The other night, I went to my Toastmasters meeting, where I currently serve as President. For those who are not familiar with Toastmasters, it is a public speaking club. Members give speeches to get used to getting up in front of people, to hone their skills, and maybe even prepare themselves for a career in public speaking.
I am absolutely in love with my Toastmasters group. We have a wonderful group of people. We come from a variety of professions, religions, and races. And, yet, what is so great, is that we all get along and we really care about one another. We have people from India, we have someone who is Scottish, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, and a Spiritualist. We support each other, encourage each other, and just genuinely care for one another. I made the comment the other night that we are a good example of they way the world "should" be.
I didn't always share these views. Many, many years ago, I was a pretty judgmental cookie. At the time, I was what I called a "holier than thou, if you don't believe the way I believe, you're going straight to hell" type of born-again Christian. That's what I was taught to believe (by religion; not my parents), and that's what I believed. It was a very fear/guilt based belief. If I didn't believe the way I was told, I would go straight to hell. Hell was a pretty scary place and I wanted to avoid it at all costs, so I did as I was told. (I no longer believe in hell OR the devil.)
There were many things that occurred since then that helped "change my mind" and my beliefs have changed drastically. I remember a couple of events that happened about 1979/80 when I was living in Hollywood, California, that had a great impact on me and I never will forget them. The first was when I had gone to a Hungarian dance with a friend. When we got there, there was this "thing" on the dance floor. I had never had any kind of encounter with "things" before and it really blew my mind. She was a he dressed as a she, and maybe even had the operation to make her so. I remember commenting to my friend, "That thing isn't even human!" It totally disgusted me.
Not long afterwards, I had gone into a Christian bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard and, to my surprise, the clerk was another part-thing. He had been a man, became a woman, was "saved," and was in the process of becoming a man again. He looked like a man, but still needed to have the operations. Ugh. While I was there, an acquaintance from church arrived bringing another "thing" with him. He had been a man, became a woman, became "saved," and was going to become a man again (though he still looked like a woman). Before I left, my acquaintance suggested we hold hands in a circle and pray together. (We were the only ones in the bookstore.) Here I am standing in a circle, holding hands on both sides of me with these "things," and praying, and trying not to freak out. It was during the prayer that a voice spoke very clearly in my mind, "See, Karen, these are my children, and I love them just as much as any of my children." Oh. Well, it didn't really change my mind right then and there, but it started to melt my heart, even if just so slightly.
Fast forward to the early 80's after I had moved back home to Indiana with broken dreams. I was so disillusioned about religion, fed up with it, and decided not to believe in anything any more. I now say that I was knocked off my holy-high horse. Then another event happened that catapulted me into my spiritual journey.
I had gone to a bookstore and was walking around looking at books. As I passed the New Age section, I felt drawn to books written by Shirley MacLaine. Now there was no way I was even going to TOUCH one of her books because I believed without a doubt that if I did, a lightening bolt would come out of the sky, through the ceiling, and strike me dead. So, I'd walk around some more, but those books kept calling me back. Finally, I stopped and cautiously tried just touching one. No lightening; so far so good. I picked one up and read the back of the book. Okay, still alive. Skimmed through some pages. Okay, this is looking good. After probably a good half hour, I finally worked up the courage to buy one, looking towards the ceiling and sky on my way out the door and to my car. I read it. Then I went back and bought another. And another. (I can't remember how many she had at the time.)
To give you an idea how fearful I was of Shirley MacLaine... I wouldn't even watch her movie on TV because I just knew that if it was even on our TV, our house would burn down! Really!
Now, I don't necessarily believe everything Ms. MacLaine wrote about, but I don't dis-believe. What she taught me was to have an open mind in everything. EVERYthing. I don't know; I wasn't there. There are a lot of things we don't know about. And I began the slow process of learning. I slowly began to read books of a spiritual nature (instead of religious). My heart began to soften. And then I had a dream in 1989 that completely changed my thinking when it came to judging people. (I'll write about that next time.)
What I have learned since then is that we really are a part of each other. We ARE our brothers' keepers. And once we begin to embrace this thought, then peace will prevail.
Till next time....
Love and Laughter,