Children as Peacemakers

Everyday Stories of Peace
Green Scarf Stories, entry ten, September 26, 2014

As I was walking into the schoolyard the other day, I noticed a group of children in the middle of a discussion. The soccer ball was held steady under the foot of one player as he and his classmates tried their best to resolve whatever it was that had stopped the game.

“We’re working it out,” they told me as I came closer. Indeed, they were working it out. Whatever the issue had been, perhaps a difference in the interpretation of the rules, or maybe it had been a question of taking turns, they ironed out the differences as a group and got back to what they really wanted to be doing, which was playing soccer and having fun.

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The ability of children to be peace-makers always astounds me. They have this innate wisdom of what is fair, especially when they are able to put themselves into another’s shoes. Empathy is a wonderful thing.

We’ve been talking a lot about peace in class these past two weeks as a way to mark the International Day of Peace, held every year on September 21st. This always brings up interesting discussions, but it is even more heart-warming when you see children’s peace-making skills in action. If only the world’s big conflicts could be brought to the level playing-field of the playground!

I’ve also been thinking a lot this week about the power of children, through their sense of clear-sighted honesty, to bring peace to those around them. One of my favorite examples of this is a story told by Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote The Color Purple. She describes an incident in her own life as a young mother where her daughter, in a loving and honest way, put to rest a whole armful of worries which Alice had carried around with her for years. She writes about this incident in her book, In Search of our Mother’s Gardens.

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When Alice was eight years old her brother accidently shot a copper pellet from his BB gun. What remained in her blinded right eye was a glob of white scar tissue, which was later fixed to resemble a blue crater. For years, Alice worried about what people would think about her eye, and those thoughts intensified after the birth of her daughter. Alice dreaded the day when her daughter would discover that her mother’s eyes were different from other people’s eyes.

This discovery happened when her daughter was age three. She had been watching a television show called “Big Blue Marble” which began with a picture of the earth taken from the moon. Afterwards, when Alice was putting her daughter down for a nap, her baby daughter steadied her mother’s face in her small hands and looked intently into her eyes. “Mommy,” she said, ”There’s a world in your eye.” From that moment, all the worries Alice had carried around about her eye disappeared, and she came into the peace of being herself, whole and free.

Thinking back to my own childhood, I remember looking into the crisp clear blue eyes of my own mother and thinking that they were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. Even today, her eyes are still beautiful.

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