As an Episcopalian, I cannot hear those words without saying, "And also with you". I have grown up responding to those words, and now, I am going to admit a truth. Who knew you were coming to True Confessions, right? Until this morning, I didn't really and truly think about what those words really mean in the broader context than simply a liturgical and lovely "call and response". When I want to tell someone that I am praying for their peace and serenity, I think deeply about the words I say, but this? I have said the words for years without truly thinking them through. This morning, as Dave and I sat in church, we listened to the sermon about Jesus seeing that He had clearly frightened some of his followers by coming back to life and breaking bread with them. In their fear and disbelief, he said he wanted them to not be afraid and to be at peace.
I want to have peace...within myself, my family, my work, and in the broader worldwide community.
In order to live in peace with myself, I have to do certain things to keep at peace. I pray each morning, I read a daily meditation, and I talk to other people who are seeking the same peace as I am. This may seem like a ritual, and it is in some ways, but I can keep it green by talking to new people, reading new prayers, sharing my thoughts on a meditational reading, and remembering that what I do in private, so I must do in public. In other words, I can't "preach" peace while screaming at one of my students, even if I may, every great once in a while, lose my temper and have to take a big ole' (that's how we say it now that we're back in Texas) deep breath. My own brain is a pretty dangerous neighborhood to walk around in, left to my own devices. So, I rely on my faith, my spiritual advisors, and other loved ones to help me discern what is and isn't God's true desire for me.
In order to live in harmony with Dave, he simply needs to listen to what I say and do it without argument. Just kidding! We have learned and are still learning (after 29 years of marriage) to listen to one another and know that, at the end of our conversation (whether it's about politics or how big the study is going to be in the house we are building), we want to come out on the other side in peace and love. I have always been baffled by how we can show our best selves at work and then rip into the ones whom we most love. I suppose it is the nature of letting our guard down, but it is simply wrong. I should be my best self for Dave, as he is the one I chose to spend the rest of my life with...and we re-up that decision every year. I pray we keep doing that for the next 40 years or so.
How do we remain peaceful at work when all around us is chaos? I am amazed at how many changes have been made in the field of education over the last year or so. I work with some districts who don't know from week to week if they are going to switch from face-to-face teaching to online teaching or vice-versa. What do the COVID numbers show? You might as well turn over the Magic 8 ball...it will surely say "Reply hazy. Try again later." So many people are blaming one person or organization when truly, COVID is a bit tougher to wrestle than even the weather. School administrators are darned if they do; darned if they don't when it comes to school closings. But what if we offered a bit of grace to those in charge? What if we honestly said (and meant---that might be the kicker), "Peace be with you"? I feel certain that students, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents alike would all benefit from a little peace in life right now. I supervise student teachers, I teach graduate students who are getting their master's degrees in educational leadership, and I mentor doctoral students who are trying to get their educational dissertations completed....all during a pandemic that has so vastly changed the landscape of school as we knew it that it makes our heads spin. And yet, they are still working diligently to tap into the field of education to find out what they can do to make it better than ever. I conduct webinars in which people are laughing (not the crazed clown laughter, either; I mean honest to goodness laughter) at each other and my silly jokes and the mistakes we all make. It makes me realize that we all must be finding some modicum of peace in our lives through an unpeaceful time.
And finally, what about the world around us? Would I really mean it if I said that peace is evident in every crevice of our country? Surely not. In fact, I find myself shaking my head at some of the posts I read from my own friends and family members on social media that are filled with hate and vitriolic attacks on one another. I find myself wondering if it is best to ignore those curse-filled comments (I take any cursing off my own page, but I certainly can't control what others say on their own feeds) or to take a stand for peace. I want for peace to "be" with each one of our interactions, even if we disagree. I was amazed at responses I saw to a post that had some suggestions for how we might speak to each other if we wanted to show we were actually listening to one another's beliefs (i.e. "That is an interesting opinion; I want to think about that some more" or "I've never considered that before..."). The response was something to the effect that we need to question everything everyone says. Wait...what? I wonder what would happen if we all operated from a place from Stephen Covey's habit of "Begin with the end in mind", with the "end" being we simply want peace. Do we want to be right or do want for things to be right between us? I admit I have often wanted to be right. I'm just wondering at what cost that belief comes when I know I don't have all the right answers, anyway. If, instead, I want peace, that seems it shouldn't come with such a high price. And yet...
Just for today, I will truly examine what it means to say "Peace be with you" and "And also with you", and to honestly mean it from the bottom of my heart. How about you?