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Mindful : October 2016
Louisville mayor Greg Fischer was on his way to a bourbon festival in nearby Bardstown when he got the call. For Fischer, it was a moment of confirmation. When he’d taken office three years earlier, he’d committed to making Louisville one of the most compassionate cities in the world. But he never expected something like this. One of his inspirations was Thomas Merton, the famous Kentucky-based monk who’d had a life-changing epiphany in downtown Louisville in 1958. Watching shoppers pass by, he wrote, “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness.... If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” Those words rang true for Fischer that morning at the mosque. “There was this buzz of excitement in the crowd—you could feel it,” he recalls. “The affirmations people were shouting back and forth were like waves that you hear at the beach. It was really something, like a cleans- ing. It was only later that I realized: Everyone there was shining like the sun.” Compassion wasn’t the first thing on Fischer’s mind when he ran for office in 2010 and eked out a slim victory over his Republican rival. But when he was preparing his inaug ural address, he decided to set down his new vision for the city based on three core goals. Fischer, 58, is a → It was from Dr. Muhammad Babar, a promi- nent member of the Louisville Islamic Center, who was disturbed because earlier that day vandals had defaced the mosque with bright red anti-Islamic graffiti: “This Is for France,” “Nazis Speak Arabic,” “Moslems Leave Jews Alone.” Some of the mosque’s members wanted to do a quick paintover of the graffiti, but Fischer advised against it, saying that the city—and the Muslim community, in particular—needed a chance to heal. So the next day they held a press conference at the mosque and invited the whole city to participate in the cleanup. The response was overwhelming. More than 1,000 people of all ages, races, and creeds showed up for the cleanup, backing up traffic for miles. “It was probably the most spiritual expe- rience I’ve ever had,” says Babar. “It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it. That’s the feeling I wish humanity could always have.” Dr. Muhammad Babar, a prominent member of the Louisville Islamic Center, was disturbed to find the mosque he attends defaced with anti-Islamic graffiti. In response, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called on the community to help clean up the mosque, and more than 1,000 people from diverse backgrounds stepped forward to help. PHOTOGRAPH(BOTTOM,RIGHT)BYBRIANBOHANNON 62 mindful October 2016 society