During meditation this week these words from Pema Chodron grabbed me: “Only with equanimity can we see that everything that comes into our circle has come to teach us what we need to know.”

What came to mind for me were images from three intersecting circles. The first circle held searing pictures of racism from videos of killings, protests and violence across our land. They confronted me with how far we have to go to heal the deep wounds of slavery, and they raised many questions. Collectively do we have the will to create equality of opportunity? Can we secure justice in the oligarchy that our democracy has become?

The second circle is an outdoor amphitheater that seats 600 in one of the camps of the youth organization I led for several years. The memory of standing in that arena with a blazing fire at its center to speak or lead songs and cheers restores the hope of engaging young people in social change.

In those years we brought together urban, suburban and international youth to strengthen their understanding and appreciation of difference, tap into their idealism and advance their leadership skills to make a difference. Today many of them are advocates for equality and justice in metropolitan St. Louis, Dayton, Cincinnati and elsewhere.

Within the third circle reside the questions of if and how to engage racism at this stage of life when my white privilege allows me to choose not to. What are my obligations in retirement? Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s words ring with their challenge: “I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.”

What is in your circle this week, and what is it here to teach you?