Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Us, Them and Peace

Maureen at Writing without Paper suggested an article by Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B titled, "The Price of Peace."  In it, he suggests that each one of us has contributed to the universal lack of peace and suggested that one way we create this "peace-less" world is by our "us-them" thinking.  As long as there is a "them" separate from "us," we will not have peace.  He states,
"... if we face the fact that we are one, that “they” are “us”, that the face of the enemy is our own face, then we will have reached the first basis for peace."
He suggests that one way to get beyond this divisive mindset is to identify with whomever we consider "they."  He explains an approach he tried, "... at the beginning of Lent one year, I found a photograph of some people who for me are “they’. That picture became my Lenten pin-up. I looked at it every day: “they” became “us”. So I suggest you think of something very creative that will bring home to you the fact that we are one: pick your “theys” and identify with them in some way or other.

I was thinking about this a few years ago when I wrote the poem, "The Lonely Me" which you can read in the extended post if you want.  It is a struggle to let go of our thoughts of "they" but if we begin to see our commonalities instead of our differences, maybe we could take a step toward the peaceful world that all of us really want.

The Lonely Me

by Joyce Wycoff

Once upon a time, not so long ago,
in a land, not so far away,
there were two types of people: 
The "We’s" and the "They’s." 

The We's were good, pure and predictable. 
The They's were a strange and disturbing breed. 
Whenever the We's and They's gathered to play,
Squabbles and brouhahas always broke out. 

Because of this constant bickering and fighting,
the two groups stopped playing together. 
The We's only played with other We's
and the They's only played with other They's. 

However, a strange thing began to happen.  
Every time the We's went out to play,
they would find someone
they thought  was a We
but who turned out to be a They. 

It was very upsetting,
but one by one the traitor We's
were sent off to be with the They's. 
Until one day there was only one We (Me)
and all of the They's (Them). 
Which meant that there was
no one left for the Me to play with.

At the same time on the other side of the land,
another strange thing
was happening with the They's. 
One day, the They's woke up and saw themselves
as good, pure and predictable. 
"We're good!  they shouted.  We’re pure!"
"We're We's!" they proclaimed. 

So the new-born We's gamboled and played. 
Until …
they noticed a few We's
who were acting a little strangely, 
playing in a way
that was just a bit disturbing.

Swiftly the We’s took action. 
"You're not We’s," they cried. 
"You're … why you’re They's!. 
Be gone!" the We’s demanded. 
And the false We’s slunk away,
sad and lonely. 
Each day the We's discovered
more They's in their midst and
quickly sent them away also. 
Until one day …
there was only one We (Me)
and all of the They's (Them). 
And, once again,
there was no one left for the Me to play with.

This time, however, a wise old woman,
a crone with a face crinkled and kind,
sat down by the lonely Me and listened
as he poured out his sad tale of We's and They's. 

"I'll tell you a secret," whispered the crone
as she patted the sobbing Me. 
"There are no We's …
and there are no They's. 
There are only Me's,
and while each Me is completely different,
we are all Me’s … just like you. 

“Each Me is lonely … just like you.
And each Me is looking for a playmate …
just like you.
So why don’t you just play together
as Me’s without trying to make each other
a We or a They?
You would have ever so much more fun.”

The little Me sniffed,
Wiped his little Me-nose on his sleeve,
Then he looked around and suddenly saw
that the playground was filled with Me’s
all wanting to play.

So he ran off to join the fun and
he may be there still
in that magical land of Me’s where
no one worries about who’s a We
or who’s a They.
And no Me is ever lonely
when he wants to play.


  1. Thank you, Joyce.

    Steindl-Rast often has thought-provoking essays that I wish more people might read.

    What a wonderful image you've posted, too.

  2. Joyce -- I love this poem! It is powerful. I 'see' it as a children's book (for adults too) sort of a Dr. Seuss look of Mes and Theys looking for the right ways to get together without Mes and theys between them.



  3. “Each Me is lonely … just like you.
    And each Me is looking for a playmate …"