I observed that many people were content to be complacent and assumed that this is how life is. This is how life is supposed to be. Most people seemed down, depressed, and with low energy, yet there was a sense of acceptance about it. Sort of, OK everything sucks, and we are going to complain about it, but do nothing to change it.
Almost everyone who I knew was that way, except my Dad. He was born in 1934 in a rural part of Poland, but he was born with a big and dreaming heart, great sense of humor and ambitious attitude towards life. He was intelligent, hard - working, funny, loving and he wanted to build a beautiful life.
Due to the political system and low economic level of the middle class, he had to maintain a few jobs just to make the living that he wanted for his family.
My Dad had strong beliefs for a Free Poland, and he loved the USA for its freedom, values and economic opportunities for anyone who had a strong work ethic.
He had big dreams for his family’s life that could not be fulfilled due to the politico-economic system in which we lived. I felt I was always encouraged to be the best and most that I could be. Playing the violin or tennis were not my cup of tea but my Dad did see that for me and in me. He believed in me and he saw a potential in me that I could not see myself at that time.
From my Dad I learned to dream big and have visions and plans for my life. His open mind and courage to stand up for the truth about our country’s political climate was noticed by me. I was a child but I knew what he was doing. He was the only one not afraid to stand up against the whole extended family, voiced his opinions and would not bend or be sold by anything or anyone.
I saw how alone he was in that process, but trust me, I admired him so much for that.
My Dad loved and admired deeply 3 people in the 1980's. Those people were John Paul 2, Ronald Regan and Lech Walesa. They were all game changers and visionaries for a new and free country of Poland.
Especially John Paul became a huge hope and a courageous leader to a country which was suppressed, inhibited, and run by fear and manipulation for decades. After the Second World War, Poland was under the unwanted influence of Russia and decades of communism left people in very dark places, with low hopes, poor quality of life and health.
That one summer weekend of 1979 my Dad insisted on taking me on a walking pilgrimage designed just for men to attend John Paul's first visitation to Poland after his inauguration in 1978.
I was 10 years old and could care less and really was fussing not to go, yet I went anyway.
We had to walk 4-5 hours to get to that open meadow area where the gathering was taking place. I was tired and exhausted and was feeling claustrophobic.
Walking and standing in a sea of over 10,000 adult men, who felt like giants to me at that time, made me definitely feel u
ncomfortably contained and hemmed in.
Yet the energy of 10,000 voices of men who were clapping, cheering, applauding, signing, shouting was very palpable in my bones. There was a feeling of hope for a better future, joy, and a certain feeling of freedom and possibility.
I don’t remember much of that 2 hour sermon, except only one phrase. John Paul repeated it many times, his voice was assertive, loud and clear when he shouted:
“ Nie lekajcie sie”….which meant “ Don’t be Afraid!!”
That was the first time in my life that I ever heard those words.
There was a permission in that statement that we have a choice, that we don’t have to be afraid. That one, single, powerful line “Don’t be afraid” woke me up, shook something inside of me, gave me another option which I did not even know I had. I realized at that time that I had a choice.
We all lived in fear in the 1980's and we thought that it was just the way things were. We collectively thought that it was our reality and we had no impact on it or any choice.
On that day, as I was being a resistive little cranky kid who did not want to go, I experienced something new and different inside of me. That day had a huge impact on my life, started shaping me into a young person who received the permission that I have an internal choice. That I actually have a choice.
Fear is just a feeling and over the centuries we all lived in fear, which have affected our lives, bodies, health, whole countries and collective thinking.
“Don’t be afraid, wake up from your slumber world . . .”