My car license plate reads: “SONGS”; my bumper sticker: “TEACH PEACE”. Through the years, I’ve received many compliments, comments & questions about “SONGS”, but never a word about the sticker “TEACH PEACE”….until the other day.
I bought a small aspen tree at a local garden center and was helped by a sincere, cheerful young man. As he loaded the tree into the back of my car, he asked me where he could get a bumper sticker like mine. He wanted to teach his children to love peace, to work for peace and not war. He took time from his work to tell me his story, with great passion & conviction ~
He had recently returned from his 5th tour of active duty in the US Marines, having fought in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. From a multi-generational military family, he kept dutifully returning to war, year after year of his young life, finally being honorably discharged due to mental fatigue and severe PTSD. As he told me details of his experience as a soldier, a young husband and father of 3, he wiped away tears and choked on his anger over being used as an instrument of war for so long. He said there was “no glory in being a killing machine”. All he wants now is to make sure his children grow up knowing that the only noble way of life is to spread peace, not war.
Before leaving, I thanked him for his service, both now and during all the years of war. Later, I ordered 2 bumper stickers, and the next week drove the 20 miles to the garden center to deliver the TEACH PEACE signs to the young Vet. He wanted to hug me over & over in gratitude, just for listening & understanding. As he told me more stories of pain, grief & loss, he glowed with a hopeful smile as he said he would continue to “teach peace” to his kids and anyone else who would listen. I asked his age – 29 – the same age of my own son. As I drove away, I vowed to myself to tell his story, and to ask the questions:
Why is it so hard to talk about teaching peace? Why was this young soldier the first to comment on the sign on my car? Why is it so simple for us to say~” I’m for peace;” “Be Peaceful”; “World Peace for All”;but so hard to act on those convictions? Who is ready to do the obvious in this chaotic world begging for compassion? Who will “teach peace” to the next generation, beside this young Marine, this young father,husband,human being?
Think of all the ways we can teach peace everyday. Make a list. Begin.