It is Christmas. It is a time for being in peace, for thinking about peace.
One would hope that peace would be on our minds every day of the year, and be something we strive for in everything we do. Peace shouldn’t just be one of those popular ideas of a particular season.
Many of us have religious beliefs that profess we believe in peace, that we should be peacemakers as we go about our lives, raising our families, do our jobs, and live in our communities.
Yet, much of societal life is obsessed with competition, making a profit, and feeding a variety of addictions. Lying and stealing, even though we find other names for that, is ever-present in our community lives.
If I really believe in peace, and know that I have a Divine direction to live in peace, to practice peace, and to truly be a peacemaker, then how do I accomplish that?
I get pulled and dragged to live otherwise.
If I pay attention to popular culture, and much of the media, then I soon find myself absorbed by violence, by bigotry, fear, anger, greed, and addiction. Material possessions, instant gratification, and self absorption fill my mind and guide my day. Yet, I am left hungrier for true satisfaction, true fulfillment, and farther from my real purpose as a human being on this planet.
The bell ringer at the grocery store, and the pile of solicitations in my mailbox tempt me to “make peace” by writing a check, or putting some cash in the red kettle at the store. But, does that make peace, or simply fuel a bureaucracy clothed in the appearance of charity and peace making?
Some commentators urge me to buy a bigger gun and a larger ammo clip, or support arming teachers, or deploying squads of sharpshooters, in order to bring peace to the latest mass casualty crime scene, to stop random shooting sprees, to thwart the crazy actions of the angry sociopath who is looking for a newsworthy end to his troubled life.
The cops I’ve worked with spend much of their time responding to the seemingly endless calls of domestic violence, drug abuse, child neglect, and the sad loneliness in people’s lives they try to self medicate with alcohol, drugs, and violence. Yes, they are peacemakers, applying first aid to a troubled society we like to think is seeking peace, but so often is trapped in the cycle of pain, violence, self medication, and despair.
Adding more guns that that explosive mix is just creating more havoc, more violence. I suppose we would become more efficient in spilling blood, and adding more fuel to the fires of anger and rage and isolation in our already self-absorbed society. I wonder what the lessons would be that we would teach our children. What would be our legacy to them?
My soul calls me to reject all that. In my time on this Earth, I’ve seen that war and violence, and anger and self gratification don’t make this world a better place. I’ve learned that compassion and unconditional love, and being truly selfless are the beliefs and actions that grow flowers and save souls.
I can make peace in my home, creating a place of beauty, serenity, and purpose. In order to truly do that, I need to make peace with myself, to truly connect with God, and be content with my purpose in life, my real values. I need to realize that I am beautiful, and part of the Universe. I need to tend to my own candlelight.
It starts with me. And, when I am filled with Peace, then I can be a peace maker. I can reach out into my community and be a small flame of peace and unconditional love.
I walk past the red kettle and the bell ringer, and I toss all the dunning letters into the trash.
Instead, I visit the nearby prison, and drink coffee and play games with young men. We play guitar and sing songs, and tell stories of our lives. And, in our conversations, I talk about my life, and my struggles. I talk about love and peace. And, they do, too. We learn from each other, and we talk about peace.
Soon, those young men will be out of prison, making their way in this troubled world. They will be tempted by the drugs, violence and sexual exploitation, and all the other war making forces in our culture. They will doubt themselves, and they will struggle to find their place in all of that.
Yet, they will have that small flame burning in their soul, the flame of self esteem, of inner peace, and universal love. They will have our relationship, and their own nurtured peace-loving souls to guide and comfort them.
In their new beginnings, they will have some answers and they will have the beginnings of a strong foundation in their lives. And, when they become workers, and husbands, and fathers, they will be on the right path, and will know who they truly are, and where they are going.
I can’t change the world today. But, I can start with one person, and light that candle, and nourish that small, flickering flame in the dark. That one candle lights a dark room in the depth of one’s midnight despair.
With one candle, one can light the world.
Neal Lemery 12/25/2012