“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~Mother Teresa
The lyrics to the familiar song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” have been heard by most before. The melodic verse has been sung in churches, streets, and communities alike – usually in recognition of a religious holiday or a tragedy that calls humanity to gather as one.
In last week’s news, the world watched as another act of terrorism destroyed any sense of solace. An airplane and the 298 lives aboard were shot down and crashed onto the war-torn provinces of Ukraine. In their wake, great devastation. And the world once again mourned. We mourned the loss of life. The senseless act of violence. We mourned a way of life that prompts so much fear. And we grieved at the inhumanity of our humanity. Those who perished aboard the plane included small children and represented several nations. Though I do not know them by name, they are brethren all the same.
In the aftermath of this heinous act, I wonder how long it will take mankind to realize we must stand up for peace. We must become instruments to attain a higher level of consciousness. Most of us long to live in an environment that supports the pursuit of happiness in its purest sense. But yet, instead of the solitude of a joyful life, we are left watching in dismay as the world around us becomes less peaceful, less habitable.
While serving in the law enforcement profession, I was never able to grasp how individuals believe they are serving a higher power by destroying the lives of others. For many years, I witnessed the havoc that human beings can inflict upon one another. The once unfathomable is now the common denominator that links us. Instead of celebrating the good of mankind, we gather to weep in dismay. When will it end? My woeful heart asks, Will I witness peace on this earth before I draw my last breath?
When my dad was alive, and like many of his generation, he served in World War II. Alongside his friends and comrades, he fought in the South Pacific to restore order to a world in turmoil. They fought to end tyranny, deliver the oppressed, and protect us from those who sought to do great harm. It wasn’t until recently, while viewing old photos taken while Dad was serving on Okinawa Island, that I came to understand the full merit of his serving. I grasped the inner-workings of Dad’s mind and the strength of his spirit. In facing the terrors of war, Dad came to embrace peace. The photos themselves revealed this succession. In some odd way, it seemed as if I was watching a film or reading a story. For each image told its own tale.
The first depictions were those of a group of perhaps 50 men. Lined up, row upon row, and neatly dressed in their military jumpsuits. As the images progressed, I saw rows of graves, each bearing a single white cross to mark it and a name etched across. In these later impressions, there were now more graves than there were men. In the end, there stood only five or six men. The lone survivors of the 50 or so who began the journey. Their faces, once smiling and bearing confidence, became those of weary men who had seen the myriad travesties of war.
When I consider the history of these photos, I can follow Dad’s post-war path. A man with a physical stature capable of doing harm to another, he chose instead to pursue a path of peace. He became a valiant warrior for the underdog. And he espoused the principal of helping his fellow man. In his way, he was once again serving the greater good of all mankind.
In retrospect of all that I, too, have observed in this lifetime, my voice cries out the words and my heart silently whispers, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with not only me, but with all those who value a better way of life for themselves, for their children, and for their children’s children.” May we stand up to restore a semblance of order and provide safe passage for one and all.