Guns & Pearls

Guns do not have to be the way the cookie crumbles (or a child dies). I am sickened to see over and over the pictures of innocent children proudly holding their Honor Roll certificates just before they were gunned down in a classroom with balloons to celebrate their achievement. Blame cannot ease the anguish of the surviving students and staff or the tormented “If only I had….” guilt reactions from families of victims. We need problem-solving.

Yes, we must de-stigmatize mental health services and provide more outlets for folks to receive compassionate support both in schools and their communities. Yes, we must have gun security measures in every state. But what about the soul of America?

There have been other challenges over centuries in the U.S. in allowing every child’s birthright, a right to receive a good education in a peaceful school, but we must act collectively this time. It is the children from previous school shootings who seem most capable of leading us forward. The term “full circle” comes to mind.

Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle. In India the mandala is a spiritual symbol. Both in Egypt and India the circle represents a snake eating its own tail. I ate the gun circle cookie that was given to me. Named the ouroboros (Greek for tail-devouring snake),the symbolism behind the circle is renewal. I believe renewal is possible in America. Call me a cockeyed optimist.

Today mandalas are used as coloring projects for both children and adults. Ancient Indian mandalas (or colored circles) were used as a focal point to regard the sacred space of meditation. Psychologist Carl Jung interpreted mandalas to mean an integration of opposites. What we need today is for individuals with opposing views to color together on the same mandala page, or to find renewal of common humanity together.

When will our law-makers come together in their rotundas in most state capitals and in Washington, DC to make a common mandala? We cannot let these circular sacred spaces be used primarily for lying-in-state memorials for the prominent dead.

I wrote the above lines early Sunday morning. Then I went to church and was surprised by a snippet of synchronicity! Our beloved children in Religious Education were featured – pictures of their assembled mandala with flowers, leaves, and other objects from nature were projected on a large screen. The children had covered a circular tabletop with an intricate mandala design! Children model renewal for us daily.  

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote about the Venetian merchant Marco Polo witnessing people living on the island of Zipangu (Japan) put rose-colored pearls in the mouths of the dead. Let’s not say good-by so early to precious pearl children.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

90. What child can you think of who needs to hear from you how precious they are?

91. In what ways can you come together with another who may have views opposite of yours?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


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