Finding the Strength to Fight Our Fears As a child growing up in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Terry Ahwal knew terror and violence. Now living in Detroit, she believes we should be fighting against fear and not against people.
NPR logo

Finding the Strength to Fight Our Fears

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15237115/15264302" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Finding the Strength to Fight Our Fears

Finding the Strength to Fight Our Fears

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15237115/15264302" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

JAMES HATTORI, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm James Hattori.

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in mystery.

Unidentified Woman: I believe in family.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in being who I am.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the power of failure.

Unidentified Man #4: And I believe normal life is extraordinary.

Unidentified Man #5: This I believe.

HATTORI: On This I Believe essay two weeks ago came from Israeli-born Tamar Duke-Cohan of Massachusetts. She spoke of her belief in argument and debate.

This week, wee have an essay from Palestinian born Terry Ahwal of Detroit. She works at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. She also teaches non-violent communications.

Here's our series curator, independent producer, Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Terry Ahwal says that teaching non-violent communications allows her to see the goodness in human beings. When she decided to sit down and write an essay for This I Believe, she had no hesitation about her subject. Her belief has been a driving force in her life and she thinks about it every day.

Here's Terry Ahwal with her essay for This I Believe.

Professor TERRY AHWAL (Development Director, Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan; Non-violent Communication, Madonna University): I believe in fighting fear.

When I was 11 years old and living under the Israeli occupation, I took a chance and after curfew I ran to visit my grandmother who lived two blocks away from us. On the road, I had to hide under a truck to avoid soldiers who were coming my way. For 20 minutes I lay there in utter fear watching their boots walk back and forth in front of the truck. My heart was pounding so fast and loud that I was afraid one of the soldiers would hear it and I would be killed instantly.

To calm myself, I started begging God to take mercy on me and save me from these men and their guns. I remembered the words of my mother after Israeli soldiers beat my father. She told us to put our fear and anger aside and pray for the poor soldiers, who were also afraid because they were away from their homes in Israel.

I began to feel bad for the soldiers. I wondered: Where do they sleep and are they afraid of little children like me? What kind of food do they eat? Do they have big or small families? Their voices began to remind me of my neighbors. My fear dissipated a bit as I pictured the soldiers as people I knew. Although my 20 minutes under the truck seemed like an eternity, I believe that shedding my fear literally saved my life.

Thirty-six years later, I look around and I see another kind of devastation created by fear. I saw the collapse of my city, Detroit, when so many white people fled the city out of fear. After 9/11, the Arab and Muslim community segregated themselves because of the level of suspicion directed at them from others. Fear of association because of ethnicity led many to retreat within themselves and their community. They stopped socializing with non-Arab Muslim colleagues and neighbors. Once again, we allow differences to separate us because of fear.

When I was hiding under that truck, if my terror had made me lose control and I had started to cry, the jittery soldiers might have pulled the trigger because of their own fears. Thank God I lived to wonder about this.

I understood as a child that fear can be deadly. I believe it is fear we should be fighting not the other. We all belong to the same human tribe; that kinship supersedes our differences. We are all soldiers patrolling the road, and we're all little children hiding under the truck.

ALLISON: Terry Ahwal with her essay for This I Believe. Ahwal told us that her husband's family is Jewish and that Thanksgiving in their household is a mix of Jews and Arabs, coming together with no uneasiness.

Our invitation to write for this series is open to everyone at npr.org/thisibelieve. You can find out more and read all the essays from the past two and a half years, plus the tens of thousands that have been submitted.

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

HATTORI: Jay Allison is co-editor with Dan Gediman, John Gregory and Vicki Merrick of the book, "This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women."

A week from tomorrow, on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, psychologist Barbara Held(ph) of Brunswick, Maine, tells us why she believes in not always looking on the bright side.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.