- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2009

I recently heard about a “peace studies” major available at some colleges. I thought it was a fascinating idea, and it made me think about how parents can teach peace within their families.

It’s clear that becoming a person of peace doesn’t happen by accident. We learn it, just as we learn to become a good scientist or a good basketball player. Unfortunately, few people believe it to be a realistic goal, and fewer still have made a study of it, much less tried to instill it in others.

We can begin in our home study of peace by listing all of the great men and women who have reversed injustice, healed breaches of human relationship or brought opposing sides into constructive partnership. Our list may include obvious people as well as those hidden heroes who are known only to a tiny few.

My short list includes religious, humanitarian, political and artistic persons. People like Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Albert Schweitzer, Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, F.W. De Klerk, and even current religious leaders.

I also would include groups that brought peace without public or individual recognition: the Underground Railroad, Civil Rights workers, Berlin Wall heroes, and the thousands of selfless people working to end slavery, protect human rights, reverse poverty, eradicate injustice, reach prisoners or bring education to those denied it.

By reading and studying their circumstances, we can find certain universals on how peace is achieved. It usually starts with one party deciding it will not use any weapon other than that of goodness, love, service, truth, prayer — despite the natural inner struggles of feeling vulnerable, doubtful and afraid.

A second element is the conviction that the enemy is also a valuable human being who deep down also wants a positive outcome, one that allows both sides to benefit. This is difficult when we perceive the other as someone willing to do terrible things. True peacemakers seem to be able to look beyond the momentary, and to glimpse the more lasting inner person.

Another important step is to have a vision of a happy ending, and then to make a tangible model of that vision, no matter how small. This could be in the form of a campaign, or in the form of a small version of the intended outcome. Creative approaches, often the natural territory of artists, musicians, filmmakers, painters and writers, can be so influential. The visionary can present an image of positive relationship — or a predictive warning of the continuance of negative relationship — that can inspire others to take practical steps.

It takes courage to be a peacemaker, and it takes innovative thinking. Each person needs to be willing to put aside the temporary personal desire of winning one’s own objective, and to embrace a larger goal of having everyone win, having everyone benefit, including the person who seems to be the enemy.

We can teach our children to envision the attacker as a happy, fulfilled person, with abundance and goodness filling his or her life, seeing that person smiling where the angry expression has been, or laughing where sharp tones were heard. We can show them how to serve and love even those who may have hurt us. We can remind them that human worth is intrinsic, no matter what others think. We can show the standard of treating each person with the respect we have for God, even if the person is not of our faith or our homeland.

Peace always has been a work of miracles, where one person or just a few dare to dream and then coalesce agreement with that dream. This season, can we actually try to bring peace on Earth, even in our own small corner of the human community? A small droplet of reconciliation, thoughtfulness, forgiveness or kindness can initiate a chain reaction. Not only does this brighten our own lives, but it adds value in an expanding outward ripple. What a gift that is — for the entire world.

Kate Tsubata is a freelance writer and home-schooler who lives in Maryland.

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