Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It Just Isn't That Difficult

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” – Indira Gandhi

There is a great cliché that says “Love is a verb”. In other words, love shouldn’t be viewed as the noun it technically is; it should be seen as a verb, something we actively “do” on a daily basis as a way of reinvesting in our relationships, our marriage, our nation, and our communities. Loving relationships – of all kinds – do not just happen. We have to work at loving each other on a daily – sometimes even hourly – basis.

Why do we so often overlook the idea that peace is also something that we have to “do”? Something we have to work to achieve and maintain every day? Peace does not happen through inaction. Peace does not happen through conflict, as so many advocates of war have us believe. Peace happens through conscious action and understanding. There is a difference between understanding alternate ideologies and required consensual ideologies. All we must do is agree to allow one another to live and believe how we each live and believe. All we must do is accept differences. It really is that simple.

We have xenophobes demanding that people be expelled from the country, that those who practice a certain religion should not be allowed “in”. Of course they should. America is not a clique. This is not Mean Girls. Everyone is welcome at the table.

Peace is not the opposite of war, though, because like war, it takes so much work. And this, I think, is what people overlook. Peace does not just happen by laying down arms. It is a conscious effort, an active pursuit every day.

Peace is deliberate.

It will not happen by accident. And it will not happen by spewing hate or divisive rhetoric. We don’t fall into a time of peace as we fall into a lull in conversation. We must make it our purpose.

Peace is inclusive.

When we actively work to include everyone in society – yes, everyone – peace becomes attainable. When it is no longer about pushing the ideals of the dominant party in power onto the masses but about working to include the voices of each group, we will know we have found the correct road.

Peace is active.

We cannot wish it into existence. We can pray for it. We can desire it. We can yearn for it. But even then we still must do the work, the hard boots-on-the-ground work to make it happen. We mustn’t brush it to the side and say, “someone should really do something about that. Maybe if someone had done something, that [insert bad event here] wouldn’t have happened.” Ultimately we are all someone else and it is a responsibility that belongs to us all.

Peace is the bigger picture…

…but it is also the smaller one. It takes time, but remember, time will pass anyway. Put that time to positive use. And it takes effort. But in one of the greatest rewards possible, peace allows us the enormous satisfaction of instant gratification. We can see differences and tiny results the moment we begin working for it. Certainly we cannot expect results on a global scale immediately, but if we look for the small changes, we can see that we are, in fact, making a difference. One change can lead into the ripple of another. You may not get to see how far each of your ripples fully reaches, but keep making them. Keep working.

Can you stick to it? Can you commit? Can you be the only one smiling when all those around you give you no reason to? If you can, then one day, when you have no smile to give, they will be there with one of their own to give to you.

Peace is an active concept. It cannot happen through rejection. When we make an effort to move slightly beyond where we are comfortable, when we choose understanding over condemnation, when we take the hand of someone in need rather than pointing a finger to shame him, we work to make peace happen. We work to repair what is broken.

We work.

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