Believing In: "What do you believe in?"

"I'm one man to make a difference. I'm one soul all persistence.
In a dark word, just trying to make things right.
Choices we weren't given.
Any heroes, and our decision.
Is to stand up and fight for ourselves

To be free: Is all we want to be.
When everything seems so far out of reach.
But I know, no matter where we go: I'll never stop believing in me"
~ ~The Calling

The question: "What do you believe in?" ,was presented to me this week.

I am not religious. I am, at best, a lapsed Catholic and a Jewish "wanna-be".
I hang out at the Jewish Federation more than any other gentile I know.
I suspect I am a spiritual intuit and an empath.
I think it is all good.
All faiths and all beliefs as long as they lean toward the good in humanity or in finding humanity.

But if I had to say what is my strongest belief that would be difficult. Within humanity there is one thing I hold fiercely close to my heart.
I am, and always have been, against the death penalty. I remember when I was eight and Micha and Val Ramos had come to dinner at our home in Santa Monica. My Mom made her famous "bulla-bitch" aka: Bouillabaisse. A bunch of catholics around a pot of fish stew,how fitting.

Somehow we got on the topic of the death penalty. Now Micha, a devout Catholic, had pronounced very loudly that she was "for" the death penalty and I in my scrappy eight year old voice said, "why?". Her trumpeted response was, "what if someone killed someone in your family? Wouldn't you want them to die:to pay for the mistake?" I quickly and rather uneasily replied," I just don't want anybody to have to do the job." Micha looked at me like I was nuts and quickly discounted and dismissed me. Then her husband Val asked, "the job:the job of what?" I lowered my head and said very softly, "The job of killing people:no one should have that job:no one should have to kill other people. How can two wrongs make a right?" My Mom was in shock and my Dad was, I think, ignoring me. He just kept on eating and drinking. I understood my Dad's "selective hearing" later in life. My Dad hates conflict:and more than that he hates emotion. My folks might have been proud of me,I don't know. This moment stuck with me all of my life. It was the first time I can remember standing up for something that was not about me but about my humanity. That moment I felt a part of something greater than myself:and that felt good:and a little scary.

In early 90's a friend of my Moms sent her a book "Dead Man Walking" by Sister Helen Prejean about the death penalty. My parents are Tim Robbins "God Parents" (another Catholic custom) and Mary Robbins (Tim's Mom) had sent the book to us. I read it in a day(good for a dyslexic!) and loved what she wrote. Finally I had a real defense for my belief.

Living in the South as a teenager and young woman I found many people around us had strong feelings about the death penalty and I was party to more failed arguments that I can count. At least that is how it felt. "You are wrong and an ignorant fool Lizzy:you gotta want justice!" I heard it all the time. Friends got mad at me and drinking buddies became viciously possessed with being right.

"Dead Man Walking" changed everything. Sister Prejean gave me factual evidence to support my case. Stating in the book the real figures of what it costs to keep someone alive and in prison and what it cost to have someone on death row. The facts spoke. It cost about 10% of what it cost to kill someone to keep them alive. The "Green Mile" is a special place and needs special tending. The death penalty was in no way "cost effective". And the bottom-line in politics is always:the bottom-line.
I now had my argument solidly backed up by economics.

But it didn't change anything.
People still believe they have the right to take a human life with "just cause".
And my heart aches:still.

"Believing in":can be a hard position to take. A lot of people spend a lot of their life trying not to get too caught up in anything. A belief might demand action. And some folks are slow to act on any ones behalf other than their own. A belief in ones "self", is actually frowned upon by many religions.
And that seems down right odd to me because faith is based on belief and if one does not believe in themselves then how can you know what you stand for?

I went to Catholic school (St Monica's) and we went to daily Mass.
I can remember listening to the words and thinking "what about the women:where are the women in this story? Do the women count, do they have worth?" Internally the "vessel" argument began inside of my body and soul. "I am simply a vessel or am I the power and the strength of my beliefs?"

My beliefs don't exist in a church, temple or mosque. They live inside me.
I believe one cannot find their way on their own. We find ourselves within our interaction with others. There are people who I deeply admire. My admiration is based on tenderness. Someone who is so "humane" I cannot help but want to imitate them.

So, in answer to the question: "What is my strongest belief?"
My answer is, Faith. Faith is like the string foundation on a loom. It holds the shape of the fabric of the life we weave over it. Faith is the core. The strength within our human fiber. Faith is the common essence we all carry. The thing that reminds us that "we" are a "we" and not just an "I".

Within faith exists hope. Hope is the color and flavor, the possibility of life. Hope is what your heart does in longing. We hope for money, love, health, success, good weather, good tests results,joy,happiness,healthy happy kids and great luck.
"Hope is a good thing, perhaps the best of things". It is the thing that will take you out of the tangible world and give you a glimpse of heaven:of all that is possible:the preverbal "E" ticket of the spirit.

Within faith also exists the most powerful elixir of the human spirit:forgiveness. As humans we have the power of choice and our most powerful choice I believe is forgiveness. I promise you, if you forgive whenever possible and even more importantly:when you feel you cannot,heaven will open up. If I had learned to forgive unconditionally from the beginning of my life, I am certain I would never have become a slave to alcohol. I would have had no reason to hurt my self or others. If you can forgive you are open, if you are open you do not hold resentments.Your are in essence:light. Once you are able to move through your life in a practice of constant and random forgiveness you will find you are more effective. You are a human being and not just a human doing.

"To err is human to forgive divine".

And within faith~hope~forgiveness exists acceptance.
Acceptance that what is :IS. You are perfect. You are exactly who you are supposed to be and where you are supposed to be in this life. You have made choices that have contoured your path and then new choices to bring you back to center.

Miracles happen and when they do you have to accept the miracle. And miracles happen all around us every day. You simply have to be open enough to accept them, to see them. Sometimes you have to wait. A little goodness can go a long way:.and faith is your guide:your strongest essence:your greatest gift.

Faith is love in action.

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