As part of my dharma teacher ordination ceremony in 2008, Thay and I exchanged gathas, or practice poems. I composed one for him and he composed one for me. Because of his tremendous influence on me as a police officer, I composed the following poem for him:
Breathing in, I know that mindfulness is the path to peace.
Breathing out, I know that peace is the path to mindfulness.
Breathing in, I know that peace is the path to justice.
Breathing out, I know that justice is the path to peace.
Breathing in, I know my duty is to provide safety & protection to all beings.
Breathing out, I am humbled and honored by my duty as a peace officer.
Breathing in, I choose mindfulness as my armor & compassion as my weapon.
Breathing out, I aspire to bring love and understanding to all I serve.
Often, when challenges arise, a handful of people can make a huge difference. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the boat people who fled Vietnam in rickety boats during the war as an example of this. When the refugees had no food or water and faced the threat of pirates, those individuals who remained calm made the difference between life and death for everybody.
Any one of us can make a difference in a similar way as we move forward in the wake of tragedy. Any one of us can be the person who, rather than exacerbating pain and violence, transforms it by the way we bear witness and respond to it.