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Peace Begins with Us

ce-3ecdwsakhtgwMy 14-year-old son, Alex, loves video games. He knows, however, not to ask his father and me for any games that promote senseless violence—which these days seem to be just about all of them. Why? Well, we see no reason to introduce more violence to him in a world that already sees way too much of it.

To say this has not made me a very popular mom among my son’s friends is an understatement.

Some parents roll their eyes at me when I say I won’t buy “pretend” weapons for my kids to play with. I know I can’t completely shield them from such toys, but I also don’t have to put them in their hands. They live in a violent enough world.

Time of Peace

During the Christmas season there is a lot of attention given to the idea of peace. We express our hope for it in songs, prayers, and Christmas cards. But then the season ends, we return to everyday life, and it seems we lose that quest for peace.

Unfortunately, I could have hung this blog on any number of violent incidents that have occurred within the past year: the Dylann Roof shooting in Charleston; the war in Afghanistan; the violence in Chicago; or any of the number of shootings, stabbings, or domestic violence stories that populate news websites and run daily on the evening news.

Following each event, such as the shooting in Charleston, people scramble for answers and call for things such as stricter gun laws, zero-tolerance policies, and tougher prison sentences. While those things may certainly have a place in the equation, what we often fail to do is peel back the issue and look at its underlying roots.

Looking Deeper

Peace comes from a change of heart. As the song says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” In his April 1963 encyclical Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris), Pope John XXIII reinforced that belief. “The world will never be the dwelling place of peace, till peace has found a home in the heart of each and every man, till every man preserves in himself the order ordained by God to be preserved,” he wrote.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of  how, in 1914, during World War I, soldiers from both sides of the fighting called a truce on Christmas Day. The story, which has been passed down for years, is a great story of peace and camaraderie. What I always find sad about the story, though, is the fact that, despite their brief truce, the sides resumed their fighting.

That story always strikes me that if it was within those soldiers’ hearts to stop fighting and see the humanity in their rivals, for even a few days, peace is possible.

On the wall in my office is a Dilbert cartoon that touts the first completely reusable newspaper. One of the items in the newspaper is, “Pope denounces violence.” When I first saw it, it struck me how profound the underlying message of that statement is. Through their constant denouncing of violence and their quest for peace, popes now keep the issue in the forefront of our minds—where it should be.

One Voice

Now, I’m not naïve. I know that hoping for an end to violence is a lofty goal, and that things like restricting my son’s video games won’t solve the problem. I know that it would be easier to throw up my hands and resign myself to the fact that there will always be violence and there’s nothing I can do about it.

But I can’t. I can’t because of my kids, my belief in the goodness of people, and my faith. I believe that somewhere within each of us is the seed of peace. And while my actions may seem small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, they are one way I can work toward peace. It’s certainly better to be part of the solution than part of the problem. Then, just maybe, my one action will ripple outward.

Try to do one thing to promote peace in your own little part of the world. Having just come off another contentious election season, I saw plenty of hatred and vitriol spewed from both sides. Perhaps moving forward we could watch our words and work toward dialogue rather than shouting. It’s OK to have different opinions. It’s not OK to degrade people for their opinions.

Another place it’s easy to see hatred and anger is on the Internet. Hidden behind a computer screen, people routinely post hurtful and judgmental comments on articles or social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Before you hit send, take a moment to consider the impact of your words. If they’re not constructive or kind, perhaps you should reconsider posting them.

There are a number of other small ways you can help to foster a spirit of peace. Seek them out. So join me in doing “just one thing” to promote peace in our world. Let’s carry the peace of the Christmas season into the new year and beyond.