Is peace and healing possible in a turbulent world?

Guest Correspondence

Image courtesy Pixabay

“Peace.” For millennia, it’s what countries, organizations and individuals have said they wanted. Yet wars, conflicts, attacks and upheavals continue, making the concept of “Peace on Earth” seem out of reach and nearly impossible to attain. 

It’s no wonder we often feel the opposite of peaceful when we are beset by turbulence and chaos created by natural disasters, political and corporate upheavals, global health threats and economic uncertainty. 

Close to home, harsh winds and high floods of recent hurricanes turned homes and lives upside down for many of our neighbors. An abrupt change in Sarasota County Schools’ superintendent position increased rancor and unease in our schools and overall community. 

We  see people, including those we know personally, who are discouraged and suffering. It is evident the turbulent world has left its damaging mark—scabs for some, open wounds still for many others. It’s visible we are worn, tired, downtrodden and, for many, close to despair.

“Peace on Earth” in a global sense can seem more elusive than ever. While we often can’t control external factors that cause turmoil, I believe we can achieve a measure of personal peace and hope through individual deliberate acts that convey kindness, generous giving and goodwill. 

It’s a concept Kari Johnson, 2021 Sarasota County Teacher of the Year and a finalist for Florida Teacher of the Year, considered essential to her kindergarteners’ development. 

“The world can be turbulent,” she told us. “I strive to help my kindergarten students develop confidence to create a more positive world by showing kindness and encouragement to one another.” 

It’s a habit we adults would be wise to cultivate.

Twenty-first century medical and psychological research corroborate what we experience when we give from the kindness of our hearts: Serotonin levels go up, blood pressure levels go down. Think about the afterglow, the warm flow of happiness that spreads throughout your body and psyche when you give a gift to someone.

Better yet, it doesn’t have to be a purchased gift as long as it’s presented from our hearts.  

With this in mind, can we shift our viewpoint to think about gift gifting in a different way? Could this be a way we instill peace, find hope and begin healing? Instead of a wrapped box, what can happen if we are alert to opportunities to give of ourselves, not just on a holiday but on a daily basis? 

Here are a few gift ideas that don’t have price tags and are within everyone’s budgets: 

  • Be gentlehearted—Show kindness and compassion even when you feel grouchy.  
  • Be patient—Lend an ear to listen even when you might feel rushed.
  • Give a smile to encourage even a stranger. 
  • Say a sincere ‘thank you’ to your child’s teacher, the grocery store clerk, the overworked waiter. 
  • Open the door for someone even if you were there first. 
  • Yield to the impatient driver and add a smile instead of a rude gesture.
  • Seek to understand another’s perspective by getting to know them first.

Let’s remember a seemingly small but thoughtful act on our part could be the only kindness the recipient experiences that day. And maybe, just maybe, the recipient will be inspired to pay it forward. 

On average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic, according to behavioral psychologists. I hope you join me in seizing or creating an opportunity every day to give a meaningful gift to someone. 

Together, we can help to make things better and bring peace to our corner of Earth. Just as we learned as children, the song still rings true today: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me . . .” 

(Excerpt from “Let There be Peace on Earth” by songwriters Jill Jackson and Sy Miller.)

I wish you a joyous holiday season filled with peace, hope and healing.   

Jennifer Vigne is president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

Image courtesy Pixabay

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