“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” rings through my head as I remember the words sung long ago at my high school graduation. I was a second soprano, struggling to hold onto our part, amidst the voices of the first sopranos and altos.
What I didn’t know then was how those words would come to define my life’s journey. Having grown up in a home with a significant amount of conflict, my thoughts were mostly about going to college, and making good on a promise to myself to find a more peaceful way to live. I spent most of my life striving towards this goal, without understanding that peace isn’t necessarily what it looks like on the outside, but how it all begins on the inside.
I believe that there can be peace on earth, and in fact, it does begin with me. It begins with me when I can find peace in my heart, and in my relationships with my family, friends, and everyone I meet. It begins with me when I recognize that avoiding the painful wounds in my life won’t bring me peace, but only suffering. It begins with me when I can see that at the core of every conflict, is peace, waiting to happen.
Peace begins with me when I’m afraid of people from other cultures, religions and races and recognize that my fear of them is only the unknown parts of myself, longing to be known. It begins with me when I realize that a stranger on the other side of the planet is no different from me in his need for food, water, clothing and shelter, as well as his need for peace, love, mercy, and justice.
Peace begins with me when I can let go of my need to be ‘right’, which always makes something or someone else ‘wrong’, creating separation instead of unity. Peace begins with me when I can look for ways to ‘uplift’ instead of ‘put down’. Peace begins with me when I realize that wars between ‘those’ people ‘over there,’ are really reflections of what’s happening with me, ‘over here’.
Over the years, when someone asked me what I wanted for the holidays, I replied, “Peace on earth”. It was part wishful thinking and part hope that someday there could be peace on earth, and that I could live to see it happen.
As I reflect back to that graduation day, I remember trying to hold onto the distinct melody of a second soprano, while blending harmoniously with the other distinct melodies, creating a wondrous, unified sound. Now, I believe that there can be peace on earth when I realize that humanity is but one beautiful symphony, each race, culture, religion or group with its own distinct, unique qualities coming together to make the glorious music that is peace. Yes, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me, and me and me.
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