By Daphne White Four years ago, I attended a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh that literally changed my life. I was deeply moved by his words, "You don't need to arrive anywhere. You have already arrived," and I felt a powerful liberation. When I left the retreat, I knew that I wanted to do something different with my life. I had been a freelance writer for a number of years, but now I felt a need to work with people rather than words. For months, I went on long walks and spent many hours in silence. I began to see how all things in the world are interconnected.
I noticed that many of my son's friends were playing with violent war toys and spending hours engaged in make-believe murder on video and computer games. At the same time, I was mindful of how many violent crimes were being committed by youths in Washington, D.C. and its suburbs. It was clear that these two phenomena were interconnected, yet many of the mothers I spoke with denied any links between toy guns and real killings.
The more of these conversations I had, the more disturbed I became. I was also upset by the sheer quantity of violent temptations that enticed my son at every turn—militaristic arcade games, "Game Boys" loaded with "Mortal Kombat," violent television programs and movies, "Power Ranger" action figures, "Super Soaker" squirt guns. I spent a good deal of my time saying, "No!" to my son and explaining the reasons why.
A year and a half ago, I was moved to action. Although I had no experience setting up a nonprofit organization, I started an initiative—by and for parents—which provides specific tools and suggests activities for families who want to make their children's world less violent and more peaceful. We have developed a step-by-step Parent Action Kit that guides parents through a series of activities and conversations with their children related to violent "entertainment," toys and games.
Before the retreat, I felt overwhelmed much of the time. But Thay, Sister Chan Khong, and others convinced me that one person can make a difference. Now I am trying to build an organization around a controversial issue. Being mindful of the problem made it impossible for me to remain silent.
My challenge now is to make this project as effective as possible without forgetting to smile. On many days, I feel so stressed by my workload that I forget to feel joy at being alive and "not having a toothache." I need to remember that I don't need to arrive anywhere, that I have already arrived.
Daphne White is founder of The Lion and Lamb Project. For more information, or to offer assistance of any kind, contact 3302 Glenway Drive, Suite 105, Kensington, Maryland 20895.