Leaders' Blog

Ukraine: Let Us Bend Our Hearts and Minds Towards Peace

By February 27, 2022 February 28th, 2022 No Comments

Like many of you, all I can think about these days is Ukraine and the war that Russia is waging against her. I’ve read articles on why Ukraine matters. These mostly talk about the resources in the country—the vast mineral deposits there. Others speak of how it appears Putin wants to bring the old Soviet Union back to life.

Perhaps on the giant political chessboard our world has become, these moves matter. As for me, I can only think about the resources of mountains and forests, valuable farmland, of children and parents, and grandparents.

I read where the climate and land of Ukraine is roughly equal to Kansas, the state where I grew up. Ukraine, like Kansas, is filled with fields of wheat. This was the backdrop to my childhood. I remember walking out into the wheatfields as a pre-teen, feeling the rustling stalks surround me, in the silence of the summer day, that was the only sound I could hear. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine I had become a stalk of wheat, my body swaying in the breeze.

Let us bend our hearts and minds towards peace.

I remember, too, walking across the Mesete on the Camino de Santiago, surrounded by wheat and other cereal crops as far as the eye could see. As I walked it and looked out upon the vast, unending acres of amber waves of grain, the song, “America the Beautiful” came to mind. I had thought then how much easier life could be if we each looked past the boundaries we draw—making some “other”—and instead saw the places of connection, of commonality—how we each grow crops of wheat or barley or rice to feed our families, how we each long for peace, for happiness, for love, for safety.

Today, I’m envisioning a small Ukrainian child, standing in the fields of winter wheat, wishing they could become a stalk of wheat, waving in the breeze, trying to ignore the sounds of gunfire, the screaming bombs being dropped on their homeland.

My heart breaks for the broken land, the refugees streaming across the border, the unwillingness of humankind to live in peace, the bloodthirsty quest for more power.

As I write this, I can’t tell how the story will end. I remembered a poem by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire:

what they did yesterday afternoon

they set my aunt’s house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who used to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night

i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.

From where we sit, watching the news unfold on our tablets, smartphones, laptops, let us cradle the atlas of our world, let us remember the oneness of everything, let us bend our hearts and minds towards peace. Until then, I’m holding each of us in love.

Here are some links that might be useful in this time:

https://snyder.substack.com/p/a-few-ways-to-help-ukrainians

https://twitter.com/i/events/1496983716010217476

https://action.publicgood.com/campaign/13ac7e1b-4de6-4f7c-b128-4346f73b9832

https://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/europe-central-asia/ukraine

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/new-york/where-to-eat-ukrainian-food-nyc

Photo by Katie Godowski

Nori Rost

Nori Rost

Dr. Nori Rost is a Leader at Ethical NYC.

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