When Great Trees Fall

PHOTO: In Celebration of Life of Katie-Jay Scott and Gabriel Stauring. To attend the celebration of life livestream for Katie-Jay and Gabriel this Saturday, December 11th 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM PT, please fill out the RSVP form.

I’m deeply sad to tell you that my beloved friends Katie-Jay Scott and Gabriel Stauring, the gracious and loving ‘mindful humanitarians’ who served refugees around the world through their small but mighty anti-genocide non profit – iact.ngo – were killed last Tuesday night in a car accident. Six years ago, KTJ approached me looking for a teacher experienced in both early childhood education and mindfulness training to help IACT integrate mindfulness into their programs. KTJ and Gabriel had asked the refugees what they needed most. They wanted preschools so their little ones could be safe and learn, and soccer so they could feel a part of the larger world.  

In 2016 I traveled with Gabriel, and team and our ILA teacher Joslyn Hitter to teach mindfulness to Darfuri refugees in camp Goz Amer, one of 12 camps strewn along eastern Chad’s border with Sudan. Witnessing the IACT team’s heroic, undaunted service and loving trust in the refugees was inspiring. I learned far more than I taught on that trip. 

Recently the UN’s AID chief Mark Lowcock explained the very problem iACT addresses. He said the humanitarian system gives people in need what international agencies and donors think is best – instead of listening to what people caught in crises say they need most. Sadly, mindful listening is radical! It fuels iACT’s work. As Gabriel said, “The deeper problem is that the humanitarian system does not know HOW to mindfully listen and then create true partnerships with the communities they work with.” 

It is hard to hold tragedy when it comes close. I look to KTJ and Gabriel and how they responded to the traumas of the refugees. They said, “For us, ‘Hope’ is a commitment to real action in the now of every moment.” They showed me by how they lived. They practiced mindfulness and stayed hopeful with great loving hearts, no matter what.

Maya Angelou’s poem is like a prayer: We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety
And when great souls die,
after a period, peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly… Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.


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