I recently heard a story that I have pondered all day. Alfred Bernhard Nobel, was a chemist, engineer and inventor. He held 355 patents the most famous being for dynamite. In 1888, Alfred’s brother, Ludvig, passed away. A French newspaper erroneously published an obituary, saying that Alfred had died. The obituary stated, Le marchant de la mort est mort (The merchant of death is dead) and then went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding way to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Upon reading this, Alfred became very concerned that this would be the legacy that he left the world. Fortunately, Mr. Nobel had the gift of time to change this legacy… and his will. Upon his death, his vast fortune went to fund what we now are familiar with as the Nobel Prizes, the most famous being the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to three women who have “rendered the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity…in the establishment and furtherance of peace congresses.” Three women who have sought to bring peace to their war torn countries.
Women are the world’s peacemakers. On this day of international peace and in this season of “peace on earth, good will to men,” I found myself reminiscing of a warm Christmas night in Tempe, Arizona. My Girl Scout troop had gone caroling. We had just learned a new song at school, which we all loved, “Let there be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me.” We wanted to sing it at every house we visited. Ironically, a war was raging, students were protesting at ASU where my Mom worked and my scout leader had a son serving in Vietnam. Somehow, though, it seemed like if we sang that song loud enough and with enough fervor, our little band of green bereted junior scouts could change the world. Somehow, it seemed that when we crossed our arms and grasped hands at the end of our meetings and made a wish that our collective will power could change things….and maybe we did. But, mostly what I remember from that night is that “peace begins with me.” That is why several years ago, I wrote this quote in the front of my journal. Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the greatest voices for peace in our day reminds us:
Our capacity to make peace with another person and with the world depends very much on our capacity to make peace with ourselves. If we are at war with our family or our society there is probably a war going on inside us also, so the most basic work for peace is to return to ourselves and create harmony, among the elements within us-our feelings, our perceptions and our mental states. When we have peace within, dialogue with others is possible.
During this season of rush, rush and so many demands, it helps to stop sometime during the day and find that place of peace within, that place where there is “harmony among the elements.” then we can go out and like the brave women honored in Oslo, we can be peacemakers in the world.