There are many interpretations of the “true” meaning of Christmas. Whether you are Christian or Pagan, Catholic or Atheist; if you believe that Jesus was born and died so that you may be saved; if you think that He was not a savior but simply a great teacher and spiritual leader; or even if you believe that He and His life are merely an allegory, there is something to be learned from a story that has persisted for centuries, inspired faith, hope and beliefs around the world.
Whatever your belief, take away from today a message of peace, and of change for the better. It’s a message that never gets old; a message that we revisit after every act of violence. Take with you today a hope, a belief that we have the power to make positive change in the world. Peace is a process that radiates out from the smallest act, like a pebble creating a ripple on the surface of a pond. It’s a process that begins at home and within your heart.
Laws and guns and jails and punishment do not make peace. Revenge and retribution do not make peace. People make peace. You do. I do. Your children do.
We may fool ourselves into believing that by living our lives insulated from those around us, we are absolved of the responsibility for the violence around us. But ignoring it is really not much better than committing it. From bullies on the playground, to gangs, to hate, prejudice and cruelty, violence comes in many forms. Recognizing it, and making our own small efforts to spread peace, goes a lot further towards the end of violence than rolling over and pulling the blankets over our head.
Start small, you don’t personally have to change the world today, but you can drop your own pebble into the pond. Think before you react in anger; we are far more likely to flip off and curse at an obnoxious driver than we are to appreciate the kid who bags our groceries, or hands us our cup of coffee at our favorite coffee place. We’ll complain about poor service at the drop of a hat, but when is the last time you took the time to contact a manager to commend a hard working employee?
Talk to your kids about bullying and make sure they understand that it’s not only their responsibility NOT to bully, but to discourage it. Don’t just shake your head sadly and turn up the TV when you hear your neighbors fighting violently night after night. Don’t look the other way when you see regular bruises on a friend or acquaintance. When you’re ready step it up a notch, volunteer for organizations that promote peace and well-being.
Peace is the meaning of Christmas, whatever version of the story you believe. This does not just mean reaping the benefit of living a peaceful life, but making whatever small contribution you can to a society, a world, where children don’t die needlessly, where no one has to suffer the violence of prejudice, hatred, war and persecution. Be a candle in the darkness. Be the pebble of peace that ripples out and touches the lives around you.
Resources for violence prevention and assistance:
- WHO|Global Campaign for Violence Prevention
- Futures without Violence
- International Rescue Committee
- National Domestic Abuse Hotline – (800) 799-7233
- Recognizing and Coping with Mental Illness
- National Alliance on Mental Illness