B. Kaufmann
Creating ways for Messengers to share their message with the world


She shuddered and pulled the comforter up to her chin where it felt like a barrier from harm. An illusion, of course, but comforting. Even in winter the drapes stayed open and the lights off. She found the darkness friendly. The harsh reality of the daylight didn't lend itself well to dreaming. It seemed important to dream, to wonder at the world, at nature, to gaze at the stars and remember that someone, another child somewhere in the world, was at this very moment also imagining the future. Were they too, imagining a world of peace where all the humans get along?


She didn't like the way things were. She was disgusted with the way adults acted. Or didn't act. Didn't they know this wasn't right? This steady diet of threats, of fear, of hating the enemy. They kept building more and bigger nukes and tested faster and better missiles. "Don't the grownups know these things kill people? When you drop a megaton bomb on a city it doesn't kill just soldiers! It kills everybody.. And afterward nobody can live there for a thousand years! Do you think this is OK? Wise? Heck, do you think this is human?"


She was too old for her youth. Weary from the air raid sirens, radiation symbols, fall-out shelters and practice drills. As if there was a way to run from this! Or a reason to live if you survived! It's a horrible thing to do to kids—scare them this way and let them inherit a broken world. When Mr. Khrushchev pounded his shoe on the podium and roared "we will bury you," she wondered why a grownup who didn't even know her would want to bury her. What could she, a kid, do? The grownups were in charge of the world. Why didn't the grownups do something?


One night after prayers she choked back the tears for the last time. She took a deep shuddering breath, turned her face to the night sky and pledged to the stars and to the future… "When I am a grownup I will do something…"


Well into my teen years, vows and fears buried, I knew only the defiance of the adolescent. Nothing changed. The "cold war" never heated up nor thawed. The trickle of terror in the background of life never melted. Teens didn't expect to make it to adulthood. Who wanted to anyway? You couldn't trust anybody over thirty: they represented the staleness and stalemate of the world—the establishment, a name given to everything ugly about the world according to adults.


My late teens mixed music, musicians and marijuana. My "Flower Children" friends and I tuned out the world of hatred, divisiveness, looming war. For the first time since I could remember, I felt good; I felt happy; I felt almost safe; and being alive was fun! Surrounded by like minds, we felt insulated from the establishment who hated us and despised our ways. But their way certainly wasn't working! Youth had the answer in "peace and love," but we were too naïve and misguided to pull it off. Why didn't they get it? It was so clear, so simple. Well, if we couldn't convince the world, we couldn't live with it; if we couldn't live with it, we would drop out of it. We hunkered against the world tuning it all out. What a relief it was—an idyllic world. Until Charles Manson and Richard Nixon—Manson who made "communes" and living in community in peace something freaky and evil; Nixon who made "youth" enemies of the state. The bubble burst and all the safety leaked out along with the counter culture idealistic enthusiasm.


Years later a friend asked me if I wanted to help with her dream—establishing a sister city relationship with a city in Russia. Something from the secret realms of dreams long abandoned stirred…"When I am a grownup, I will do something." For the next two decades, as member and Executive Officer, I made peace with the enemy. I did fundraisers, concerts, performances, artwork, wrote grants, arranged travel exchanges— whatever was needed, I did it. I hung out with Russians. I met military, doctors, teachers, cops, business people, closet feminists, communists, and even KGB. Many late night conversations, years and vodkas later, I learned that my Russian friends felt the same way I did—disillusioned, betrayed and angry with their government, and bone weary of the cold war. Together we vowed to build something better, something lasting; something warm.


My last act for the partnership was to write and administrate a quarter of a million dollar USAID grant for a program within the START II Treaty Cooperative Threat Reduction mission—a Russian-American weapons reduction program to decommission WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction.) One target was a chemical weapons storage facility near our Russian sister city. Our grant built the goodwill and social infrastructure. At the close of the twentieth century, the cusp of the millennium, I found myself standing in Red Square below St. Basil's Cathedral, an icon that used to strike terror that now inspired awe. I watched history being made in a national press conference and then toured the secret location with American and Russian military leaders, where the plant was being built. Decades of hope and hard work came together in an instant. I pinched myself. Hard. I swallowed. Hard. And I heard a faint echo from far in the past, the raw and spontaneous promise made to the stars… "When I am a grownup, I will do something…"


Along on that trip was a local non-profit director who embodied the ugly American. Controlling, arrogant and self-involved, she insisted on being the center of attention. Used to European spas, she had little understanding and even less tolerance of the features of third world realities. She caused a scene in customs (a dangerous practice in a country easy to disappear in), complained about all the arrangements and accommodations, made culturally insensitive remarks, and talked incessantly in the background—even during national military press conferences. And she hated me. Her branch of a national humanitarian organization was, however, essential to our local partnership. She wanted me gone from the project and made her feelings public. The HMO that was invited to join the partnership in the late stages hijacked the project and uninvited the founding group who were left in the wake of the "new" partnership. I had seen it coming and had been holding depression at bay with medications that caused lots of side effects and personality changes that I did not see coming. Grassroots programs work because of the spirit that inhabits them. Corporate projects are corporate with all the nuances of PR and big business.


When I arrived home, I was thanked and released from my work. When my life mission collapsed, so did I. What did my life mean now? What does a disillusioned, wounded grassroots peacemaker do when it feels like her life is over, her life mission gone? She falls headlong into the ripping blackness, curls up into a fetal position and for a few years, makes the abyss home.


I was battling a broken spirit; I had PTSD. My soul was gone. I fired God. I couldn't see behind the pain—that wounded healers are the best kind of healers. I felt dead inside. I needed something to animate my life again, to animate me. Finally, I joined a seminary, a community of Spiritual Peacemakers, and I went looking for the missing pieces of me. I missed my mission and feeling connected to something bigger. I began to reclaim me, but couldn't find God anywhere.


"Look," I railed at God, "if my life is truly about peacemaking then my mission isn't over. But I have no clue what direction I'm going in or what I'm supposed to do. My life feels meaningless; there is no juice in it, no juice in me. If you don't show up right now, show me where I am going, what I am supposed to be doing and show me in an unmistakable way how to do it, I am outta here!" I had no plan to take my own life but I know I could have willed an ending. Life is about meaning and I had none.


Soon after my "conversation" with God, the founder of a worldwide network emailed me, encouraging me to consider becoming a consultant. The Messenger Network offers those who are messengers on the planet (or who would like to be) and have a message to share (or would like to find theirs) a way to share that message with the world. The mission is to create a critical mass of messengers willing to show up and share their unique message to create a new species on Planet Earth—the new and improved human. "When I am a grownup I will do something…"