A Child’s View

As Thaïs and I began thinking about this concept of Do No Harm, responsibility, and how it effects the way we live and work, it became clear to me how important my early childhood experiences would play a critical part in what would end up being this beautiful book, Do No Harm: Mindful Engagement for a World in Crisis. While she was raised in the lush Santa Clara Valley in California, I was raised in the Mojave Desert that weaves its way from Death Valley to the southeast along the Colorado River. My little town of 4,000 people was rich with interesting characters, good schools, a stable railroad and tourist economy, a sense of place, a connection to this majestic river, and a love for the desert, with heat averaging 114 degrees during the summer. The Mojave Indian Reservation was part of our town, adding a rich diversity that we took for granted; this was simply how we lived together and it seemed to work. If you didn’t know who you were, well someone else did. We were interconnected, sharing our joys and our sorrows, the community, and the desert.

Colorado River - Responsibility and ConnectednessNestled along side the joy of being a kid, there were plenty of social challenges that one could not ignore. Young friends who had to sleep in their front yard and come to school sweaty and dirty most of the time because their dad was drunk and abusive. Following my mother to pick up a lady and take her to our house because her ex-prizefighter boyfriend had beat her up, again, while his 10-year-old son sat in the corner shaking. No child protection or domestic violence services to be found within 500 miles. Where was the justice? Where were the support systems? Could anyone help here? And if so, who were they and how would they be received? Navigating these experiences, and much more was my practice. I had no choice but to be myself, listen carefully and choose my words wisely. I had to be able to respond in the moment. What happened to them, happened to me in a strange sort of way. What also became true for me was that there was a way to show up, every day, with the knowledge that my humanity was linked to theirs. I must grow up in a way that nurtures my ability to respond rather than react to what happens around me. And as Shantum Seth reminds us in the book, it is ‘enlightened self interest’ that we must navigate our world in ways that Do No Harm – or at least not make things worse.  Wendy