I want to point you to this website called Contagious Love Experiment. I started reading it earlier this week and I am just impressed and inspired by the stuff I am reading there. The blog is run by two guys named Josh Stieber and Conor Curran who are former American Military members and Iraqi War vets who have taken a message of peace across the country on bikes. Their stories are inspiring and humbling to read. There is much to be learned from their experiences and the message they have to share is very much in line with all I believe and teach others. I am not sure if these guys know it, but they are living the consciousness of Marshall Rosenberg’s process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), but I think that might be a separate article for me to write.
Josh left the army using the military’s conscientious objection status after feeling ashamed of what he was part while in Iraq. He needed to have his life more in tune with the belief in the golden rule he was taught as a child. He writes:
“I had grown up hearing ideas like “love your enemies”, “return evil with good”, and “judge not lest you be judged”. But I treated these sayings that the central figure of my religion taught as if they were just nice sounding lines, but not practical. But slowly, my excuses started to fade away. I learned that the military trains people to hate and dehumanize entire people groups, not showing sadness for the difficult task of “removing evil”. I learned that the Iraqis weren’t waiting for us with open arms, men, women, and children from the town we were in protested our presence. I learned innocent people die. I learned that it doesn’t matter what uniform you have on, it’s about what’s inside. And sadly, the military tries to rob you of what’s inside and the result is people treating killing like a joke and showing little care for human life.”
What inspired me about this story is not what truth he shares with us about what has happen, it is what he has done with what he has learned. He continues:
“As I waited until April of 09 for final approval, my plan of spite, of throwing the money back in the government’s face evolved into the walk I’m on now. If I am saying no to war, I want to find out what to say yes to. I want to take a negative and invest it into a positive. In a country where war is preached from the churches, I want to do a little to remember the man who those churches are built for, the man who visited the orphans, served the poor, clothed the naked, fed the hungry… and loved. So that’s what I’ve set out to do and I hope that that love is contagious.”
Fellow Iraqi Vet, Conor Curran joined Josh in August of 2009 after two tours in Iraq. Conor writes:
“I served two twos in Iraq, my first I spent clearing roadside bombs with a route clearance team between Fallujah and Ramadi. My next tour I spent attached to a company of infantry working out of the city of Ramadi. During my tours I prided myself on being able to fulfill my orders quickly and well, and in doing so I rose up the rank structure quickly, becoming a Sergeant in about three years. I saw and heard many things in the war which disgust me now, but I dismissed them as a simple and necessary part of the military machine which treated a good, motivated Marine like me well, so I shrugged them off. I knew that I would not re-enlist after my four years, and with that thought, I held myself above most other Marines and placed the blame of what I had seen and some of the things I had done on the shoulders of the men who would stay in.”
He goes on to explain how his life was transformed when he realized that while humans are capable of horrible things, they are also capable of beauty and love. He writes in his story:
“After this realization I decided to stop looking at people thinking of the negative things they’re possible of, and to simply see them as fellow beings. When I did that, I began to feel the anger in my life slip away. Happiness began to fill the voids in my life, and a spring crept into my step. The people I encountered seemed to change their attitude as well, everyone seemed to become more kind and receptive. Upon seeing this the wheels in my head began to churn. Did all of the worlds problems stem from a lack of kindness, a lack of love? When people weren’t faced with a judgment, were they now free to be anything they wanting instead of the negative person I had been judging them as? As these questions bounced around in my head, I decided not only would I try to not judge the people I meet. Instead, I would try to love them and see what happens. As I began this new exercise in love, I found my life transformed and refreshed, and the people in my life seemed to be changed and renewed as well. Was love contagious, could it change the world? As each day went on I became more and more convinced that the answers to these questions are yes, and finally the truth hit me, yes, love IS the only way to change the world.”
I would request you head over to the blog and especially read the “about” page where they tell their stories. I would also recommend you read this article here where Conor tells about the day he decided to leave the military as the old man and the tea in that story reminded me why I do the work I do and what kind of person I want to be. You can also watch the video below.
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"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.
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