It’s a new year and a chance for new beginnings. At this time of year, we often review our plans and goals for the months ahead. It’s an opportunity for us to think about where we want to focus our time and energy. Let’s take this time to think about peace and goodwill for all people. It’s something we all want, so what can we do to help make it a reality?
It would be so simple if we could just go online and place an order for peace. Wouldn’t it be great if unity and harmony would simply land on our doorstep with tomorrow’s mail? But we know that’s not going to happen. Building true peace in our community takes something that we all possess — our hearts.
There’s a popular marketing slogan that you might have heard on TV — “What’s in your wallet?” Maybe for 2019, our new slogan should be — “What’s in your heart?”
Traditional New Year’s resolutions often involve getting more exercise, adopting a healthier diet or losing a few pounds. This year, what if we add to the list working for peace and goodwill? Our efforts will benefit not only ourselves, but also everyone around us. Maybe we can make a commitment to really get to know our neighbors, invite them into our home for coffee and conversation; or try spending time with someone new and exercising those muscles of friendliness.
No matter what religious beliefs we hold, one thing that we all value is compassion — the quality of love and concern for the feelings of others. Sometimes we may think we’re showing friendliness and compassion, but are we sure the message comes through to others? Do we take that extra step to communicate kindness? It may take more than waving to a neighbor or saying a quick “Good morning” to a coworker. Maybe we can find out what’s really going on in their lives. Maybe they could use some prayers or extra support.
Try reaching out to someone who seems different from you — you’re likely to find out that you have more in common than you think. An acquaintance from a different culture, country or religion may have the same hopes and concerns that you do. No matter who we are or where we come from, we’re all part of one human family. We can all show each other that value of compassion.
We all carry this longing for peace and goodwill in our hearts. Can we take an extra step this year? Maybe we have time to volunteer for a cause, strike up a conversation with someone new, or say extra prayers for peace. Maybe this becomes a way of life and something that starts to feel natural for us. Maybe peace and compassion can replace fear and suspicion in everyone’s hearts. We can start to make the world a more peaceful place.
There are many people who say that they want peace in their personal lives and in the world. But saying it is not enough. It has to come from your heart. We would like to thank all of the people who participated with us in the interfaith prayer gathering on Wednesday at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Eau Claire. A special thanks to Shannon Joshi and her team, who hosted the event. By their presence, all the people who attended demonstrated their commitment to working for peace and harmony for all people.
If you weren’t able to join us, you’ll have another opportunity to show your concern for peace at the next interfaith prayer gathering at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, at Spirit Lutheran Church, 1310 Main St.
Buddhist monks are taught a meditation for loving kindness. This meditation ends by saying silently to ourselves: May the world be happy, may the world experience love, and may the world experience peace.
In 2019, what if we make a goal to start every day with thoughts of compassion and kindness? Then, if we want peace, we must put those thoughts into action. We must continue to ask ourselves: What’s in your heart?
Bob Lesniewski is a monastic Catholic, a Benedictine oblate and organizer of the interfaith prayer services.
Amy Renshaw is a Baha’i and a writer for Brilliant Star, a kids’ magazine and web site published by the Baha’i faith.