JUANITA FLOYD: In the New Year, follow the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

By Juanita Floyd

At the beginning of each year, I always think about my past resolutions: I will lose weight; I will walk every day; I will lay off junk food; I will be on time to church. Unfortunately, some of those resolutions have not come to fruition. So, I began to seriously ponder what resolutions I should make that are attainable and worthwhile.
I read a book that included the St. Francis of Assisi prayer: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.” I thought about how much better our society would be, if all year long, one used that prayer as a New Year’s resolution.
I recalled, as a little girl, my mother’s words years ago when I was faced with a form of hatred from my fellow students during integration. I came home each day saying, “Mama, those kids won’t play with me. They hate me. They don’t like me. They call me names.”
As a parent, she immediately nipped my feelings of anger and hatred in the bud. Without hesitation, she said, “You will love, you will not hate.” I remember seeing tears running down her face as she prayed, “Lord, give the children a heart of love. Don’t allow their parents’ bitterness and anger to invade their little hearts. Let the sincere heart of a child come out.”
She then taught me a lifelong lesson and a biblical principle. She said, “You must love – even if it’s not returned. The Lord will judge you on how you treat people. Not how they treat you.”
Gen. Colin Powell said, “The greatest gifts my parents gave to me … were their unconditional love and a set of values, values they lived.”
I thought about a similar incident that recently occurred with my own children. As we were having family prayer, I noticed that none of my children prayed for this individual whom they had always prayed for, but who had really hurt them.
I stopped in the midst of praying and said, “You must pray for that person.” I used my mother’s words, “Regardless of the hurt, anger and bitterness we are feeling – we will love and not hate. Our family is not the first to experience pain, hurt and disappointment.”
I quoted Maya Angelou: “Someone was hurt before you; wronged before you; hungry before you; beaten before you; humiliated before you; raped before you; yet, someone survived.” I further stated, “We are survivors and we will get through this based on the principle of love.”
A great responsibility has been placed on us – whether we are parents, leaders, teachers, preachers, employers, etc.
Marian Wright Edelman said, “What you do every day, what you say and how you act… will do more to shape the future of America.”
Years ago my mother could have very easily agreed with me and instilled hatred in me toward those students. What if she had encouraged those feelings of hatred in me? What if she had said, “Those children are low-down and dirty”? What if she had said, “you had better not play with them because of the color of their skin?” Thank God, she chose to educate me on the principle of love. Her teachings and other moralistic values have spanned to another generation. A Chinese proverb says, “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”
This year and in the years to come, maybe some of our resolutions could be similar to the Saint Francis of Assisi prayer.
Make us instruments of Your peace. When someone displays hatred and bitterness – sow love. When someone has wronged and misused us – sow forgiveness. When someone is sad – sow joy. When someone is downtrodden and the weight of the world seems to be on their shoulders – sow hope. When someone needs a helping hand – sow blessings. When someone is lost and can’t seem to find their way – show them the light. When someone’s skin color is different – entreat them as a brother or sister.
Friends, if we determine in our hearts that our New Year’s resolutions will be for the betterment of others based on the principle of love, will a domino effect take place in our society? Will it make a difference? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for finance and administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at juanita@createfoundation.com.