What Is Love?


“When I saw you, I fell in love,
and you smiled because you knew.”
~William Shakespeare

Today I’m thinking about love. Not the commercial kind of love but the kind of love that fills you up, that settles you down, that makes you smile, that you see in action, that you can count on…because it’s constant, consistent and real.

What I have come to realize is that there is real love all around each of us every day. Many of us miss it or don’t recognize it as such because we are looking for it to look and feel like some scene out of a movie or novel.

Love Is...

The truth is, each of us is love.

That’s why I love the poem “Love After Love,” by Derek Walcott. I may have shared it before, but it never gets old. In fact I have it on my bathroom counter to read to myself everyday. “You will love again the stranger who was your self.”

You are love.

You are loved.

Whether you are single, married, widowed or divorced. Today, focus on the love… not whether or not you got flowers or chocolates or get taken to some overpriced dinner. Love is priceless. Feast on it. Let it in. Love yourself. 

[Read More of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Blogs]


[Image via Pixabay]

I Am What I Choose To Become


“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Wow. There is so much power and aspiration in that statement. Who you become as a person is up to you. Up to your will, your determination and your imagination.

Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated by people’s life journeys. The ups and the downs, the choices, the forks in the road, the hurdles. I devoured biographies and autobiographies. So curious was I, and so curious am I still, about what drives the human spirit.

One of my favorite quotes says, “What lies behind you and in front of you is nothing compared to what lies within you.”

I saw that firsthand this week when I spoke to Nicole Hockley who lost her son in the Sandy Hook shooting. What lies within her is love, determination and purpose. What lies within Marcus McAllister, who joined her on our Architects of Change panel to reframe the gun violence conversation last Thursday, is the courage to change his life and direct it away from violence and towards peacekeeping. What lies within Debbie Allen, who spoke on the panel and presented her stunning theatrical dance-driven play on gun violence, Freeze Frame, before it, is the soul of an artist who wants to use her art to make social change.

[Read Maria’s Q&A with Sandy Hook mother Nicole Hockley]


Earlier in the week, I spoke to Terry Crews about masculinity. What lies within him is the strength to be vulnerable and the drive to be a better man. At the same event we had an Architects of Change panel with Jackson Katz, Jerry Tello and Teresa Rogers. I learned so much from them and each one of the individuals I spoke to this week, all of whom shared life journeys that brought them to where and who they are today.

[10 Powerful Listening Practices to Transform Your Interactions With Others]

None of them were easy, no one’s life followed a linear path, but they all created lives of purpose and passion. Lives of spirit and mission. I’ve thought a lot about purpose and mission in my life, about one’s continuous task of becoming who you want to be. It is empowering to think that each of us has a choice. Each of us can change course at anytime and redirect our lives to become who we want to be. 

What lies within us is greater than anything that happens to us. Believe that, feel that. Let it sink in.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ blogs]

[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of a Conversation


The other day a women came up to me to tell me she had attended one of our Architect of Change Live conversationsThe one I did with my cousin Patrick Kennedy about his struggle with addiction and mental health issues.

She said to me, “You know, I came in to that conversation prejudiced about him and his ‘so called struggle.’ I left feeling open, saying to myself I didn’t know as much about him as I thought. I left with a new way of thinking.” She continued, “I then watched your conversation online with Kris JennerI was so mad you had chosen to speak with her but then I watched it and I realized again I didn’t know what I thought I knew. I realized I was judgmental. And they have both made me rethink my opinions. They have made me realize I need to be more open and think in a different way.”

I was thrilled by this exchange because the exact purpose of our Architect of Change Live conversation series is to do just that: Open our hearts and our minds. Get us to think anew. Reframe the conversation: the one in our heads and the one in our hearts. The ones we have with ourselves about ourselves. The ones we have with others about people we think we know. But do we really and truly ever know what it’s like to walk in another’s path?

[Watch all of the Architects of Change Live Conversations here]

I admit I don’t always know. That’s why I love talking to people. People who are open enough to share their truth. That’s how I learn, by listening, by realizing the power of a simple conversation.

I believe there is no more important time than right now to engage in calm, civil, conscious conversation with others. Conversations open hearts and minds. They make us stop, feel, connect, think. They give us insight, information and inspire us forward. What kind of conversation are you engaged in? With yourself, with others? Is is angry, abusive, critical, judgmental? What comes of that?

So much can come of the alternative. At the end of this week I had a very illuminating and powerful conversation with a man I’ve known since he was little. Someone I thought I knew well. Turns out I didn’t know his deep struggle, his deep pain. I learned it through conversation, I learned it by listening. Once I listened through his anger I was able to hear the truth of his pain.I now know just a little bit more than I knew before.

[Let Go of Anger. 2 Forgiveness Exercises to Try at Home]

Yesterday I was in conversation with Architect of Change Cindy Crawford at the Young Women’s Conference that I’m the Honorary Chair of here in Los Angeles. This week I’ll be in conversation with Terry Crews at the Masculinity 2.0 Conference at my son’s school. And then Thursday I’ll be in conversation with Debbie Allen and others to reframe our thoughts around gun violenceI’m excited to learn this week. Because I know that I have so much to learn from others. Those I don’t know and even those I do. 

There is power in conversation. It can reveal common struggles, common ground. A conversation can open your heart and your mind. I hope we can remember that as the election season begins in earnest this week. As people caucus and go to polls. Pundits will dub some as winners and losers. The conversations, I’m sure, will be heated, and I suspect divisive. What can we do? We can each commit to engage in a civil, conscious, compassionate conversation with a fellow human being. Someone we might not agree with. Someone who we can learn something from. We might all leave saying “I didn’t know that.” Challenge what is. Imagine what can be. 

The best way to start is by igniting a conversation. Make it happen.

[Read all of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ blogs here]

That’s what I’ve Been Thinking this week, what about you? #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Peace: It Starts From Within


“If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person,there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” – Chinese proverb

I love this proverb because it directly connects what happens in our hearts to our homes, to our country, to the world. What’s in us is what we put out into our relationships, into our workspaces, into our culture, our communities. If there is rage in us, it affects our families. If there is violence in our hearts and our minds, it will impact others. And so it goes.

At the start of this year I wrote about starting where you are and how that means starting within yourself: What you think, how you speak, how you parent, how you behave at work, it’s all connected.

[Radical Honesty: 3 Ways to Use It for Healing]

Last week my friend Dolores suggested her priest come and bless our home. She said to me, “It would be great for you and your family to start this New Year by having your home blessed by this wonderful priest.” So Father Shinto, who moved to Los Angeles just one year ago from India by way of the Philippines, came to our home. He prayed with us. He spoke about peace. The peace in our hearts and how to create and live in a peaceful home. He spoke about how it’s all connected and how we are all connected.

“Create a peaceful home, a blessed home,” he said, explaining, “Make it a priority. It doesn’t matter how big your home is or how small it is, your home should be a place of peace for you and your family. That way when you go forth from it you go forth from a place of peace out into the world.” 

[Instead of New Year’s Resolution, Start a Kindness Journal]

I loved what he said because it’s so true. We live in rapidly-changing times. We are in the midst of a political election that talks about the importance of peace but meanwhile the language being used by the candidates is anything but peaceful. We are inundated with stories of violence and too many Americans are living in fear. Their homes are dangerous places in dangerous cities. As a nation we can do better but it often feels overwhelming. 

What can each of us do now that might help us create a more peaceful environment? We can do what this proverbs call us to do. We can bless our homes. The homes within us. The home we live in and the home that is our community.

Peace in the world will take global leaders coming together. Peace in our hearts can start today, right now. It’s sounds like a small thing but it has big implications. Let’s bless our hearts and our homes. Let’s challenge what is and imagine what can be. A more peaceful planet for us all. #PassItForward

[Read More of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Blogs]

That’s what I’ve Been Thinking About this week. Tell me, what have you been thinking about?

[Image via Pixabay]

The Power of Service: In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.


“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. …You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

I love that, First because it’s true. But also because it’s so aspirational. Everyone can be great because everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a million social followers. You don’t have to be rich or famous. You don’t have to come up with the next big app or run for President. You just have to serve.

[6 Ways Kids Can Get More Involved and Make the World a Better Place]

I was raised by two people who believed there was no more noble calling in the world that the one to serve. And the most inspirational people I have met in my life are those who rise to the challenge of service. Service to country. Service to the poor. Service to the eradication of a disease like Alzheimer’s, cancer or AIDS. Service to God. Service to make one’s community better. Service to family. 

All of us can be great. And the truth is we are all inherently already great, but sadly most of us don’t believe it so we look to the outside world to tell us whether we are or not we are. We look to another to tell us our value.

What Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others have said is that our greatness comes not from the admiration of others but from our service to others. 

[Two Enduring Life Lessons I Learned as a Traveling Teacher]

I have a quote above my desk from Gandhi and it reads, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.”

On this day I hope you think for a moment about greatness, what it is and what it is not. I hope you think of the power of your service: How it can change a life. Yours, and yes, another’s. I know this because I have experienced it first hand.

On this Martin Luther King weekend, a national day of service, I hope you find your greatness and I hope you share it with another. It will make your heart full of grace and it will give you a soul generated by love. What a glorious concept. #PassItForward

That’s what I’m thinking about.  How about you? 

[Read More of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ blogs here]

[Image via Pixabay]

Today, Start Where You Are


Start where you are. Not where you wish you were, but where you are.

Such a wise thought from Pema Chödrön and such a relief as well. This new year, start where you are.

I like that because I finally like where I’m starting from. I’m starting from here and now. In the past I’ve spent too much time thinking about where I should be, beating myself up as to why I wasn’t “there.” I said to a friend a while back, “I’ve got to hurry up and get going and get there.” She quietly listened and asked, “Where are you in such a rush to get to Maria?” I paused unable to give an answer to her or to myself.

Where, in fact, was I rushing to? Good question. Where was I envisioning myself to be? Certainly not where I was.

Today..now…I’m at peace with where I am in my journey. Because I’m at peace with me. My energy is different because I’m different. I’m aligned with me and my mission to be authentically myself. Not to compare myself to others or judge myself or others. My goal is to live in the present, not in the future or in the past. 

That’s not as easy as it sounds. The future offers a chance to think that there will be a time when everything will be as we dream. Focusing on the past often leaves me questioning myself, criticizing myself or deluding myself. Both rob me of the present.

Today, on this Sunday, I’m grateful and excited. Excited that later in the day I’ll be interviewing my cousin Patrick Kennedy for our Architects of Change conversation series about his new best seller, A Common StruggleIt’s a brave account of his own struggles with addiction and mental health challenges. He wrote the book to open hearts and minds about the struggle that millions of individuals and families find themselves in when it comes to addiction and mental health.

I know that it’s never easy to share parts of ourselves that bring up feelings of shame, anxiety, fear and/or embarrassment. What I also know is that no one lives a perfect life. It doesn’t matter whether you were born into a famous family or not. No one is immune from some kind of struggle whether it be mental, emotional, financial or professional. Everyone has something to work through. And more often than not that struggle is tough and scary.

So this Sunday, start where you are. Align yourself with your heart and your mind. Focus on your mission.The past is gone. Today, this day, offers each of us a chance to be the person we want to be and are. Not the person we want to be in some distant future, but the person we are today.

Outside of my son’s room is a poster that belonged to my dad. It says, “Do a common thing uncommonly well.” My cousin Patrick has taken a common struggle and spoken about it uncommonly well.

Start where you are. Do a common thing like living in the present uncommonly well. #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

Happy New Year: I’ve Been Thinking About The Power of ‘Enough’


For my birthday my girlfriends made a book of poetry for me. They each chose their favorite poem to share with me. It was, and is, amazing.

My sister-in-law Malissa chose the one I’m sharing with you on this first Sunday of 2016.

It’s called “Enough,” and it’s written by Andrea Gibson (you’ll find it below). I wanted to share it because I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of ‘enough.’ 

What is enough? What does that really mean? Do you have enough and not know it? What is enough to you and for you?

Some people are propelled to make more money never thinking they have enough. They buy and/or accumulate more stuff cause they don’t feel they have enough of this and of that. We look at our neighbors and wonder do they have more than I? 

I’ve thought a lot about what’s enough. To me and for me. At the end of the day, each of us must decide for ourselves what is enough.

I start this New Year feeling full and blessed. And knowing, finally, I am enough. That’s the most important “enough” you will ever discover. 

I hope this New Year you feel as though you too are enough. More than likely that will translate into a feeling that you have enough. 

[Read more of Maria’s “I’ve Been Thinking” essays here]

That’s what I’m thinking about this week. What about you? #PassItForward and Enjoy:

“Enough” by Andrea Gibson

Last night I painted a purple tree on my bedroom wall

I woke up this morning in a pile of leaves

The color of a million different faces

Thinking of that hand

That planted the seed 

Of the family tree

That grew us all

And how each one of us

Will one day fall back to the ground

This morning

I was listening to my heart pound

Knowing with every single beat

That a thousand other hearts

Were falling asleep forever

On a day they never thought they would

And I know there are tribes of aborigines

That decide how and when they’ll die

After a hundred years or so

They walk into the desert alone

Offer up their breath

And within two minutes

Soar into a death

As beautiful as their life

And I was thinking I 

Will probably never be enlightened enough

To decide how I want to die

So this morning

I decided how I want to live

What I want to give

What kind of song I want to sing

Now I’m no longer

Looking at my days like they’re a cup

Calling them half empty or half full

When they’ve always been enough

They’ll always be enough

To fill me up

If I stop thinking so much

And start drinking them up

Until I get so drunk and high on my days

I’ll be walking up to strangers and saying things like

“Hey, I know Jesus was born in a manger

But I woke at dawn today

To watch the earth’s horizon

Give birth to true rising sun of God

And I can’t stop singing hallelujah”

Can you believe we’re here?

Can you believe there are gods somewhere praying to us?

I want to be that nut on a bus

Who’s really a prophet

Telling everybody 

“Smoking is bad

Stop it

You might be an opera singer some day

And how are you gonna hit the high notes?”

I wanna live like those high notes

That rise from the throats of old ladies

When they see little babies 

Riding in shopping carts

I wanna start somebody’s heart like that

Taking ninety years back

So you’ll have sworn

You weren’t born

Until you saw me

Planting roses

In all the sidewalk cracks

So when you trip

You’ll fall in love

With someone you thought you hated

And now look at what that love has created


There’s a sky 

On her faded blue jeans

With a flock of birds 

About to fly to my words

And my next line’s

Gonna rhyme with her eyes

And she’ll wink

And I’ll think I’m as beautiful as him

I wanna live my life

Like it’s a little league game

I don’t care if I win

Just wanna watch some little girl

Get her very first hit

Watch her father cheer so hard 

He spills his beer

And decides to quit

I wanna split some woman’s 

Tired eyes open

Wake her with her own sunrise 

So she knows

There’s reason to be hoping

She’ll say

“There are stingers in my heart

But I’m sure that I’m a queen”

And that night

She’ll vow to swarm

Until every angry car horn

Is reborn a song

Of let there be light

Every angry war cry reborn

A song of let there be life

I wanna build the timid teenage boy

A microphone that will

Echo his rhymes

The same way 

They echo in his shower

When he’s home alone

I wanna write poems

In the tone

Of your mother’s eyes

When she whispered your name

For the very first time

Poems that will make you go home

Pick up the phone

And call her

While I call mine to say 

“You know those lines

On the kitchen wall

Where I grew

Taller and taller and taller

Put a couple more there won’t you?

Cause I’m growing up here”

No longer looking at my days

Like they’re a cup

Calling them enough

From now on

They’ll be overflowing

Since now I’m knowing

It’s up to me

To fill them up

The Power of Your Love


Someone once asked me, “What makes you feel loved?”

I took a beat and started wondering to myself, what, in fact, did make me feel loved?

What is that feeling everyone is searching for, reading about, trying to put into action and words? Was love presents under the tree? Or is love presence? Is love the undivided attention of another? Or is it just something that defies words? Is it the opposite of hate? And the more powerful of the two?

The question gave me pause because I was not raised in the language of love. As a young girl I read a lot about love and I’m a sucker for a great love story played out in film, but what actually made me feel loved? Not feel good, not feel happy — but loved? It got me thinking.

[Mindful Listening: Learn to Communicate Without Words With Your Loved Ones]

There is no doubt that love is a powerful emotion. It can come to you in words and in actions. At this time of year when we are all surrounded by stories of violence, terror and fear it’s important, I think, to take a moment and focus on the Power of Love.

Love of another. Love of a child. Love of friends and family.

Love is the antidote to the hate we hear so much about. Love isn’t weak it’s incredibly strong. It requires great strength to love. Love is what our world needs now more than ever. Love is also what we each need.

This week millions of people will be rushing around buying presents to express their love. I admit I love a good present and I love giving presents as well, but deep love doesn’t come in a box. It comes from a feeling deep in your soul.

[Finding Joy In Discovering Who You Want to Be]

Back when that question was posed to me I realize now that my answer at the time was a lot about being dependent on someone else to make me feel loved. Over time I have come to understand and to realize that the love one has for one’s self is actually the source of one’s power.

I didn’t grow up being taught the message to love myself. I grew up being taught the message: Go out and change the world. Do something to make the world better. I do believe that we can all do something to make the world better and I try to do my part as best I can, but I’ve also come to know deep in my heart that you will come up empty if you are only focused on the world without first loving and valuing yourself.

The world will never love you the way you can love you.

Fame can never fill the hole inside you, nor will money, a gift or another person. There is tremendous power in the love you have for yourself. I have come to learn that loving yourself, caring for yourself, nurturing yourself is not selfish, it’s kind, it’s healthy, it’s compassionate, it’s nurturing and above all, its healing.

[5 Ideas for Holiday Presents from Women Entrepreneurs: A Gift Guide]

Loving yourself calms your anxiety, calms your fears. If you love and value yourself, you won’t tolerate people who don’t do the same. If you love and value yourself, you won’t look to another for your worth. If you build a foundation of love within yourself, that love can actually change the world.

The truth is, I would never have written this had my parents been alive. I know they both loved me dearly and I loved them deeply, but my mother, a tough advocate for social justice, would have thought that talk of loving one’s self was weak, needy or selfish. In fact, I remember sitting with both of my parents one day telling them about a friend who had just bought himself a loft and that he’d described his life in his first apartment like “being on a honeymoon with himself.”

I remarked to my parents how sweet that was. Before I could finish my story both my parents were all over me. “Who was this friend?” they asked. “What a ridiculous thing to say,” they said. “What kind of person would say such a thing?” they wondered out loud. “He must be so selfish,” they reasoned. 

Needless to say I have never told this story again until now, and I do wish I could repeat that moment with them. I’d love to ask them, what makes them feel loved. I’d love to ask them whether anybody talked to them about loving themselves. Because I do think the feeling of being in sync with yourself can make your heart feel full. And it can give you the foundation and strength you need to walk out into this rapidly-changing world that at times can feel pretty scary and brutal. 

[Watch Maria in an Architect of Change Conversation with author Katherine Woodward Thomas]

This holiday season, I want my children to know that they are deeply loved, but I also want them to know it’s important for them to love, value and care for themselves as well, because what the world really needs is more people who go out into it from a place of abundance and not scarcity, who go out into the world with self-esteem as opposed to looking for the world to externally validate them. I know, because I’ve done both.  

If you truly understood what loving yourself felt like and meant, if you truly understood the power of that act, you would want to share that with the world and you would see firsthand how healing that message is.

So this holiday I hope you spend some time nurturing, caring and being kind to you. If you want to envision it as a honeymoon with yourself, even for a moment, go for it. If you know what love feels like, you can give it to someone else with strength and conviction. It doesn’t cost a dime. Love is free and it’s the most precious gift in the world.

I hope this holiday you feel loved and I hope you give the gift of love to family and to friends with your time and your presence. There is nothing more priceless, nothing more powerful.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays here]

PS: I love myself enough to give myself a digital detox. So I’m going to take a break from our Sunday Paper for the Soul so that I can focus my love on my family this holiday. See you next year. 

The Power of Listening


I read this quote from my dad the other day and it stopped me in my tracks: People are “crying out,” he said, using their voices. It’s our job, he implied, to listen, to try and understand what they are crying out for.

He said that in 1968!! It could have been said yesterday because people are indeed crying out. Do we know what they are crying out about? What they are crying for? Can we hear them? Are we listening?

Polls are telling us that trust in our government is at an all-time lowThe media isn’t faring much better. Institutions are struggling to retain young people who don’t feel fulfilled in the institutions of old. Boomers are aging but still want to be a part of the solution — yet they are given pink slips every day due to age. People don’t trust the criminal justice system. Every where you look people are looking back, crying out.

[6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Become an Extraordinary Leader]

What do they see? What do they say? 

People are using their voices all right. They are taking to the streets. In Chicago. In New York. In Seattle. In Paris. In Rome. In London and everywhere in between.

Can we listen? Do we understand what they are asking for? Or are we too busy trying to muffle their voices, stall the progress, halt the change.

Thinking about my dad’s quote I decided to spend some time in deep listening. I started with myself. Could I quiet myself down so that I could hear? Hear myself, hear my children. I tried.

My son spoke to me about the battle of the sexes and how everyone in his school seems to be fighting. For what? He’s said it’s not clear. I listened.

[Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After [Excerpt]]

My daughter spoke about the pressures of young adulthood, social media, the dating world and everything in between. I listened.

A friend messaged me from an ICU unit where her mother had just been given the last rites. She spoke. I listened.

I turned on the news and I listened to parents’ anguish about crime-ridden neighborhoods where nothing changes. I listened to people running for President that screamed and yelled, railed about one another and made promises they will not keep.

I listened to Pope Francis’ words as he kicked off the Year of Mercy. He said we should all be trying to put forgiveness ahead of judgement. I listened and I felt, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I want to do.’ I want to be part of those who put forgiveness ahead of judgement. I want to lead a more merciful life. A life where I listen. And instead of attacking or judging, I try to listen to what people are crying out out for.

[A New Meditation Exercise (With a Needed Sense Humor)]

A friend who is a Priest was over for dinner the other night and I asked him about his work. He told me that much of what he does is listen to people. Listen to their struggles, listen to their stories and seek to console. He told me that what people in his Parish are really seeking is someone to listen to them.

At this crazy time of year, in our rapidly changing world, people are crying out. What if what they are asking for is simply for someone to listen to them, to hear them, to console them?

The priest went on to say to me, “You know Maria, it is only when you sit and listen that God can come in. Only in silence can the truth get in. You must listen to hear. Hear yourself, hear your neighbor.”

What if we all tried listening instead of screaming? What if we all tried listening instead of judging? What if we all tried listening in this Year of Mercy? I wonder what we would hear.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

That’s what I’m thinking about this week. What about you? #PassItForward

PS: 26 years ago today I became a mother for the first time: Katherine Eunice Shriver Schwarzenegger came into the world and she has been making it bright ever since. Every time she talks, I listen.

[Image via Pixabay]

Don’t Lose Hope: There is Always Something We Can Do


This week, I don’t know what to think. 

I was talking to a friend the other day and I said, “I can’t believe what happened in San Bernardino, it’s unbelievable.” She said, “What’s wrong with you? It’s totally believable. This is now common place.” 

Another friend said, “I’m sorry to say, but I don’t even stop to think about these things anymore because I’m hearing about them all the time.”

Another said to me, “Let’s not talk about San Bernardino or Paris or Chicago or Ferguson at dinner, it’s just too much let’s just talk about Christmas, what’s on your list?”

I get that some people don’t want to talk or think about what’s happening in their own backyard or in cities near and far. I understand that many of us are scared to death, so not talking or thinking about the violence around us is a form of freezing it out or denying that it even exists.

[4 Ways to Raise Happy Kids in Times of Stress]

So many of us feel, ‘What can we do anyway?’ But there are others who tell me it’s actually all they want to talk about. They want to rage about it. They want to blame a certain political party or a certain group for it. They want to strike out, strike back. They want our world to go back to what they remember as a more peaceful time. What they really want to do is feel safe.

I understand that. I grew up in a family deeply affected by violence. And I know first-hand the effects that violence has and leaves on one’s psyche and in one’s body. Trauma stays with us, and in us forever, unless we work to get it out.

Regardless of who you are or where you live, violence is an epidemic that is impacting all of us. Denial isn’t going to make it go away. Yes, there are things politicians can and should do. There are laws we can pass, loopholes that can be closed, regulations that can be made. But this isn’t just the responsibility of politicians. There are also a lot of good people and good organizations out there that aren’t waiting on politicians and are trying to address this in ways that they hope will bring us together. Those who live in crime ridden neighborhoods, those who own guns, those who work in law enforcement, those whose lives have been impacted by violence.

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In my heart  I know we can find a new way forward, one that involves all of us. I believe there are more good people who want to find common ground on this issue than there are violent people who want to destroy and killI’m hopeful that our pursuit of the common good, our desire to live in safety will bring us together.

I’m hopeful that the best and brightest among us will put their brilliant, beautiful minds to work and try to address this issue in a new, creative way. CureViolence.org is one such organization that is bringing me hope. It address this seemingly-continuous trend of violence as a health epidemic and it seems to be having an impact in the neighborhoods and cities that are implementing it. There are plenty more working for the common good that could use your help if you want to be a part of this solution: MomsDemandAction.org, SandyHookPromise.org, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Brady CampaignCertain celebrities like Amy Schumer, Russell Simmons and others are using their voices to ask their communities to get involved and bring forth change. I admire that. I also admire parents who are on the frontlines and are banding together to demand action and trying to come up with solutions themselves. I know there are also many in the mental health community who want to be a part of this dialogue and who want to bring solutions to the table. 

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On this Sunday my heart is with those families whose lives were forever changed by this latest episode of gun violence in San Bernardino. They are grieving and I know their pain is all encompassing. The worst thing we can do is to numb ourselves to what’s happening in their lives and in all of our lives. The worst thing we can do is to think this is normal and that there is nothing we can do.

There is always something we can do. Individually or collectively. We can pray. We can grieve with our neighbors. We can step up and offer to change our thinking from despair to hope. We can each begin by examining the role violence plays in our own lives and in our current culture. And then choose to become agents of mercy, of kindness, of love and of peace.

I know it’s daunting. I know it’s scary.

But if we believe in ourselves, in our families, our friends, our communities, our country, we will do whatever we can to curb the violence that exists in so many hearts, in so many minds, in so many communities. It’s up to us. #PassItForward. 

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays here]

That’s what I’ve been thinking this week. How about you?

[Image via Pixabay]