It’s a sentiment that we hear time and time again: the Golden Rule as some call it. Treating others as we wish to be treated. Treating others with kindness. Promoting peace. But I have found myself often feeling weighed down by the negativity and seemingly overwhelming sadness in the world. As one of many people who wants to solve the problems I see in the world, it is easy to feel disheartened when I watch the news or read the headlines. As I have been praying with this weight of the world’s issues and pondering ways to solve them, or ways I can do my part; as a Catholic Christian, though, I have noticed that a lot of it comes down to the attitude and outlook I have. I have come to realize that one of the most important things we can do in order to bring about more peace in the world around us is to start with where we are. My hope is that the following ideas will make you feel a little more hopeful and a little less overwhelmed.
Though life can feel very overwhelming at times, especially under the current circumstances, it is also worth noting that it is not realistic that every person in the world can solve every major problem on their own. It is by working together and doing what we can that we can bring light into the world. Saint Teresa of Calcutta embodied this sentiment beautifully. When asked what we can do to promote world peace, Saint Teresa replied, “go home and love your family.” It is by being there for the people around us and extending ourselves as beacons of light that we can promote peace in our communities. These small acts of love are what send a domino-like ripple into the communities we are part of. Think about what the world would be like if every one of us lived with this goal everyday. Believe me, I know how easy it can be to forget or to feel like your actions don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But if we make it a point to act as Jesus did and extend the love and joy of Christ to every person we encounter, the lives of those around us will be impacted greatly, even if we never notice it happening. St. Francis of Assisi lived by this sentiment as well. He once said, “start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” No feat is too large, but we must start small.
Secondly, I have found that the smallest place we can start with is ourselves. We must recognize the areas in which we need to grow, the areas where we are being called to change. Be it speaking about yourself in a negative way, using self-deprecating humor as a means to cope, or not taking care of yourself. It is important to recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God, Himself, and that He wants us to see ourselves the way He sees us. I find that it is far more difficult to foster peace in the world around us if we have yet to cultivate peace within ourselves.
Lastly, I want to reiterate the importance of this message that we can make a significant difference in the world by using what we have, wherever we may be- regardless of how big or small the act is. To conclude, I want to share one of my favorite quotes that illustrates this. This quote was given by the late actor River Phoenix when he was just 20 years old. Though he may not have been Catholic, I think River understood this message deeply when he said, “I've learned that if you can't get it all together to accomplish this thing called peace, you do at least your part in your own life, because that's where you can truly make an immediate difference. I'd like to stop all of the world wars, but that's really an impossible endeavor for one person. But I can stop all the wars in my life. I can start with myself and improve my personal relationships with everyone I'm in contact with. I'd like to stop world hunger and famine, but one man single-handedly couldn't possibly stop everyone's hunger. What I can do is spend my own time, energy, and money enlightening others about the plight of the poor. And although I can't stop all cruelty to living creatures on the planet, I can be kinder to every living creature in my life. Peace begins with you, Now.”
Lizzie Wenberg is a senior studying strategic communications and fine arts at Kansas State University. She is always ready for a cup of coffee, a good adventure, or a trip to see her favorite band in concert. You can read more of her writings here.