On April 15, 1965 Burt Bacharach and Hal David released the song, “What the World Needs Now is Love”. Our country had just entered into the Vietnam War, and we were sandwiched between the assassinations of John F. and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. I was just 3 years old but can vividly remember my Mom singing the song and blasting it from our car radio and home stereo console. I was so young and innocent, but even as a child I felt the rally cry for love and compassion in the world. 54 years later the lyrics seem to be more relevant than ever. There is so much division and infighting it is becoming harder and harder to see love and compassion modeled in the world. Headline news often emphasizes the divide among the world at large, unfortunately, often being initiated by people in the highest office of this country! Why is it soooo difficult to love one another and celebrate our uniqueness, our differences and accept those who are not like us? In my opinion, it boils down to fear. Fear of losing control of power, status, popularity; you know, not being the “king” of the mountain, or “Grand Pooba”. I began to see the divide in high school. The jocks, the popular kids, the stoners, the nerds, the misfits, cliques for clique sake. To be honest though, I got along with everyone. I didn’t see the differences although it was clearly established who would be placed where. It was like Hogwarts without the sorting hat! In my teens my heart began to yearn to find ways to equalize the playing field and bring people together. I wanted to find a way to connect on a deeper level with my friends but also with those on the margins. I wanted to celebrate the beauty, magic and interconnectivity that is within each of us. The way I learned to accomplish this was through acts of service. I was drawn to give back, to look out for the underdog and to assist those who were marginalized. It was while in high school I learned how to put this kind of thought into action by developing a lifelong friendship with one of the teachers, Sr. Monica Murphy. While she never taught me an academic subject, she taught me how to live!
Monica was a ball of energy and had a smile that would light up the room. She loved the outdoors, always ready for an adventure and was passionate about connecting people. She had a knack for SEEING and raising up those who most people overlooked. She made EVERYONE feel special. Together, we began a Big-Brothers Big Sisters Program and implemented it at my Alma mater. We collected holiday gifts for families in need, performed cleanup activities in our community and more.
As a student, I also had to attend a yearly retreat typically conducted by the academic community. I approached Sister Monica one day with fellow students and boldly stated that I thought we could do a better job coming up with a retreat that would speak to our peers. WOW! Did I actually say that to an adult as a 16-year-old?? You bet I did and NO I didn’t get laughed at or dismissed – I got EMPOWERED. Monica said “how wonderful, go for it!” Monica unknowingly was instrumental in the trajectory of my life and became my mentor!
I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with Monica over the past year. She was so supportive of the work I am doing at Divine Sisterhood, Women’s Empowerment Center. I spent a weekend at Pyramid Lake in in the Adirondack Mountains this past summer where Monica worked as the Camp’s Director for over 34 years. I was facilitating a retreat for women on reconnecting to self, source and mother nature. It is the most picturesque setting and I challenge anyone to go there and not feel connected to something much bigger than themselves.
I awoke early one morning and made my way to the dining hall to grab a cup of coffee. Monica was bustling in the kitchen already while everyone else slept. I watched her single handedly flitting around the kitchen making muffins for the 100+ people at the lake that weekend. While she baked, we caught up and solved the world’s problems, or so we thought. Once again, she told me how proud she was of me and the work I was doing. She has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders!
It was an amazing weekend retreat and time spent with a dear friend. Less than 2 weeks later Monica was tragically killed in a car accident returning to Pyramid Lake from Albany. I, like so many others, was devastated. I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me! My friend, my mentor, gone!
What transpired after lots of tears and within hours of her passing, I can only explain as divinely orchestrated. I could feel her energy pushing me forward to fulfill my dreams and manifest the vision for Divine Sisterhood. No more contemplating, no more second guessing. The Compassionate Acts of Service Initiative was birthed by her death.
Women have historically created SACRED CIRCLES supporting each other. A Sacred Circle forms when a group of women come together to share their story and speak authentically from the heart. THEN, they take ACTION! That is what Monica did for, and instilled in, me. That is what I now aim to do at Divine Sisterhood. Empowered women empower women.
Look around, really LOOK. See who could benefit from a simple compassionate act of service in your community? Divine Sisterhood’s focus will be in support of domestic violence survivors, homeless women and children, single moms and individuals in the LGBTQ community who have been abandoned by family for simply embracing who they authentically area. So, our workshops and retreats will continue but in addition to that we will model compassionate heart focused lives by spreading the love and the bond of sisterhood, empowering those who may be feeling unseen, abandoned or forgotten.
As Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” That is what I’m trying to do, inspired by a woman who lived a humble life and inspired hundreds if not thousands of people in the process. We can be the change we want to see in the world and how we do that is not by stopping when we feel empowered but to then pay it forward and potentially change the trajectory of someone else’s life by simply showing up. I truly believe what the world needs now more than ever is LOVE SWEET LOVE, it’s the ONLY thing that there’s just too little of! Be the change!