I was walking away from the cross town bus stop and turned to see the source of a muffled snuffling. I found the source immediately: a frail old woman with an embroidered handkerchief was blowing her nose. She was not sick or unhappy; in fact she looked very pleased with the world around her. I wondered if perhaps she was seeing something that I was not that could make her so content, but a quick glance around told me that my clouded world was the same and as dull as when I had jumped off the bus.
I looked back at the woman and met her eyes. Then she smiled at me, rose and hobbled away. That’s when it hit me; the reason for her happiness was passed on to me, as I were sure, it was passed on to her, through a simple gesture of friendship and humanity. A smile. In that smile was the absolute peace of a thousand people passed on to me.
Peace could be defined as simply the absence of war, or maybe as freedom of the mind from anxiety, but to me peace is stillness, silence, tranquility and serenity. As still as a road carved through the land, as silent as falling snow, as tranquil as a doe with her fawn and as serene as the nights first star.
I found peace one day in an attempt to run away. I was crying after a fight between my parents and I was running. I ran in no particular direction; just away from the car in the parking lot. My tiny legs carried me up a cement path around a pond and to a young willow tree. My eleven year old climbing skills had never been better and so I raced up the tree as far as the branches would allow. I sat and cried gazing from the pond to the tree, then the sky. My mind worked through what had just occurred and after some time I realized that none of it was my fault. I knew that there was no way for me to change other people’s conflicts, but there was also no real reason to let it upset me. I gathered myself and looked around again. The pond, the tree and the sky, who moments before had been my companions in suffering, now seemed so still and perfect that their peace swept through me as my torment had swept through them.
I realized that day that my inner-peace is a state of my own mind, and that no matter what has happened or seems to threaten me, I can find it in anything. Peace is the world; it is the smile you received from the old woman at the bus stop, the many glinting sparkles on a ball of aluminum foil; it is the bead; it is the desert; it is the road, the fawn, the ocean and the pie too. Peace can be found in anything. This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.