Millionth Circle


Susan BelchamberWhen We Say Yes, Magic Happens
by Susan Belchamber

I met Stella at the Omega Institute last autumn during the Women & Power conference (associated with V-day). Stella was in one of the rows of young women (that had been sponsored to attend) who were asked to stand and relate why they had come. Stella caught my attention as a young woman of surprising clarity about her mission in life. She is currently getting her Masters in social work at NYU while working nearly full-time as a social work intern in Harlem. She states her “dream” as being able to go back to Rwanda to begin to help the healing process. She’d like to help develop social service initiatives that could actually reach some of those who needed help the most, but often were the most unable to ask (since showing vulnerability is so difficult in that culture).

Over the ensuing months, Stella and I have developed a lovely friendship and a mentoring relationship. She’s had many trials this winter—some of them financial, some related to her family. Indeed, Stella’s mother had been severely depressed—not surprising really as she had lost more than half of her children as well as her husband and most of her siblings to the conflict. Stella wanted to help but could only phone infrequently, and even then her mother had difficulty sharing her grief.

An amazing synchronicity begins here: I had attended a one-day workshop with Jean Shinoda Bolen (entitled “The Millionth Circle”) just the day before I’d met Stella . I’d purchased Jean’s book and even got her to sign it, but somehow knew even then it was not for me… I wound up giving Stella the book as a gift. She told me how much the book meant to her as it gave her hope that even small groups could serve as change-agents. She also found that, despite what she had learned from her culture, giving voice to one’s problems and feeling listened to actually made things better rather than worse! She had felt somewhat isolated in America, and our friendship lightened that a bit.

Anyways, she shared some of what she learned from the book (and from our discussions) with her mother. And, lo and behold, her mother decided to form a circle in Rwanda!! Stella says it has made a huge difference to her—she no longer feels totally alone in her grief! Her depression is lifting and it seems like it’s inspiring others as well! The small group seems to be growing—and circles are taking on a life of their own!

In the meantime, Stella had met a lecturer at her university who had gone to Rwanda last year to provide aid but had found it very difficult. She’s encountered much reluctance to accepting aid since, as Stella tells it, people simply did not want to appear as “beggars”. Stella was asked “what would actually help?” And Stella got up the courage to suggest that they sponsor her to go back to Rwanda and assist her mother’s efforts for a few weeks. It now looks like Stella and twelve other social work students are funded to go back this summer! Stella told me this week that she would never have had the courage to ask for what she needed, what she dreamed of, unless she’d already been supported in her dream by me and had been inspired by “The Millionth Circle”!

As I’ve quoted to her from Joseph Campbell, “Once we trigger an internal ‘yes’ by affirming our truest goals and desires, the universe mirrors that ‘yes’ and expands it.”

I mentioned this to a friend from Boston, and she asked me if I knew about the Peace By Peace organization? I hadn’t, but came to find out that they were having a special dinner on March 17th honoring Mercy Chidi, Founder of “Ripples Int’l” of Kenya. My friend said “I’ll call Elana Auerbach and get you invited”. Well, it just happened that Stella’s springbreak was that week and we had already made plans for her to come to D.C. for the weekend on Thurs, March 16th!! Well, the Universe has definitely said “yes” because Peace By Peace is sponsoring Stella and setting up a lunch this Friday for Mercy and Stella to meet and share ideas!! Can you believe it? We are both so thrilled by the turn of events!

[Return to Articles & Stories Index]