Friday, October 26, 2012

International Days of Peace

This week, the SJI International High School is participating the 6th annual Lasallian International Days of Peace, an effort sponsored by Lasallian Youth around the world. The week was kicked off by a school assembly with talks, songs, and prayers on the topic of world peace. The short talk that I gave is below.

Everyone seems to want peace, but very few people are actually willing to do the hard work that it requires. Why is that? Peace doesn’t come automatically, although we seem to desire it naturally. You would think that if so many people want it, then it would be pretty easy to do. But the problem is that what we usually want is our own version of peace, our own definition of what peace would look like.

If there is going to be real peace somewhere, it only really happens because you have to give something up. You have to give up the idea that only you are right. You have to give up that only you know what’s best. You have to give up the idea that you’re the only person worth listening to. And all of that is not an easy thing to do.

This is as true of you and your friends as it is of nations at war. People get all hot and bothered about something to the point that they’ve spent so much time on a particular interpretation of things that they can’t back out of it. It’s just too hard. What is needed a good strong dose of the truth. That’s why it usually takes somebody who is not directly involved in a situation – a common friend, an arbitrator, a judge, the United Nations – who can point out the facts or realities of the situation in such a way that both parties come to see that there is another way of looking at things, and perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seemed. Maybe peace is possible. In other words, it requires a change in thinking, a change in perspective, along with a change in action. Once a path to peace is agreed to, then the real possibility of peace exists.

I’ve always been impressed with a story that I heard about two kids who had to split a candy bar between them. One of them had a knife with which to cut the candy bar in half. But now they had to decide who was the one who was to do the cutting. So one of them said: “You cut, I choose.” This meant that one person would cut the candy bar in half and the other person would be the first to choose the piece that he or she would take. I thought that that was a brilliant solution, because the person who was doing the cutting would be very careful to do it fairly, otherwise he or she would end up with the smaller piece. And in the end, both kids were happy with the outcome. “You cut, I choose.”

Wouldn’t it be great if nations could do something like that? Most of time, however, I don’t think they’ve figured out yet what the candy bar is, let along how to split it up.

World peace is not something easy to achieve, as the evidence shows. I certainly don’t have the magic answer to it all. But there are others who have given hints about it, who have an insight about peace that strikes us as worth thinking about. For example, Mahatma Gandhi said, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” In other words, real change in the world depends on real change in ourselves. World peace depends on individual peace, on peace in our hearts, on peace on the school grounds, on peace in our families.

The other wise saying about peace comes from Mother Teresa, who said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” This means that the connections between people need to be recognized, and sometimes they have to be reminded of those connections in order to make peace. It goes right back to the first thing that I said about peace, that it’s hard to do because you have to give up the idea that your view of things is the only one. Once you see – once you really see – that there are two people around that candy bar, and that both have a legitimate interest in the results, then a peaceful solution is often nearby.

So the next time you’re in a situation that could use a peaceful resolution, think about the larger picture, and not only about your own little world. It will help you, and it may perhaps help world peace.