Why acknowledge the
International Day of Peace?
Every year since 1981, the United Nations General Assembly has asked us to recognize September 21st as the International Day of Peace. They’ve called for a concerted effort to make at least this one day of the year a day of cease-fire and nonviolence.
So how many of us have added this day to our personal calendars?
Our pre-printed wall calendars have marked all the recognized “important” days for us: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. Then we pencil in all the days it can’t: birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, soccer practice and ballet lessons for the kids…All the events that we don't want to forget and need to pre-plan for. Why should one day – a day some “outside entity” like the United Nations created – matter? It doesn’t even rank as a “Hallmark Holiday”: Even “When you care to send the very best”, there’s not a card for it.
Today matters because, even if just for a moment, it gets us to think about the universality of our dreams: We ALL – in every nation – aspire for a world when everyone has enough to eat, everyone has a safe place to lay their head, and everyone gets up in the morning knowing their life has purpose and meaning. And to have this kind of peace, yes, there are big things that need to happen….Things that seem insurmountable: We have to save the planet from global warming, find safe, sustainable energy sources, make good education and health care available to all, create economic justice, and eliminate our addiction to weapons and war.
But you know what else we need to do to acknowledge an International Day of Peace? The small things.
We need to smile at strangers…just because we can, and we want nothing in return. Instead of snapping, we need to take a deep breath and let it go when someone inadvertently slights us… and recognize that it is some internal grace – accessible to us all – that allows us to do that. We need to take a one-minute inventory of all the things we’ve been blessed with on this day: Able to see the sunrise? Hear the birdsong? Feel the touch of our child’s hand or pet the soft fur of a mischievous kitten? Living with a sense of gratitude for the good things in our life - - even when they seem small - -builds a bridge to every other person on this planet. It reminds us of our universality, and how, in the end, we’re tied together by invisible strands to people and places we may never know. How could we not want these small moments of peace available to every other person? And how could we not want more of them?
Mark September 21st on your calendar in permanent ink, every year. Then do something that may start out small… that becomes a kindness to a stranger or forgiveness for an injury. Let it build to something bigger. Just like you do for birthdays or Christmas, begin planning ahead: What can you do that creates a little more peace, a little more love, a little more justice in this world? Just like you do with Thanksgiving or anniversaries, check with your friends and family: Can we start by taking this one day of the year to be truly conscious of the things that make for peace? What little thing will make today better for someone else…someone we don’t even know? If we start with this one day, we are able to enter into the process of shifting a global mindset towards recognizing how indeed, we really are “all in this together”. Together, we can accomplish not only these small individual acts, but can build on small things to take on the big issues. Collaboratively, when we finally see how interdependent and interconnected we truly are, we become unstoppable. We become the force that makes the “dream” of a peaceful world no longer a dream. And it can start by taking this one day to remember that "the change"? It begins with us.
- Mary L. Hanna for Meta Peace Team