Years ago, after watching the movie “You’ve Got a Mail,” I decided that visiting the United States should be on my bucket list. However, I never thought this dream would become true in such a great way — I have come to the United States for a 4 month program and worked at a nonprofit.
I remember how excited and thrilled I was when I found out that I was the finalist for the Community Solutions Program. It was going to be my first time in America, and I had a lot of questions in mind as a sociologist. I knew violence never created meaningful solutions, and that is why I wanted to learn more about nonviolence.
Choosing the Gandhi Institute as a host organization was an opportunity to learn about nonviolence, first for myself and then for the community I am in and work for in Istanbul, Turkey. Previously, nonviolence was limited to nonviolent communication for me, but now I know that it is a value system with many components. I am trying to practice it daily. However, I feel like I have a long way to go. Yet, I am proud of being aware of the big picture and will continue my journey for the rest of my life.
Thinking back, I remember the Psychology exam question we were asked at university: What would be the main need if there was a Maslow emotional need pyramid? My answer was: “To be understood’’– but I couldn’t give supportive examples. Now, I certainly could give many examples from my experiences during my fellowship at the Gandhi Institute.
I haven’t only learned about nonviolence principles but also have taken part in the Institute’s activities in schools with children, harvested produce with neighbors, and attended breakfasts and dinners with the community. I have experienced how this institute builds peace with community in many ways and I see all of these ways help people feel heard, feel noticed, and feel safe, and that’s what I mean by “being understood.’’ I am now very sure this is what we all need the most in this very modern and emotionally cruel world.
Even though I will be heading back to Turkey and will not be around soon, I welcome you to participate in the Institute’s workshops and learn more about nonviolence; come to community dinners and experience how food brings people together; or just spend a couple of minutes walking through the labyrinth when passing by. You will find how healing it is, being in a nonviolent environment.