The School of Peace is generally held once a year here in Asia and brings together around 20 youth from different Asian countries, different faiths and different cultures. The 14-week program is designed to promote self-transformation which can lead participants to begin working for transformed communities back in their homes.
At the end of the fourteen weeks, each participant is asked to give a presentation on what they have learned and how they have changed during the program. One of the participants shared the following story as part of his reflection.
A small village lay nestled in the flat plains between the mountains and the sea. The people of this village were farmers, working hard to produce food for their families. The village was also home to many crows that scavenged for food among the village garbage dumps. All of the crows were black and the villagers accepted as truth that crows are only black. This was something they never questioned or were even concerned about.
One day a stranger visited the village. He was a wanderer, traveling from place to place and sharing his stories with those who would listen. The people in the village always welcomed story tellers and in the evening gathered to hear what fabulous stories this stranger would have for them.
“Friends,” he said. “You have many black crows here in your village. I see only black crows. But did you know that there are also white crows?”
The villagers laughed, thinking the stranger was telling them a joke. But when they looked at his face, they saw that he was serious.
“There are no white crows,” they said in unison. “Crows are only black. See all the crows here. They are all black. Crows are black, but never white.”
“But I have seen a white crow,” he said seriously. “There are white crows.”
Late into the night the people asked questions about the white crows he had seen, and he answered in such detail and with such sincerity that soon the people began to believe him.
“But we have never seen a white crow,” they said. “We only see black crows.”
“Then you must go looking for them” the storyteller said with a smile. “If you do not look, you will never see them. Only those who seek, will find new things to admire and enjoy. Seekers are the only ones who discover a bigger world.”
He concluded that before coming to the School of Peace, he was not a seeker. He simply accepted as fact that what he himself knew and had experienced was sufficient truth to help him understand the world. While he still had not seen any white crows, he was now challenged to go out and look for them – to seek new perspectives on the issues facing his community and the world in general. He was ready to discover a bigger world.
I have followed the journey of this young man since his return to his home community. He has, indeed, set aside his belief that all crows are black and is now searching for a white crow. He is living with the marginalized in his community, listening to their stories of struggle, defeat and victory and discovering that his original understanding of why people are poor, hungry or homeless is not sufficient to explain what he is now seeing and hearing.
To better understand the world in which we live we must first recognize that our present understanding is limited. Even though we have only seen black crows, that does not mean there are no white crows. If the mass media tells us that Islam is a violent religion we need to ask serious questions because the truth may be very different. We need to take the time to seek deeper information about things such as the affordable health care act, gun control, marriage equality, poverty and welfare. We may find that what we are being told is not the complete truth and if we listen to those who have a different perspective than we do, we might realize that our original understanding is not sufficient to explain the true realities.
Proverbs 3:13-14 suggests that becoming wise and filled with understanding is something we have to work at. “Happy is anyone who becomes wise – who comes to have understanding. There is more profit in it than there is in silver; it is worth more to you than gold.”
Yes, there are white crows. I have seen one, and I shall continue being a seeker because I am convinced that there is still so much that I do not understand or that I misunderstand about this wonderful creation God has made.