The crush of cars merges to the left—a flashing detour sign makes the right lane impassable. A hurried driver wedges his sedan into an impossible space between a soccer-mom’s SUV and the tail-end of an 18-wheeled trailer. The incensed mother of three raises her arms, honks, and yells words that cannot penetrate to the ears of the sedan’s thoughtless driver, but do reach the ears of her own brood. The driver behind her, seeing clearly from back window to windshield, notices the now-swinging cross that hangs from the irate mom’s rear-view mirror.
To the East, in New York City four young ideologues work their way through the noise to be part of a rally. Reaching their destination they raise their voices in common cry, feeling the righteousness of their thought as it flows through their words. In heated exchange they slowly begin the shove that is intended to move the quickly gathering riot police out of their path. What began as ideal, quickly disintegrates into fury as their chant gains strength: “PEACE, NOT WAR!”
In the greater Middle East a young man, possibly too young to even know who he is yet, definitely too young to know who he could be, mutters of the greatness of God, releases a switch, and murders twelve in seconds. We learn later that he is one of God’s warriors…somehow it doesn’t help…that knowledge.
Reflection on these worlds far from my own changes me in some way. It gives me pause.
Eight-hundred years ago, a simple man said, “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” This man, Francis of Assisi would later be called a saint, although he himself would never have seen it that way.
His words have merit. They express what we already know. I believe that the true expression of belief, comes not in the idealistic expression of words but in the heart-felt transparency of deeds.
When I act as if my belief alone has created some greater good, I show everyone my lack of humility. Those great conveyors of peace in history knew this. We can be sure of this, because they lived it in their every day. Their stillness and love for humanity proved to us their love of peace.
Mother Theresa lived peace every day. She served every person, no matter how filthy, how sick, how untouchable. She did this out of her love for Christ and her love for humanity. She shunned publicity, knowing that her inner peace insisted that her words were only the reflection of what her deeds had already said.
Gandhi lived peace every day. He reached out to those around him, insisting on social justice. His insistence was quiet, but it spoke loudly. He spoke of peace and equality, but his greater eloquence was that he lived it.
When I walk in the every day, I sometimes act as if I throw no shadow with my every word and every deed—as if people see only what I say, not what I do. If I am living honestly, I will look to see how my inner peace is reflected around me: how I love my children, how I speak to my neighbor, how I love the unlovable, how I forgive, how I reconcile differences. I will look at how I react when I am offended, how quickly I turn when I am wronged. How I am generous—if I am generous. How I spend my time.
I must remember that the world is watching, and rightfully so. My peace cannot be a peace that is shouted from rooftops, it needs to be one that is whispered in deeds.
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