As I sit and watch ‘Miss Congeniality’ for the hundredth time, I laugh as the writers poke fun at the Miss America pageant. The interview portion plays and each contestant’s answer to the question posed is ‘world peace.’ It’s a bit of light-hearted fun but it has made me stop and think: is world peace really possible?
What if, instead of thinking in planetary terms, we thought of our own world? Because really, what does our world consist of on a personal level? What if it all starts in our own backyards? Our neighbors, family, friends and co-workers make up our personal world; what if we started with our own personal world and took it from there? And, just imagine if it continued to spread around the globe–who knows the impact you could have?
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to not return a smile? Or how a simple smile from a stranger can lift your spirits? While it’s very easy to walk through life with a frown on your face, it’s just as easy to greet every stranger you meet with a pleasant smile and a ‘how are you?’ Try it! Soon, you’ll find that smiling at people becomes a habit and not only will you brighten someone else’s day, you’ll put yourself in a better mood.
We all have problems in our lives and baggage that we carry with us on a daily basis. Have you ever wished that you had someone you could talk to? Everyone feels that way. Lending an ear to a friend in need is a great way to help someone feel better. Listening, though, is a skill that needs to be practiced. Too often we hear, but don’t listen. We’re so busy trying to think of what to say, or what advice we can give, that we hear half of what’s being said. Be an active listener when a friend has something on their mind.
Treating others how you want to be treated may sound trite but it’s a fantastic way to live. Rather than reacting to a situation immediately, stop for a moment and consider how you would want to be treated in that same situation if roles were reversed. When you get in the habit of doing this, you’ll find that you begin to treat people in a kinder manner without having to think about it.
Being empathetic is not the same as being sympathetic. To have empathy for someone means that you are able to understand how it feels to be in their situation. It does not mean, however, that you’ve necessarily experienced their exact pain. It’s very easy, for instance, to empathize with someone that has lost their job, has suffered the loss of a loved one or is having a difficult time in school. People don’t want others to feel sorry for them, they simply want to know that someone understands.
If someone needs your help, help them for that reason and not because you expect something in return. If you see your neighbor painting the house, run over and grab a brush. If your sister is preparing a large holiday meal, go early and help set up. It’s these small acts of kindness, with no expectations, that inspire people to ‘pay it forward.’ Be the catalyst of kind to all those with whom you come into contact.
World peace is achievable, if only on a person-to-person level. Start with your own world and you may just find that the peace you spread reaches further than you thought possible—and meanwhile, you’ve made your small corner of the universe a better place!
Mary Thomas is a music teacher and loves www.christmassongs.org to remind her of all the many Christmas song lyrics, from traditional hymns and multi-cultural favorites to rap songs and carols.