Tomorrow is International Day of Peace. So, quick – become a Peace Corps volunteer! Then you can walk around bragging about how you’ve got that “making peace” bit down pat. You can feel like the class overachiever since you chose to give up over two years of cushy salary to make your home in another country. Check “make peace” off the list and do a little victory dance. Phew.
Or is it not that simple? Isn’t it good enough that I’m surviving the life of a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay? That I read books to underprivileged kids and teach business skills for free? Shouldn’t someone paste a gold star on my forehead for being disguised as just another normal person buying groceries at the corner dispensa and sipping on tereré with the neighbors, when really I’m nailing down my personal plank in the Bridge of Peacemaking that crosses country and cultural lines?
I expected it to be so. That serving with Peace Corps would bring me copious amounts of feel-goodness and that I’d wake up each day with a sense of purpose, empowered to make a positive difference in my new community. While that happens occasionally, it is not usually that easy.
Living in Paraguay and serving with the Peace Corps has been an amazing experience so far. I’ve met brilliant people, expanded my comfort zone and taken part in the community life of an unknown little town in an unknown little country. I am so happy here. But signing away 27 months of my life and hopping on a plane was not the magic Chutes and Ladders slide that lets you skip all the scary, tough stuff and land right in the pile of peace and happiness.
Instead, creating more peace is something that takes motivation, effort and, at least for me at this point, great consciousness. I need gentle reminders and nudges to be intentional with my words and reactions. I keep forgetting to offer people the benefit of the doubt. And I’m still working on looking past people’s annoying characteristics to see the good stuff (as I’d only hope people would do for me).
Turns out being a Peace Corps volunteer isn’t a prerequisite to doing one’s part in making more peace. That means I’m not off the hook willy-nilly and you aren’t either! It’s up to each of us, each day in our minds, homes, places of work. With our families, friends and the really rude guy at the grocery store. In what ways are you already brewing up the peacefulness in your own life? Where could you use a little tidying up?