If you have traveled for long on this rocky road called life, you might’ve noticed that it is a beautiful and baffling blend of conflict and peace.
It’s not just one or the other. It’s both. To experience both conflict and peace, and embrace them as gracefully and honestly as we can, is what it means, I believe, to be truly alive.
Almost 30 years ago, I was a feature writer for a newspaper when my editor called me into his office and said he wanted me to start writing a column.
“About what?” I asked.
“Think about it,” he said.
So I thought about it all evening while keeping score for my son’s baseball game.
There were many fine columnists writing about all sorts of things. What could I possibly have to say that wasn’t already being said by someone who was smarter and far better at it than I would ever be?
The answer to that question would change not only my job, but my life. It came to me at the end of the game when I heard the coach tell his young team (who had lost another “close one”) not what they did wrong, but what they did right: “You guys gave it your best today,” he said. “I was proud of you, and you should be proud, too. See you at practice tomorrow!”
It occurred to me that most newspaper columns, not all, but many, focus on conflict – on the countless things we get wrong in this world and the ways that we might make them right.
That is as it should be. Someone needs to write about conflict, clearly and honestly and compellingly, to help us understand and resolve it.
But that was being done and done well, I thought, both then and now.
So I decided instead to write about peace. About ordinary, everyday matters of the heart. Things most of us can agree on, rather than argue about. That tell us who we are and how we are alike. That bring us together rather than drive us apart.
I’ve never done it half as well as I wish I could. But in every column I’ve ever written, I’ve tried in some way to say: We are all in this together. We need to care for each other, rely on each other, and put up with each other as best we can. It’s a matter of faith and humanity, practicality and survival.
In my personal life, I don’t ignore conflict. It refuses to be ignored. Somedays, perhaps like you, I feel as if I’ve reached my limit. When that happens, I turn my face to the sun, listen for the laughter of those I love, take a deep breath, and begin again.
We never need to search for conflict. It will always find us. But to understand and resolve it, we need to begin by finding peace within ourselves and offering it to those around us.
How do we do that? I don’t know what brings you peace. For me, it helps to remember that I’m not in charge of the world. There are some things I can do (pray, mostly) and a lot of things that I can’t. Either way, life goes on with or without me.
How do we offer peace to one another and to the world? Do you recall some of the things we were taught as children?
• Stop shouting and listen.
• Stop name calling and speak your mind with respect.
• Use your words, not your fists.
• Ask excellent questions and wait to hear the answers.
• Seek first to understand before trying to be understood.
• Be polite, but persistent. Never give up, or give in to injustice. Speak for others who can’t speak for themselves.
• Do your best every day in the game of life. Be proud of your efforts and those of your teammates. And always show up for practice tomorrow.
Peace is both the beginning and the end result of conflict resolution. We have to seek it and offer it to find it. But it is the very best that we can do.
– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.