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Finding Peace Amidst Tragedy:
Part II





On August 5, 2012, a gunman attacked the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, USA, killing six sangat members and injuring several others. Bhai Punjab Singh, a 65 year-old man, was critically injured during the attack and continues to require around-the-clock, long-term care at an inpatient rehabilitation center.

The following is Part II of the essay written by Holly Sennett, a speech-language pathologist, who has been working with Bhai Punjab Singh and his family since last fall. Holly shares his heartwarming story and discusses how the tragic events of that day affected not only her life but all of our lives.



Continued from yesterday ....


On December 14, 2012, another national and world tragedy manifested itself in Newtown, Connecticut, USA. A gunman with a mind blanketed with the veil of dark, attacking and violent thoughts entered Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty precious and innocent six and seven year old students were killed along with six adults who gave their lives trying to shield them from evil.

On this day our collective hearts were not only broken, they were completely shattered again.

Punjab Singh’s eldest son, Raghuvinder Singh, had the TV on that day and he spoke to his father about yet another tragedy to befall our nation and our world. Tears fell from Punjab Singh’s eyes. His heart weeps for the loss of the innocent because unfortunately he knows all too well about the impact of violence. He lives each day with the devastating and limiting effects of it.

Punjab Singh’s progress is gradual as the neural pathways struggle to slowly regenerate so that he can recover more function to his body. Perhaps this is our path as well. We need a clear path to healing but none of us desires that this path be a slow and arduous process. We pray for a miraculous lightning bolt of healing to come rushing into our individual worlds and into our global world. We want a speedy fix for the pain and sorrow in our lives.

Our hearts can no longer bear these senseless, violent acts.

Violence does not belong in our places of worship where we come to connect with the divine.

Violence does not belong in our schools and universities where we go to learn to richly develop the individual gifts that we possess.

Violence does not belong in our workplaces where we go to contribute to an organization and to make a living to support ourselves and our families.

Violence does not belong in our shopping malls where we go to gather the needed items for our lives.

Violence does not belong in our theaters where we go to be entertained.

Violence does not belong at our sporting events where we come together in a spirit of unity.

Violence does not belong in our homes that are supposed to be a safe haven and a refuge for us to enter into for nourishment and regeneration of our bodies and souls.

We all want a new direction and a new path. We see the pain in our daily news reports so often that we have almost become numb to it as a way to protect ourselves. We feel the pain in our hearts for a long, long time after the violence has touched our lives. We grope to understand. We ask many questions in a search for an answer to make sense of the intrusion of violence. We look outside ourselves and by the power of projection we point our fingers in many different directions because we want answers, and we want these answers now. We are sure that someone else or something else is the problem. We say that the violence that we see in the world is the result of many different factors.

We proclaim that it is the fault of the parent who raised the perpetrator. We say that our law enforcement system should have known and protected us better. We think putting up signs will help. We say it is the fault of the school system. Perhaps the principals, counselors and teachers should have identified the potential killer so that they could do a better job of protecting us.

It is none of these things.

The violent action is a result of misguided thinking that has its basis steeped in repetitive, fearful thoughts. Many times these thoughts are due to a false story fabricated in the mind. The misguided individuals did not take the time to educate themselves about a situation or another person. They did not take the time to listen with an open heart.

It is a rare individual that will ever turn that pointed, accusing finger that frantically looks out into the world searching for a reason for the pain they are experiencing back toward themselves. Perhaps we need to examine our own thinking and hold ourselves accountable. The only questions that we can ask and possibly have any chance of controlling are:

“What is my part?” and “What can I do myself to contribute to peace in this world?”

When we look within we realize that the thinking in our minds is the source of our problems. We cannot harbor attack thoughts toward ourselves, toward others and toward the world in which we live. We cannot think negative, fearful thoughts that harm.

We cannot say words that hurt ourselves or others. There is great power in the words we choose and in our voices that deliver these words. We need to choose words that represent our best and highest potential. The effect on another person’s soul may not be outwardly seen but the impact of these words is deep and lasting. Words can shape who we believe we are.

We cannot use our hands that were meant to work collaboratively together for angry, hurtful purposes.

It is wrong.

Many people all over the world agree with these statements. We have just forgotten how to manifest our best and highest selves.

How can we learn these important lessons and teach them to others? How can we help ourselves and others remember how unique and precious everyone is and how to value the work that we do with our hands? How can we affirm our belief that at a core level we are all one and we are connected with a higher power and with each other?

One way to help us remember is to focus on a key word or phrase that we want to keep forefront in our minds. We can use visual symbols to help.

At the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, there is a bullet hole in a metal doorpost to the sanctuary. The Sikh community has decided not to repair the doorpost but instead to leave the hole as a reminder.

Astonishingly, a golden plate is posted below this bullet hole of violence with the words, “We Are One” engraved upon it. The message articulates the highest form of response to violence -- forgiveness.

Even though violence came through the Lord’s door, a reminder of God’s sacred message to us is posted there. It signifies that no matter what, we all need to look past the circumstances -- no matter how grave -- and try to see from a higher perspective that we are all one. If our hearts are connected then we will realize that despite our external differences we are all the same.

The Oak Creek Gurdwara has created orange silicone wristbands with the message, “United in Peace” that they distribute to people in the congregation and to anyone who visits. These serve as a reminder of this important message.

It would be wonderful if everyone in the world knew the story and had a wristband to wear, but this is not possible. Other reminders have been created using pet tags and key chain tags engraved with the messages of “Peace” and “Oneness” as objects to hold or wear.

When the shooting in Connecticut left a deep scar on our already broken hearts, a key chain tag with the message, “Connect Our Hearts in Peace” was made with the date of the shooting engraved on the back. These precious souls will not be forgotten.

It is our hope that all people who read this story with an open heart will act upon the impulse to stop by their local pet store or locksmith and have a key chain tag engraved. Any form of the messages that are the greatest hopes of this world could be made permanently visible. All it would then take is a few seconds to focus the eyes and the mind on the messages of “Oneness” and “Peace” and repeat them silently in our minds or out loud several times each day. What an easy way to create a visual reminder that could create a new world.

Perhaps this might be the beginning of the needed change in our hearts and minds. Perhaps it will start a new movement that could literally change the world we see. We could all band together and smile in nodded acknowledgement every time we notice someone else with the same message on their key chain tags.

We would understand that no matter where we live in this world our hearts have the same prayer and intention for healing.

It is time to remember… We ... are ... One!




To read PART I of this essay, please CLICK here.

[Courtesy: The Sikh Coalition. Edited for]

May 31, 2013




Conversation about this article

1: N Singh (Chicago, Illinois, USA), May 31, 2013, 11:03 AM.

Waheguru! That's the only word that first came to mind upon concluding this beautifully written essay. You, Holly, have been touched by a beautiful soul and have been gracious enough to allow us to feel the beauty of it all through your words. Please continue to spread what you have experienced and spread the message of Peace and Oneness. I'll be getting myself those tags and sharing your and Punjab Singh ji's message of peace.

2: S. Kaur (Canada), June 01, 2013, 6:48 PM.

Dear Holly, this is beautifully written! From one Speech-Language Pathologist to another, we can appreciate how precious the gifts of voice and speech are, which allows each and every individual in this world to tell their own stories. On August 5, 2012, Punjab Singh's voice was taken from him in a senseless act of violence. By writing this article you became his "voice". By doing so, not only have you let us in on what an amazing person he is but you have also restored Punjab Singh's dignity - THANK YOU!

3: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA..), June 01, 2013, 10:00 PM.

Going through the essay, it does not leave any doubt that everyone is capable of infinite power which remains hidden within the human body. Guru Granth Sahib, p 441: "munn too(n) jot saroop hai aapna mool pachhaan". That is, "O mind, you are the essence of His light, know yourself!" Everyone needs to struggle with one's mental and physical powers to work out the destiny, in this case Oneness and Peace. It requires of us to enter into the realm of our soul or spirit before we go to any spiritual institution for education and services. Outward forms and symbols (like wristbands or keychains), however important they may be in themselves, are not the real religion and have to be relegated to actual experiences of the soul. There are rare persons who are ready to share such visions for the well-being of humanity.

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Part II"

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