Inner Michael » Every Day Create your History

Every Day Create your History

My reverie on the floating dock was interrupted by a woman I had occasion to meet earlier who was a local psychotherapist and whose work on the Inner Child I had come to admire. The dock was gently swaying as the water lapped lazily at the shore and the wind blew tree branch shadows born from the bright early morning sun. My eyes were closed and I was lost in thought when she approached.

“Sorry; I didn’t know anyone was here,” she apologized and turned to go.

“No, no, please– I am willing to share a piece of this paradise,” I said sitting up and wrapping my arms around my knees. “I could stay right here forever. It is a place filled with peace.” Our spiritual retreat was about making peace in the world and I had momentarily found it.

We began to talk and I told her I was feeling an internal restlessness. I knew my work with the peace movement was too distant, too abstract. I was feeling a pull on my solar plexus that was echoed in my chest and I didn’t understand what it meant exactly; I only knew that feeling portends some kind of change.

I felt her eyes searching my face, squinting to see my heart. Quietly  she asked “Would you like to make it more personal? Would you like to become part of a mission I started to begin peace talks with Russian citizens? I am applying for a sister city from Russia– a sister city for Appleton.”

There are those moments in life when you sit bolt upright because you know the next sound or sentence or image is going to change your life forever and the only way to accommodate that chill in your spine it to sit upright, perfectly still in spring-action attention. This was one of those moments.

I listened to her story and her plan and immediately signed up in my mind. That meeting took place more than twenty years ago and culminated in a long tenure as an executive officer, a grant writer and grant administrator, a consultant for Los Alamos labs grant initiative, an international citizen diplomat and intrepid journey to the Siberian region of Russia. The story is chronicled in the book Looking Back, an historical anthology of history making by those who were there–  by author Kay Kennedy.

After two previous attempts, we were finally granted sister city status with Kurgan in the Kurgan Oblast (region) of Siberia in Russia. Later we adopted the city of Schuchye near Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk– all cities which I visited in the year 2000 as a delegation of Americans forging partnerships that formed the social infrastructure necessary as foundation for the building of a chemical weapons decommissioning facility in the Kurgan region.

The sister city partnership created a ten year history of peacemaking and liaison-forming partnerships and had a successful track record of citizen delegations and exchanges. Our organization initiated exchanges with multiple organizations and social groups. Exchanges included delegations of Russians hosted in American homes and delegations of Americans hosted in Russian homes. There is nothing like being a guest in the home of your “enemy” and discussing the discipline of your adolescent or how to pay the bills, or what to grow in the garden to supplement your food budget. When enemies find out how much alike they are and how much they have in common, the differences and the arguments disappear. Citizen diplomacy works because where the people lead the leaders will follow.

Our ten year track record of University exchanges, school exchanges, pen pal programs, hospital and medical exchanges, police exchanges, Physicians for Social Responsibility exchanges, the arts exchanges, business exchanges and cooperative development initiatives and the military recruitment in airlifting multiple medical and food relief donations helped to secure the grant that I wrote for building the social infrastructure necessary for cooperative relations.

The START II Treaty was in force then and it was an initiative in which the U.S. and Russia pledged a cooperative threat reduction for weapons of mass destruction. The Kurgan-Schuchye area was a chemical weapons targeted stockpile area. The U.S and Russia had already built one decommissioning plant but the government had to shut it down. The Russians were exercising their newfound freedoms and voices to protest the construction and operation of the plant. As misguided as it was, it reinforced to the Russian people that democracy was very much on its way to becoming a reality in Russia after decades of communism and secrecy where your neighbor was encouraged to report you if you spoke out against the government. Russia was the Soviet Union then and it was a big country easy to disappear in never to be seen or heard from again.

In one moment I was in customs declaring obscene amounts of cash, the only way to get money into the country for programs and equipment, and being very nervous while being checked by a severe looking Russian man with the power to disappear me, the next I was in a press conference with Russian and American military broadcast to both continents. I watched history being made and breathed a sigh of relief because it was in the right hands of the right leaders– I felt them. The next day I was in the corner of a restaurant in Chelyabinsk with an American commander with a laptop connected to God-knows-where looking at photos so he could show me the size of the stockpiled weapons– they were the same size as me. “Oh here’s one I can show you; this one’s declassified.” Oh my, what have I gotten myself into? ‘Everyday create your history; every path you take, you’re leaving your legacy.’

May it be peace. Oppressed people live with a fear that very few Americans can understand. Our constitution protects us from unauthorized and unrestrained government power. Third world countries have no constitution, tenuous freedoms and very little say about what happens to them. They are often governed by the whims of dictators not bound to any set of rules or law. It makes for rampant paranoia. So distrust of government is common while criticism of that same government can and often does, get you disappeared. Siberia is legendary for its exiled and its prisoners.

The trip to Russia came at the end of a long and prosperous association with like-minded souls who saw peace as a possibility, poverty and sickness as solvable, war as obsolete and the world as one large family. We were the world. It was a coming full circle for me– a circle that began at age 7 when I vowed to the moon and stars in the night sky: “When I am a grownup, I will do something.”

You see, I grew up with the constant threat of annihilation- from the nukes, the chemical weapons and biological warfare. My nighttime ritual as a child was to say prayers for peace and to ask that if the bombs came in the night and I was vaporized make it quick and not hurt so much. The pictures of a devastated Nagasaki and Hiroshima haunted me and I can still recall instantaneously the actual sound of air raid drills and the piercing sirens. That sound and the accompanying fear punctuated my childhood. And the grownups weren’t doing anything to fix it! An empath just like Michael Jackson, I wanted the world to be a better place. I wanted the children to be safe and loved and not hungry. I wanted us all to forget our differences and just get along. I knew we are only one species, one race–the human one and I felt the trauma and suffering inside me and knew love of the common man was the answer. If we could only learn how to love…

This plant was just being built when  was given a tour.

So I know what Michael Jackson lived with as a child and an empath because I lived it too. And when that happens to a child the grownup world of division and war is foreign. The cynicism in the world is unacceptable. And doing nothing is simply not an option. So that vow to the moon and the stars set my feet on a path that has pulled me into some very unusual circumstances, pulled me through some harrowing situations and led me to some jaw dropping ecosystems, places and faces. I knew a calling– what it feels like in the body, how it sounds and that internal leap of recognition when it arrives. There is one brewing inside me now.

What is interesting and eerie as I come to this crossroads in my life– the place of transition and new direction, the past comes up to face me and for me to meet it while seeing and understanding the circle is complete. It’s all about circle. It’s about making circles, being circles, talking circles, heart circles and action circles. It is about us coming together and understanding we are one. It is about appreciating and blessing the past because it brought us here, but understanding at the same time, that it does not exist unless and until we bring it into the present. That has monumental implications to ponder.

Michael Jackson and I are both peacemakers. We have gone in the same direction and different directions. Our paths have been eerily parallel in some ways and divergent in others. We have, in our own unique way and in the domain that we commanded– made the world a better place. We were each endowed with creative gifts that we employed to change the world. And we did change it. We did heal the world. We did save it for our children. And we did it in the singular and unique way only we could do it with our vow to step up, and step into our life missions. Our arenas were different and yet they were the same. The size of our audiences was different but we each spoke to the audience we had in front of us whenever given the opportunity and wherever we found ourselves. Neither of us turned our back on our life mission nor on our destiny.

And the same is true of you. You and Michael Jackson are both peacemakers. Your paths are both parallel and divergent. Your gifts are both blessings and burdens just as his were. Your power to influence remains at your disposal just as his did for him. Your audience is in front of you now and your opportunity is here. You are Michael’s legacy. Wear it well. You have work to do. You have a world to heal. Will you step forward? Your destiny awaits.

A memorial statue of Michael Jackson was recently unveiled in a place where the people were once an enemy. I would dare to say that the “enemies” of Michael Jackson and his Amerika treated him much better than his homeland. I understand what it feels like to be “a stranger in Moscow” for I deliberately went for a walk alone with only my identification in my pocket in a country where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language– to face down my childhood fears about “Russians.” While he may have felt like a “stranger in Moscow” metaphorically, he was no stranger to Moscow, to the government or to the people. And they have now honored his memory.

And they have done it in my adopted region of Russia- in my own Russian version of the Bermuda triangle– Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Kurgan/Schuchye. The feeling is overwhelming and déjà vu’ and jamais vu’ all at the same time. I have stood in that same square when the footing wasn’t so sure, the bonds not so strong, the respect not so mutual. “Trust,” we said; “but verify.”

So now here stands Michael Jackson who united the world through music, who danced with his enemies, who embraced their country and cavorted with its leaders and military. He brought us together. And he has now brought me here to see it in my lifetime in the place where I came to make peace. I’s humbling beyond words, He taught me “We are the world” and today he reminds me of that and how small that world is and how vulnerable. And statues of peacemakers are much more awesome and breathtaking than weapons. Michael teaching once again– this time that in the public squares around the world, monuments to peacemakers can replace monuments to war.

Now that Michael is there permanently in Russia, I know we are so much closer to peace. But he reminds us that there is more work to be done.

Tonight I will speak to the moon and stars to vow again: “Here am I. Use me.”


  1. Carla Hibberd said . . .

    Thank you for this wonderful story. We all have the means to make a change in this world, we just have to try and not be afraid. The statue to Michael is a wonderful testiment to his message. Thank you.

    Posted June 29, 2011 at 1:29 am | Permalink
  2. Meg Collins said . . .

    This is so inspiring! It gives me a lot of joy. I believe the best way to celebrate Michael’s legacy is to carry on the work he was doing. We CAN change the world!

    Posted June 29, 2011 at 4:23 am | Permalink
  3. Robbie M said . . .

    How well I remember saying the same prayers, feeling the same fears as a child living in the shadow of nuclear terror. You are right Rev. Barbara, you, Michael and millions more in our own small way did change the world. It has been a wonderful journey, though at times scary. At an age when I should be thinking of winding down I am suddenly possessed of a renewed energy and sense of purpose, all thanks to a moonwalking genius! The best is yet to come, if we keep the faith and look towards the new challenges coming to meet us. Thank you for your inspirational writing, I don`t know how ever I coped before I was guided to your site, but I am so grateful that I was. Love and blessings from Scotland.

    Posted June 29, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *