Article by Peggy Dylan

Your vision is our vision, we will not forget!

“I don’t want to forget, no matter how terrible… I will never forget. The world needs to know. We can not keep silent, this is how the Jewish people are making sure that what happened in Germany will never happen again. We must do the same, we must speak out!” A young man with a strong chin spoke, his eyes blazing. “Yes!” called another, “we are a people who always say: let’s not look at it, we are strong, let’s just go on and ignore the past. So then every 50 years we repeat history and have another war.”

I was uncertain how my unconventional and reality shattering work would be received by this group, who had never done or heard of anything similar. Quite honestly, as a group they were dealing with challenges, both due to the horrors of their past and the culture they live in, which we here can hardly imagine. Their initial skepticism was to be expected, but as we proceeded their doubt started to turn to excitement. My heart expanded as young person after young person stepped up with determination and enthusiasm to participate in the challenges I gave them and were obviously grasping the concepts I was sharing with them.

A slight mist lifted from the lake and the almost full moon shone through the trees as we headed for the fire. The fire had been burning to coals for two hours and was hot as I raked it out. All fires differ in temperature and I had hoped for one that was a bit easier to walk on. Years of experience have taught me that the hotter the fire the more energy is needed to walk it. Members of a tribe from southeast Africa, whom I consider master firewalkers, say that the human energy has to equal the energy of the fire to walk it successfully. In my experience this holds true. As I raked out the fire I mused about the challenges ahead for these kids as they return home, the amount of energy it will take to meet their intent of changing the pattern of war their culture has been steeped in for centuries. The hot fire was an appropriate reflection of the challenges ahead.

I stepped back form the fire, it was ready: a glowing path of coals stretched out in front of me, symbolizing our capacity to overcome our fears and limitations, to reach into a part of ourselves we did not know we have and do what most people consider impossible. For these young people it was a declaration that a war would never be fought in their country again. The drumming started and two young men approached the fire.

Both of them had been very vocal in the morning session, almost competitive with each other, one insisting on change, the other mired in the hopelessness of the situation. They held hands drawing strength from each other, knowing that the only way they could bring about peace was to do it together, not caring if the other was Serb, Croat or Muslim, feeling that their desire for peace was stronger than their differences. They stood there in front of the hot coals knowing that to face the fires of their lives, both the memories and the reality of what was waiting for them at home, they needed to draw strength from others with the same vision. They stood for a few moments and then they squeezed each other’s hands, a slight smile spread on their faces and they walked across the fire. Wild celebration erupted from the other kids as they joined in the firewalking and danced wildly to the drumming. I leaned on my rake and watched as they invited one another to walk, to dance, to skip across the fire. I saw fear turn to joy, doubt to hope, and pain dissolve as these young people touched on and remembered their capacity and the beauty of being fully alive.

The next morning I was walking the damp trail from my cabin to the main hall for breakfast when I felt a slight tug on my sleeve which brought me back from my reverie about the immensity of what these kids were wanting to do. “Please…just a minute”, a slight voice said and I turned to find the slender blond girl holding my sleeve. “Thank you…I have no words…”, she stumbled in her halting English and then continued, “the past is healed, I feel such joy, I am alive and so I can make our dreams real… with my friends…we can do anything!” She fell into my arms and gave me a long hug then skipped off to breakfast. I did not make it to breakfast that morning, I stumbled to a rock at the edge of the lake, tears blurring my vision. I sat there, the fresh wind blowing my hair and the water lapping at the edge of the rock, looking out over the lake to other islands in the distance. I sat on that rock feeling touched to the core and deeply grateful. I prayed that the gifts we had brought would be enough.

Yesterday, as if in response to my prayer I received an e-mail from a young woman who had firewalked with me when she was just out of high school and is almost thirty now. “Thank you”, she writes, “it was one of the most powerful and profound experiences I ever had. I have never been the same since and it has carried me through countless trials.” Our blessings go with the young Bosnians who are heading home to face the fires of their lives. Our prayers are with you and we want you to know we will not forget. We will not forget what has been, nor the strong dreams which you have chosen to now make so. You have given us all a gift in your willingness to dream big dreams despite tremendous challenges, our prayers are with you, as we all do what we can to make that big dream a reality for the whole planet.

Your vision is our vision, we will not forget.