Speak Compassion

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Peace Takes Action, Not Signs

by @ 9:04 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

In my sleepy New England beach town lives a group of people who stand on the corner at the main light in town holding signs that read “honk for peace” and “Stop the War.”  Of course, I support this message.  I don’t support people standing on the side of the road holding signs for peace and that is because I don’t believe peace comes to anyone through crayola creations.  If you truly want peace, put down the poster board, role up your sleeves and take a short trip into the downtown city near you where kids are killing kids, gangs are more popular than schools and our elected leaders see nothing wrong with putting 14 year old children in jail for fighting.  Put down the sign and realize that peace takes work, action and persistence not signs.

I have always been a bit annoyed on some level when I see people going to great lengths to promote the idea of peace in the middle east, peace in other countries, even world peace and yet those same people do little or nothing to foster peace in their own backyards.  I mediate with groups of kids more often than I would like, who have been arrested in their schools for fighting, even all out brawls of kids fighting.  They get arrested, expelled from schools so they won’t get educations and the bloodlines of poverty continue. When these young adults come to me, they carry in charges like assault or breech of peace.  Many are in hearings to be expelled from school.   In most of the cases I have done, the fights come from petty he said/she said arguments that kids just haven’t been taught to manage.  We fail our kids for each day that goes by and we don’t teach them the skills they need to manage conflict with others. We fail them even further when we punish them for our failures rather than restoring them and the community by teaching them, counseling them and giving them the tools they needs to succeed.

From this, I hope you can understand my frustration when I see this group waste a whole Saturday on the side of the road with signs for peace when I know they could have spent the day mentoring kids, volunteering at the local community center or offering to babysit for a single mom who needs child care so her kids don’t grow up in poverty.  They could have spent the same Saturday taking some inner city youth hiking in the woods, or to clean up the parks where the adults left their trash.  Perhaps they could have volunteer to be the ones that teach these kids conflict skills so they stop killing each other.

I understand they want to express their passion for peace and I want them to know, it takes more than passion to have peace.  Eleanor Roosevelt said once, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”  Not sure I could get this message across to others any more clearly than she did.

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