In remembrance of the 9-11-2001 attacks, I humbly suggest that we need to move beyond thinking of ourselves in terms of our nationality, our religion, or our race. We need to start thinking of ourselves as human beings. Only then will peace truly be possible. Easier to say than to do, but let’s use today as an opportunity to move towards that goal.
I was walking my puppy in the park this morning without a leash, as I do every morning. This morning was different from the past in that Mato decided to spark up a hint of rebellion and not listen to his mother. He saw another dog across the park at bolted to see if that dog wanted to play… he didn’t. I ran to catch Mato and when I grabbed his collar the elderly man who was walking the less than friendly dog, raised his voice at me and told me a few derogatory comments about my dog and myself. I don’t really like being “yelled at” by strangers, so my heart was pounding. But I looked up at the man from my hunched over position holding Mato’s collar, looked him in the eyes, smiled, and said “Thank you for your recommendations. Have a good day, Sir.”
Acting with kindness is not always the most easy thing to do. I would have loved to handle the situation in a more aggressive way, but I would not have received the same peaceful feeling that I did as I walked away. One of my professors once told me, “Creating peace is not simply holding hands and singing Kumbayah. Peace is so much more; peace is action.” I could not agree more.
The organizations and individuals who are successful in ending conflict around the world, understand that peace takes a long-term commitment to conflict resolution. This requires infinite amount of strategic planning, talking, acting, and working toward a common goal. The Geneva Accord was an initiative between the Palestinian and Israeli groups to end the conflict between them. The meeting involved educated individuals from both sides of the conflict to gather and discuss the roots of the problem.
Here are the principles for the accord, which helped guide them through the process.
End of conflict. End of all claims.
Mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian right to two separate states.
A final, agreed upon border.
A comprehensive solution to the refugee problem.
Large settlement blocks and most of the settlers are annexed to Israel, as part of a 1:1 land swap.
Recognition of the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and recognition of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
A demilitarized Palestinian state.
A comprehensive and complete Palestinian commitment to fighting terrorism and incitement.
An international verification group to oversee implementation.
The establishment of the Accord was not an easy process and involved excruciating compromise and working out the each detail of the conflict. These individuals were committed to ending this long-standing conflict in order to create a better future. I think it is incredible the amount of action it takes to create this phenomenon that we so often associate with inaction.
So here’s your Two Hands Tuesday thought to ponder- can you bring peace to your life or the lives of others? Maybe it is as simple as turning the aggressive words of a stranger in a park around as a rebuttal of kind words.
Opportunities to help our brothers and sisters present themselves constantly in life. Someone leaves their phone on the counter at your work, do you run after them? A stranger drops a dollar bill and continues walking, do tell them or pocket the new-found money? Here is an example of a recent opportunity I encountered to share some kindness.
Yesterday I was driving across a busy bridge that crosses a highway and river in my hometown. My car was nearly to the end of the bridge and I was about to enter a large and busy intersection at the end of the bridge. Something to my left caught my eye and I looked over to see a blind man feeling his way slowly onto the bridge into oncoming traffic. I looked around to assess the potential harm in the situation. Traffic in the direction which the man was headed saw him, but the red light that was holding the traffic in place was about to tell them to proceed. Without anymore thought, I stopped my car in the middle of the bridge, turned on my warning lights, got out of the car, ran into the oncoming traffic and approached the man.
After walking the man to the side of the road, I asked him where he was headed. He then told me that he had accidentally wandered off the route he was following. I then helped the man find his path again and ran back to my car (still paused, holding up a rather large line of cars).
I have heard many stories of people risking their lives for complete strangers, and have always attempted to imagine myself in these situations. The truth is, it is more than difficult to picture what your reaction will be to an opportunity for kindness because the human mind is incredibly unpredictable. The best we can do is walk through life practicing kindness in the smallest ways; running after that stranger to return her cell-phone, stopping that man to give him the dollar bill he dropped. Acts of kindness- pure, without expectation of reward, provide a feeling of utter serenity. This feeling is indescribable.
A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. -Saint Basil
The Dalai Lama often describes an encounter with a Tibetan monk named Lopon Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche that had a profound impact on him. Lopon was imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese for 18 years. In the book, The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys by the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan, the Dalai Lama speaks about his conversation with Lopon-la. “I asked him if he was afraid. Lopon-la then told me: ‘Yes, there was one thing I was afraid of. I was afraid I would lose compassion for the Chinese.'”
This is the epitome of forgiveness. How difficult to keep this mindset after such a long time facing this extremely difficult trial. Later in this section of the book, the Dalai Lama describes how Lopon was able accept the situation he was experiencing, retain a peaceful mindset, and repel feelings of hatred for the Chinese.
As it is demonstrated in this example, peace is not a phenomenon that can simply occur in our lives and in our world. We must think and work to create these peaceful feelings within ourselves.
I stumbled upon an article that nicely summarizes the concept of inner peace, and helps readers move toward achieving this. Check out, “Finding Inner Peace” by Jane Alexander on the website SoulfulLiving.com if you are interested in learning more.
Similar to the process of achieving inner peace, outer peace also requires action. The Create Peace Project is an example of a program to help the next generation understand and embrace peace. Create Peace Project teaches youth about the actions necessary for creating unified communities and a peaceful world “by educating, empowering, and activating joyous feelings of self-worth using the universal language of self-expression.” (“Our Story” Createpeaceproject.org).
An example of one of the banners painted in the Create Peace Program. The program shows that the actions of creating outer peace allows for further development of inner peace. Courtesy of CreatePeaceProject.org
I stumbled upon this wonderful interview with John Paul Lederach on Speaking of Faith on American Public Radio. In the interview, Lederach speaks about his life experience with what Krista Tipit calls, “a lived commitment to peace building” as well as global peace mediation. I must also recommend the book by Lederach and his daughter Angela, titled “When Blood and Bones Cry Out.”
Here is the link to the interview, which I strongly urge you to listen to. (I sat and made bracelets while I listened, it’s amazing the amount of things you get done when you multi-task!)
At the very end of the interview, Lederach discusses some of his Haiku describing peace-building. Here is one that touched my heart.
Don’t ask a mountain to move
Just take a pebble
Every time you you visit
-John Paul Lederach
I encourage you to listen to the interview, or check out http://www.speakingoffaith.org where you can find more of his haiku. Find one that you enjoy and leave your favorite in a comment below, I would love to hear what words move your soul!