Today, September 21 is the UN's International Day of Peace. I've been thinking all day about how I should write something about it and I've sort of been organizing thoughts in my head about what I wanted to say.
Then, Chris came in and told me about this: Gunmen have taken hostages in a Nairobi shopping mall. Details are still coming out as the scene unfolds but CNN is reporting that as many as 20 have been killed and 50 injured. This on the heals of the still-fresh killings in Washington, DC's Navy Yard by a lone shooter not even a week ago. I mean, really, world? What're you doing here?
I mean, of course there's violence every day, so maybe these things aren't that unusual. But it's hard not to get upset about this stuff. Both of these incidents are especially egregious and they're both close to home for me, so to speak. Things like this can just leave me feeling overwhelmed and helpless. And I know pretty much anything I say can and will sound trite and simplistic.
But what I was going to say. Before all this happened today. Or, what I was thinking of saying is that when I feel overwhelmed with the violence in the world, I try to remind myself that despite all the other reasons why violence happens (too many guns in our world, lack of support and resources for the mentally ill, lack of systems in place to recognize and stop violence before it happens, etc., etc., etc., which I'm not going to talk about now), is that all I can really control 100% of the time is myself. And on many days even that is questionable.
But really, I have to ask myself, "how hard is my heart?" "How much respect do I have for the other humans around me?" I mean, it's people who are doing this after all. Individuals. One by one. Who choose to
take life. Who walk into a shopping mall and kill another person. I blush to admit that the other day I got so angry at a group of kids at our gate yelling at me and being completely disrespectful that I threatened to hit them with a shovel. Now, before you think I'm a complete monster, I would never do this. Somehow at that moment in my overly-angry mind, I got so flustrated at not being able to communicate and at the kids' blatant disregard of my telling them to go away, it crossed my mind that kids here are beaten so often at home that I wondered if I threatened to beat them, maybe they'd listen and run away. I'm the first to admit, TOTALLY WRONG APPROACH! But it just shows how quickly someone (even someone whose career is violence prevention!) when he/she feels powerless can resort to violence to get their way. It ALMOST made sense. Except that it totally made no sense at all. (And luckily I realized that fact immediately!)
So I'm left reminding myself that peace starts within me. I have an obligation to be respectful to people. To value them, no matter how awful a person I might think they are. Or no matter how angry I might be at them at the moment. Or how powerless I am in a situation. Respect for a person can't be something that waxes and wanes at my own whim.* It's a slippery slope and it's my responsibility to stay on the up side. That's really what I can do to keep peace. What about you? What do you to keep peace in our world?
In the meantime, I continue to pray for the victims of violence, for those who have resorted to the extremes of violence to get their way and for movements in our world to create just and peaceful nations for everyone.
*Of course, that doesn't mean being a punching bag either and taking people's abuse!