The word “peace” comes up a lot this time of year: we share peace at the holidays; we offer peace to our friends and neighbors; we sing songs of peace for the world, and we send cards and gifts adorned with doves and good wishes and blessings of all kinds. But do we live it?
Looking at the daily chaos, pain, suffering, hate, bombings, killings, bigotry and starvation around the world, I wonder — will there ever be peace on earth? After living through one of the most divisive national elections in America, where decency, peace and compassion burned to ash in flames of hatred, bigotry and vitriol I ask — will we ever be able to move from where we are to where we should be and blanket this Earth with kindness and compassion for one another?
The sad answer is — probably not. Not yet, anyway.
But we can find peace in the pieces of rubble around us. And it is always there: in the loving hug from our child when we’re feeling down; in needed help from a neighbor or colleague; in strangers stopping to pull a crash victim from a burning car. It’s there when a friend loans you money to get through tough times, or when communities come together to help victims of earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes and other natural disasters. It’s there in being able to hold the hand, or paw, of a loved one as they pass to the other side. It’s there in the comforting arms of a friend or family member afterward when we need a shoulder to cry on. It’s even there in the number of “likes” and “comments” we get on social media when we share a personal joy or a professional success.
I live in Orlando, Florida and witnessed firsthand the horrible tragedy of Pulse. I watched the mayhem and suffering the night it happened; I saw the victims being pulled out and rushed to hospitals by fearless and dedicated First Responders; I witnessed the spontaneous outpouring of love by friends, neighbors and strangers as they came together to support and encourage those who were injured and the families of those who were killed. Many of the dead were buried here, and perfect strangers came to attend the funerals, not only to pay their respects but also to peacefully protect against the bias and bigotry from outside groups wielding signs and chants meant to inspire division and hate. I attended the candlelight vigil at Lake Eola where 50,000+ people gathered to hear speakers, to sing songs, to share hugs and to offer peace to one another as we grew Orlando Strong.
In my upcoming novel, “The Vessels,” only those humans who are most broken can become Vessels worthy of hosting the Spirits who return. As Chief Black tells Sam says in the book, A person must fall to the deepest pit in his or her life to learn how to rise again. Only then will he or she discover the compassion, humility, and selflessness required to build back up, and to help others do the same.
These Vessels know what it’s like to find peace in the everyday pieces of life around them — whether it’s fighting the dangers and challenges in their lives, or defying harm, tragedy or even death to help the humans their Spirits return to visit. But peace is the goal, and the Vessels and Spirits help these humans find it again by overcoming vengeance, breaking down walls of bigotry, letting go of anger, finding soul-cleansing forgiveness and, in countless other ways, allowing love to trump hate.
We live in a world that doesn’t seem to want peace. There’s no drama in peace; no war, vengeance, power or big profit in peace. Peace is about serving others, about caring for the Earth, about putting people and planet before profits and finding ways to compromise in disagreements. It’s about putting aside our personal passions and wants in order to create greater good for all.
Peace requires selflessness; blindness to color, race, gender, religion, culture, and lifestyle; an honoring of all souls and a desire to live as our highest angels. I pray we get there sooner than later, so our children and grandchildren don’t suffer our ills their whole lives, too. In the meantime, we can find peace in the pieces of our everyday lives — that which we give as well as receive — and we can start to connect those pieces into a bigger framework that overlaps with others built by those around us. In that way, even if it’s just in our homes or churches, around our neighborhoods, schools and communities, or at our jobs and office buildings, we can say:
Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
I wish you peace and blessings this holiday season. And always…
“Let There Be Peace On Earth.” Song written by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller, 1955.