I am at the IDEC (the International Democratic Education Conference) in Boulder, Colorado. This is a uniquely structured, “unlike any other” conference of educators and students that is hosted each year in different locations around the globe. I am here seeking inspiration, to learn from my global kindred, and to be among people who envision a future in which every child and adult is affirmed as a beloved, respected individual.

My home-base group includes people from the UK, Mexico, Japan, and multiples US states. Photo by International Democratic Education Conference 2013.
My home-base group includes educators and others from the UK, Mexico, Japan, and multiple US states.IDEC 2013 includes participants from 36 countries. Photo by International Democratic Education Conference 2013.

One of the features of the conference this year are home-base groups. Each day, we meet with the same small group to reflect on our experiences of the day.

I was struck by the juxtaposition of two reflections shared by two women this afternoon: one from England and the other from Japan.

Having spent some time observing people on Boulder’s Pearl Street (a closed street area of shops and restaurants) a woman from England characterized Americans as a people of openness and generosity. Describing the interactions between people and a street performer she said, “What a wonderful culture!”

I confess I felt pride in my homeland as I listened to her. Yes, despite our problems, we are a good people. However, I was quickly reminded that we’re also a people who are capable of unleashing violence on others.

Today was the 68th Anniversary of the nuclear strike against Hiroshima, a fact which was not in my consciousness. It was, however, on the mind of a Japanese woman in my group. She lamented the destructiveness of nuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear power as evident in the Fukushima disaster. I detected no anger with Americans; she never mentioned us. However, our role in this human tragedy was not lost on me.

Her sadness with the evils humanity can wreak were superseded by her passion for changing the world. A young woman, I felt hopeful listening to her speak on this disgraceful anniversary in human (and American) history.

Human beings are messy. The same people — my people — who are open and generous are also capable of great evil. The truth is that humanity is imperfect and fragmented. Yet, at IDEC I feel hopeful; it doesn’t have to be this way.

And so this evening, I simply pray that we find the holy within each other that we might realize we are One. When we do, we will be reluctant to harm one another. When we do, I am convinced that God will dance a jig of joy!

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11 CEB

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