We have watched in horror as the destruction of Ukraine and its people continues to unfold on our screens. If you’re like me, you’ve been angry, felt impotent, and cast blame only to realize that doesn’t help the Ukrainians. Sending needed aid dollars is important but doesn’t end the madness. Attempting to bomb people’s hearts and minds into submission never works—it only creates enemies.
It's hard to “be the peace I wish to see” and find compassion when my anger is so quick to take up arms. Does my momentary nonviolence even matter? If my spiritual belief is that we are all connected, then what I think and feel (which impacts what I do) must make a difference to the collective. A drop of water may not seem much, but enough drops will fill the bucket.
After the fury and fear I feel from watching the news, I need something uplifting. I landed on The Hope, a documentary about Jane Goodall. You may remember that in the 1960s she lived with and studied chimpanzees in Tanzania. What you may not know is that she’s continued on as an activist. Her deep understanding of the web of life and how all aspects coexist is impressive. Well into her eighties now, Dame Goodall keeps up an exhausting speaking schedule that takes her all over the world. During the course of her career, she has persuaded scientists to cease experimentation on chimps. That chimpanzees are no longer used for entertainment purposes is in large part due to her efforts. Today, she works with tribes in Africa to find renewable ways to use their natural resources. She has convinced oil company executives of their responsibility to repair habitat and set up sanctuaries. For this she has taken heat because she is willing to keep dialog open with “the enemy” and accept that change is incremental. However, her peaceful approach delivers results.
Jane Goodall does not bomb people with their misdeeds, instead she educates in her calm manner. The complexities of chimpanzee society (which has striking similarities to our own) are revealed in her photos and scientific research. Two generations of conservationists and researchers have been inspired and mentored by her. She doesn’t shy away from the difficult-to-witness labs, zoos, and other places where chimps are mistreated. How can you fail to be touched after watching her squat to take the hand of a chimp in a cage, look into his eyes, and speak softly? She is not afraid to address injustice yet remains a humble soul with love in her heart.
A woman emanating peace as she goes about her important work shows us just how powerful one person can be. Whether it’s war we want to end, or a disagreement with a loved one or a dispute with a colleague, bringing calm to the situation and a willingness to talk are the starting points. A person or country may be controlled by brute force for a time but that won’t win them over. If we want peace, it has to begin in our individual hearts and minds first, then be demonstrated through our actions which collectively build momentum to a tipping point for change. This is the time for living the words, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”