We usually identify power with ballistic force and rapid change. Sometimes, the lasting change starts with a small ripple or the quiet resolve hidden in a tiny acorn that dares to grow into a mighty oak. Let our hopes for peace and unity be that…
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
Being shy and prone to a preference for quiet moments in solitude between the episodes of active play as a child, I grew into a person who was not a “joiner.” Even as a young mother without peers who likewise had children, I traversed the landscape of parenthood, alongside my husband, with a profile as the ever silent one on the other side of the door, as my husband chatted with neighbors while working in the garden right outside our window. I had cleverly avoided every conceivable form of membership that might engulf me as a card carrying participant. My uneasiness with groups was partly my shyness and partly my resistance to the lack of freedom I presumed would follow. Imagine my surprise when, during a well-baby visit with my youngest child, the pediatrician who I had known from the time of my daughter’s infancy shared information about an organization to which she belonged. It was a “Non-Governmental Organization” (NGO) of the United Nations, no less. I am not certain about how she did it, but knowing my background in education, she invited me to participate in a project called: “Global Cooperation for a Better World.” The project followed an earlier initiative called the “Million Minutes of Peace” that collected donations of time spent in contemplation or meditation on peace. It was 1988 and “Global Cooperation for a Better World” was launched as the follow-up and focused on the task of gathering responses to the question: “What is your vision for a better world?” stated exclusively in positive terms. It still amazes me that this learned doctor singled me out and succeeded in getting me to participate in gatherings devoted to a global peace messenger initiative. However, I am sure that my desire to make the world a better place for my children, and all the children of the world, factored into my decision and emboldened me in very surprising ways. True to my basic nature, although I played a role as an active participant, it was never one of membership, but instead a lasting affiliation that was transformative on many levels.
Eventually, I learned all about the initiative and how to facilitate “Creative Sessions” designed to spark positive thinking, peace and proactive change. I spoke before various community groups; at PTA meetings; in classrooms; community centers; churches and elsewhere promoting creative discussions about fashioning visions of a better world. During the years that followed, I would continue to participate and often attended events at the United Nations. An article that I had written was included in a book which was the culmination of some of the work that was produced as part of this global initiative. In 1990 during the United Nations World Summit for Children, my daughter who was in middle school participated in a group project called “Kids Meeting Kids” which introduced children to each other from all over the world. The Summit targeted health, survival, nutrition and women’s health and a reduction in polio, measles, anemia among other illnesses ; along with emphasis on clean water. A subsequent project was called: “Living Values” and I recall how this initiative brought individuals together from two countries that were engaged in war. Both had lost loved ones to the armed conflict, but consented to sit down together in the interest of peace using the guidance of their shared values. This was a stirring example of what could happen when people imagine peace. With each involvement, my life would change to embrace a larger view of the world.
In 2000, during the United Nations’ International Year for the Culture of Peace, I participated in a panel on the topic of “rejecting violence” which was one of six goals of “Manifesto 2000.” The other goals were: “respecting all life; share with others; listen to understand; preserve the planet and rediscover solidarity.”
Since that first meeting with my children’s pediatrician, my life has rested on the principles of peace for the ages; an idea that has been one of the most meaningful and gratifying commitments of my life. In 2020, in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, I somehow feel that my children, husband and I are prepared because the reach of that early work with the NGO, and other local civic activities within the community since then which have been focused on social justice and the environment, have prepared us to think globally; embracing the values of sustainability, hope and peace for our beleaguered world. Today, my children have children of their own and easily “sheltered in place” knowing that they were prepared for the challenges and the sacrifices that would ultimately save lives.
What a moment it was, when that kind doctor shared her commitment to peace with me and transformed my life and the lives of my family members. Partly based on that defining moment, I grew personally and professionally to become an agent of change devoted to peace, social justice, and the care and treatment of vulnerable populations suffering from abuse and neglect; interpersonal trauma; substance use disorder; mental illness and intimate partner violence. This work found me and changed me. Today, so many years have passed and I continue to do this important work with a smile, outreached hands and a gentle shake to the world.