to encounter each other to meet and work together, enjoy each other’s company, and appreciate each other’s music.

The World House
The “vision” of the concert comes from Dr. King’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
    We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim, and Hindu [and Buddhist]  – a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.

This gathering, where the choirs and audience meet to enjoy each other’s music, feeds the peaceful “wolf” in each of us.  We move closer to creating a “we” instead of an “us and them.”  We live, if only for a couple of hours, in the World House.

Our “Wolves”
Another theme that Rabbi Shira's story raised for me is our current efforts to identify the causes of the murder, by a young person, of the children and teachers of Newtown.  The culprits currently in the news are the availability of all kinds of guns, even military grade ones, and video games.  Defenders of each claim that their product is totally innocent and that any restriction of them would violate the Constitution and somehow cause the world as we know it to come to an end.

But I ask you to consider – which “wolf” do these feed? 

Which “wolf” grows in a society in which driving a car requires proof of ability, insurance against damage done by the person using the car, as well as a test of knowledge of pertinent laws, while making guns available without any such precautions?  (Imagine what insurance to own an assault weapon might cost!) 

What kind of world do our children (and adults – kids aren’t the only video game players!)  experience in playing video games?  What kind of world is portrayed in many of our television shows, movies, and YouTube videos?  How much time do we or our children spend in a fictional world that you or I would certainly hesitate to live in, in reality? Which “wolf” is being fed?

Hope
Some groups are taking practical steps to reduce the "food" of the wolf of violence.  The MLK Institute, for one,  does this with its annual day for youth, “Ending Violence, Building Hope.” 

This year, as last, young people from all over Westchester will meet with police men and women to build a relationship outside of street encounters.  (Many of us may be unaware that a major tension in our county is that between the police and young people of color.)  Our hope is that, as the young people and law officers know each other and hear each other’s feelings and concerns, the problems can be solved rather than exacerbated.

This, like the concert, is a very tangible way of “feeding the wolf” of the world we would like to live in.

What about your “two wolves”?  Which one are you feeding most heartily?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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