Being peace

The Pentagon, as seen from Arlington National Cemetery, April 2012

The Pentagon, as seen from Arlington National Cemetery, April 2012

“It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.” Thich Nhat Hanh

The tragedy is that the world is a very broken place, and probably always will be so.  The beauty is that we can make it better.

If we allow ourselves to be distracted by cataclysmic events over which we have no control, we tend to let ourselves off the hook in terms of personal behavior.  How righteous we feel as we rail against evil, while ignoring those who need us, who are nearby and would benefit from such small efforts.

Today, let’s all focus on making the world better, right where we are.  Smile at people.  Let cars merge in front of you in traffic.  Give a cashier a sincere greeting and say “thank you.”  Visit an elderly person who is unable to leave home and feels forgotten.  Send a handwritten note to a relative who lives far away, to whom you haven’t written in years.  Pretend, just for today, that it might be the last day you spend with your family or friends; how would you treat them?

If such deeds seem too small, tell yourself you will start there and move forward into greater efforts.  You will be energized by the joy of showing compassion, mercy and friendship in small ways, thus being readied for larger things.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the magnitude of evil and suffering.  Become part of the even greater magnitude of all that is good, right and holy.


  1. merry

    Good morning, Julia. I believe if everyone is kind to others, there would be fewer wars. You’re starts with me and a smile, kind words and deeds to pass forward to others…
    hope you, Jeff and Matt enjoy a blessed day. :}

    • Thanks Merry! Years ago I read where Miss Manners (a columnist I really like) said something to the effect that all the problems in the world, including wars, start with etiquette violations. I think the point she was making is the same as Hahn’s; if we are all treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves, it would almost impossible for small incidents to escalate into major conflicts. I appreciate your visits here!

  2. Carolyn

    No handwritten note today but I am praying for Jeff , you and the rest of the family. I hope that you have a great day. I enjoy your blogs and they will make you think. Hugs and love to you all.

    • Thanks Carolyn, I still have plenty of handwritten notes from you that you’ve sent us over the years and I’m just as happy to see you here! 🙂 Prayers and love for you too, hope you are doing well.

  3. Jenelle

    This post reminds me of the phrase “pay it forward”. We never know how our generous actions or words of kindness might inspire other’s to do the same and “pay it forward”. I will take you up, Julia, and do a ‘world changing gesture’ in my community today. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Thanks so much Jenelle. As always when I write these posts, I am talking mainly to myself, encouraging ME to do what I know is the best thing. It’s so easy to overlook the cumulative power of small deeds. I appreciate your visits here!

  4. Sheila

    Julia, you speak to me personally everyday! I like to think I’m a kind person, but there’s nothing wrong with being even kinder. I made a point this morning to write my notes to Bill’s brother and wife for their hospitality this past weekend and also to my father-in-law, including letting him know how important he is to me. I really hope Jeff and Matt are on the mend. Is Pasha staying close at hand? Happy evening, Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, you are one of the kindest people around in my book! But I’m glad you wrote some cheery notes today. Pasha is doing well and has been much friskier since Jeff came home from the hospital; I could tell he was beginning to get very worried (racing downstairs when we got home from a walk to see if Jeff was home, sitting near the front door and staring at the window, etc.) He’s doing pretty well, all things considered. The rain has let up now and I’m going to take him outside for a walk in a few minutes. Jeff got some slightly better news from the doctors today – if I’m able to put an update together for everyone I’ll include you on the email. Thanks for being here and for caring!

      • Sheila

        Oh,Julia… you are so sweet. I keep thinking of a picture you shared of Pasha looking at the oven on Thanksgiving Day one year. I really miss Salty when I’m cooking, as he was my assistant. Bill and I decided to grill on our terrace, (just the two of us), instead of sharing our 45th anniversary with folks we didn’t know in a restaurant. Haha! Just knowing the news today was “better” is enough for me. You’re gonna beat this “C” thing Jeff. Praying, Sheila

        • Thanks so much, Sheila. I will miss Pasha most at dinnertime, I think – he is so excited hopeful that he will get something good (an expert beggar) and I never have to worry about food that is dropped on the floor staying there for more than a second or two! Grilling out sounds wonderful. I hope to be able to give you more good news in the future. Thanks for being here!

  5. MaryAnn

    The way you are able to articulate the things we need to hear! Thank you for your continued, helpful, inspiring promptings! Living life the way God intended is indeed the best.
    Praying for Jeff, Julia, Matt & the Drew Dentons, also.

    • Thank you so much, Mary Ann. Your unfailing love, affection and support mean so much!

  6. My immediate supervisor is a bit of a harsh person so I always try to soften things for the younger girls in the office. They really appreciate a smile and a compliment for all the hard work they do. I will try to get a note out to Jeff and Matt very soon. Love you all. Praying that the comment above is the small miracle of mercy we are hoping for. 🙂

    • Amy, one of the first things I noticed about you is they way you are kind to everyone but especially to those who need it most. I will be sending you an email soon, just haven’t gotten to it yet today. Thanks for being here!

  7. So true, great post Julia. I might have shared this with you before but it’s my favourite lyric ever, from a song by Patti Griffin: “we’ll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us, till there are no strangers anymore”. By living with the intent of kindness, you can do no harm. Even when we are not friends, of the same religion, same nationality, or even same country. Kindness leads to so many other positive qualities like tolerance and acceptance of others. Have a peaceful day!

    • Thanks, that is a great lyric and something to hope for, “no strangers.” Kindness is so important, and the older I get, the more I realize how important it is. Years ago I read something that said anything we say should first pass three tests: 1. is it true? 2. is it necessary to say it? 3. is it kind? So much of what I say doesn’t pass that third question, and a lot of it doesn’t pass the second! But I think it is a good thing to strive for. Thanks for being here!

  8. I absolutely love this. What a wonderful message!! xx

    • Thanks jlee, I am so happy you like it! I appreciate your visits here.

  9. I remember reading about a renowned reformer who did many great things, but wasn’t too nice to his family. I thought, he loves “the people” but individuals – not so much. Nice post. And, thanks for following my blog.

    • You’re welcome! I am reminded of a cute Peanuts cartoon from many years ago. One of the characters — I don’t remember which one — said “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!” I do think it’s much, much easier to be compassionate from a safe distance. What’s hard is being patient, vulnerable and generous with the people who are right in front of our faces. Thanks for visiting, and for your comment!


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