Can we afford to be ordinary?

Monday, 15. March 2010

Regina Morris (Photo: Mike Brown)Creators of Peace Circles being used as a tool in the pursuit of national reconciliation in Malaysia is the conviction of Regina Morris. A professional trainer and ordinary housewife, Regina is discovering what it means to be extraordinary. As a Creators of Peace coordinator for Malaysia and facilitator of Peace Circles, she tells here of the journey from idea to action, from facilitator to practitioner.

Taken from a speech to the Tools for Change - Malaysia conference, March 2010

One year ago, on the final day of the 2009 Tools for Change conference, I sat with everyone in a big room. It was time for thoughts on actions and initiatives. Amid the posters and flip charts and sharing of insights, my hair stood on end.

This man here is just an ordinary man, but his thoughts and actions contributed to a whole movement in Australia for a National Sorry Day resulting in an apology by the Prime Minister of Australia to the Aboriginal people.

And that man over there gave his own earnings to replant land that was stripped by greedy loggers, which at one time included him. After he turned his life around and started organizing the landowners, not only was he imprisoned, his life was also at risk!

I knew then that if these ordinary people could do extraordinary things: I could too. But what?

It is a question that I have wrestled with over the last 12 years as I put my energy into personal development, professional skill-building and spiritual growth. With my family and immediate community my focus was on caring, supporting, healing and strengthening relationships. In my corporate work the focus was on helping others build skills and improve their lives, as well as building relationships. My path of self-growth was already bringing together my skills, talents and personality into a rich and fulfilling life. Yet I still yearned for something more.

At the final day of that Tools for Change conference, an old friend presented an interesting challenge: On May 13th 1969 there were race riots in Kuala Lumpur which have left a legacy of mistrust and possibly even hatred. Why not bury the ghosts of May 13th by turning the date into a positive event? Thus the idea of a National Day of Reconciliation was born. I offered to lead this initiative.

First actions involved talking to people who wanted to be part of the project and led to two news articles online. Wanting to understand these events which happened when I was only seven years old, I read Dr Kua Kia Soong’s book about May 13th, published last year. An idea emerged to use the Creators of Peace (CoP) Circle format to leverage women’s role as influencers in the family and community for those willing to talk about their May 13th experiences. It would be called a Healing of Memories Circle.

Then, for reasons I don’t fully understand, the actions stopped.

But something else continued: My reflection time, quiet time, prayer time.

As part of my spiritual practice I have had numerous experiences of promptings and insights. IofC’s ‘quiet time’ offered a similar tool but with its own twist. It helped strengthen my process. I embraced it. And using this process, another set of actions followed:

For my father: Although it has been 25 years since he passed on, I lacked closure. I wrote a letter stating my feelings. I apologized, and declared my love and gratitude to him. Something was freed that day.

With my sister: Over a few years of working through past bitter memories, we had come to a point of understanding and respecting each other. I wanted more, though. After the longest breakfast we’ve had together, she asked if she could share a story she had written. As I sat and listened my sister and I became friends.

With my brother: I wanted to tell him about a whole host of hurts. Reflecting further, I realized that while it might have felt good getting it off my chest, would it really have been for unselfish reasons? What was his side of this story? What were his hurts? Instead, I decided to accept and enjoy him for who he is. This was a healing for me. He died suddenly from a massive heart attack last Christmas Eve. I hope he knew I loved him.

The answer comes

And so, as the reconciliation initiative stopped, and as these clearing actions got taken, one day, the yearning stopped. And without any fanfare, my answer came: CoP Circles.

CoP resonates with me on many levels. It starts with oneself, then affects family and the immediate community. It leverages women. It was developed to serve the needs of community. It has a process towards personal transformation. And it has components I value deeply: the sacredness of each person’s story, respect for all, sharing, listening, forgiveness.

I had a willing and ready partner in Tia Nair. About seven years ago we were both introduced to CoP here in Malaysia. After holding some experimental CoP sessions, we realized that we needed to pause the idea until the time was right.

So here, now, was a format where I could bring together all my talents, still be of service to friends, family, community and nation. It seemed tailor-made for me. I was propelled into action.

Between April and December 2009, I ran the first Creators of Peace Circle with Fauziah Zahari co-facilitating. From that first Circle, Tia, Liz, and Rani became facilitators and the five of us now form the core team. We ran three 12-week CoP Circles. We held a preview in the home of Tia and her husband Haridas. CoP got coverage in a mainstream newspaper.

Through Tia’s networks we reached out to another peace-making initiative: Nur Damai. Two members of that group joined our last Circle. We started regular facilitator meetings to strengthen our bonds as the core team. We held a reunion for CoP Circles ‘graduates’. And in December we launched a website.

This year, my friends and I have planned 3 more Circles, a reunion, and outreach to recruit participants to the Circles.

So one year later, as I continue to serve my family, immediate community and corporate clients, I feel privileged to be fully engaged with serving a different slice of humanity. As I look around this room on the first day of a new Tools for Change conference, my hair is standing on end – but for a different reason. A seemingly impenetrable mountain of needs presses in on us, calls to us, stands clearly in front of us.

Maybe our fellow human beings who are in need have a chance…maybe our beloved earth in need has a chance…if all of us ordinary people, become extraordinary.

Regina would like to acknowledge the support of Marianne Vincent in the development of this presentation.