This I Believe

Hilary - West Lafayette, Indiana
Entered on July 19, 2007

I believe that peace is possible. Growing up in The Episcopal Church, I learned a lot about peace. In particular, I learned that peace is more than simply the absence of war. I learned that peace is about being in right relationship–with our fellow humans and with our world. I learned that peace is about working for justice for all people and respecting the dignity of every person–those seen and unseen. But perhaps the most important thing I learned is that peace is about being willing to engage in dialogue with others who have different beliefs.

Throughout the years I have endeavored to build relationships with people who come from backgrounds unlike my own. Even so, I haven’t always chosen to live alongside the people who have such dramatically different opinions from me. I know that I prefer to return to the comfortable landscape of the like-minded rather than to reside in the realm of radically opposing views.

Recently I found myself taking a more public stance with my belief than I had before, and in an area of the country where my belief is less popular than where I was raised. I was the contact person for a bus trip planned to attend a march protesting the war in Iraq. When I agreed to be the contact person, I thought to myself, “Well, here we are in a pretty conservative part of the country, so not that many people will want to go on the march, so not that many people will even notice.” For some reason, I thought only people interested in riding the bus to attend the march would respond. I was wrong. I opened my email the night that the announcement ran in the paper to find a scathing message awaiting me. “How dare you aid and comfort our enemies this way?” the soldier asked. “How can you betray our armed forces in this way?” “Don’t you realize that there will always be wars?” I was surprised as I read the soldier’s last question: the thought had never occurred to me. I have always believed that peace is possible. I responded to the email with as open a heart as I could, explaining not only my deep respect and support for the troops but also my conviction that peace is possible. I wasn’t sure what to expect in response, but the soldier wrote back, this time far less angry, sharing some of his own life experiences. With both of us willing to open our hearts, an actual conversation began.

Now, I have become even more convinced that peace is possible, but I realize that I need to work toward it each and every day. I believe that if we are willing to take risks and to be vulnerable then we can truly enter into conversation. In so doing, I believe that we will find new ways to move forward and – someday – peace will be more than just possible, peace will be a reality.