Recording your attempts at "Being Peace"
Have you ever tried to perform random acts of kindness during mid-terms week? Well, in keeping with my previous week’s post on random acts of kindness decided to continue my tread during what is arguably the most stressful week on campus. I began the week by helping out a random group of sophomore business students who were studying for an exam. These students were obviously having an incredibly difficult time studying as they were very loud and angry as they studied on the second floor of the library. Instead of getting mad and giving them prolonged looks of anger, I decided to walk over and share with them my own experience on a past mid-term in their class. I didn’t get into specific questions, but by explaining the format of the exam and appropriate areas to focus their studying on, it became obvious that they were much less stressed out. I continued my attempt at becoming the kindness elf of Notre Dame by (along with some help) leaving out a few plates of cookies for the members of my dorm by the study lounge. I know how much late night studying sucks and how a bit of sugar and chocolate at three in the morning can cram the last morsel of intellect into what feels like an already overstuffed brain. I hope that whoever ate those cookies did better on their exams because of them, and if not, was just a little less grumpy afterward. That’s all I’ve got for now, so it’s your turn to start to do random acts of kindness - most especially if you ate some random cookies that appeared late in the night!
Over fall break, I was in a CSC seminar on religion and politics (what you're not supposed to talk about at dinner). We traveled to Washington, DC, for the week to talk to religious groups, lobby groups, and politicians about the intersection between Church and State, faith and political participation, and the rest. It was a great week, but there were some tough points too. I've been having a hard time sorting out my life lately, so I was glad to be able to talk to an older friend about things. My peace blog action, though, came a few minutes later when a friend of mine came to me with some similar problems. I really did not feel up to the task of staying up until 3 in the morning to hear him out, but I managed to be present to him and ask some questions that would help him see what he thought was going on and try to resolve some things about his major and his career goals. While I was listening, I felt like I wasn't really doing that much and was struggling to be patient and let him sort things out. The next day, he came up to me and thanked me, saying talking to me the night before had really helped him think clearly about his decisions. I could tell it meant a lot to him; he is the sort of person who doesn't open up about his struggles very often. That really made it worth it for me to have spent that time with him rather than asleep, resting up for the seminar. I am learning that I can be a pretty deeply compassionate person -- I've been through more than some of my friends at ND have, so I understand the need to have someone there, even if it's not a best friend, who will ask the hard questions rather than spew advice. The challenge then, that this peace blog brings me, is to make time for those encounters to increase rather than prioritizing them down into another realm away from my college life.
Just before break, there was a conference held in the Hesbrug center addressing the current conflict in Burma. Three Notre Dame professors and three Burmes students currently attending the University of Indiana.Most of the media coverage I had encountered focused on the current Buddhist monk protests in Burma. Prior to the conference, what I expected to hear was a description of the historical background surrounding these non-violent protests. What I receieved, however, was a brief description of a long ethnic conflict between the minority and majority populations. There was discussion of how both substate, state, and superstate actors have played a role in this conflict. Glancing through a recent Time magazine article on the conflict, I realize what a superficial account the journalist presented. Everyone loves a "make the world free for democracy" story, I suppose. This conference reminded me how much deeper the peace process runs. There is always so much more to the story than one views on the surface. Who knew the Chinese oil industry would be involved in what I initially considered a movement for democracy by Buddhist monks in Myanmar?Following the conference, I stopped by Fieldhouse Mall to observe the protest. I'm beginning to wonder if the observer was right about Generation Q...
To put this into context, this blog was written this past Thursday (October 25th).My best friend has been having a tough time this past year and a half. She’s not enjoying her school, and her rocky long-distance relationship with her boyfriend of almost three years just ended. Before fall break began, I spent about two hours with her on the phone one night, even though I definitely had a lot of homework to do, and I listened to her fears and concerns about her relationship and then offered my advice. She finally made the right decision to break it off completely, and she’s still adjusting to the change. But her college experience continues to cause her a lot of unneeded anxiety and frustration. I advised her as much as I could over the phone while I was up at school, but now that I’m home, I’ve decided to do what I can to become involved in and aware of her college experience and her decision to transfer next semester. Yesterday, for the first time since we’ve been in college, I went with her to visit her university. I sat in on one of her classes, and in a few moments, I knew exactly why she was complaining. This was like no class I had ever taken at Notre Dame. The students were loud, rude, and obnoxious, forcing the teacher to wait while they copied down the notes off the PowerPoint before she could move on to the next slide. I even heard the professor “shush” the class; I have never heard that at Notre Dame. And it seemed as if every student in there was sick and felt the need to cough, loudly at that, every five seconds. Some students were sending text messages on their cell phones right in front of her, and others began to pack up when there were at least a good five minutes left. I felt like I was back in high school. I wasn’t even a student there, and I wanted to scream at everyone to shut up and show the teacher some respect. Not only was I embarrassed for the professor because she clearly knew her stuff, but I pitied her for the blatant disrespect she received. My best friend told me that every large class was like that, and she was sick of it. She told me she didn’t go to college to be surrounded by a bunch of immature high-schoolers, and I agreed with her. Now that I know what her experience is really like, I’ve decided to go with her tomorrow to visit the university to which she is thinking about transferring. I want to be there for her when she makes her big decision and support her every step of the way. I hope that my presence and my support can bring a little peace to her already frustrating year. And maybe in the process, I’ll find some peace for myself because I’m already realizing how lucky I am to be a student at the University of Notre Dame. It really is nothing like other schools. It’s special, a university of which most students only dream. I’m living that dream. I should treasure it.
Today was the day of the feast of St. Marcellus the Centurion. I didn't know this, but the casket at the base of the tabernacle in the Basilica contains the remains of St. Marcellus the Centurion along with some of his personal relics. The actions of Marcellus on the day of Emperor Diocletian’s birthday in 298 AD were the culmination of his increasing dissatisfaction with serving an earthly ruler apart from his God, whom Marcellus declared as his only true leader. This led him to be tried and subsequently executed. The case of Marcellus was one of the earlier cases of a conscientious objector renouncing his military service on the grounds of his religion’s denunciation of warfare and embrace of peace. The prayers offered impacted me personally, as I have close friends serving in the military. Although I am not a conscientious objector myself, I have respect for those who renounce their service because of legitimate moral objections, as St. Marcellus did. Sometimes, Soldiers see or personally experience things that make them realize that war is not the means to solve problems or who question the grounds behind the decision of a nation to go to war with another. I personally am of the opinion that Soldiers serve to help in the eventual peaceful coexistence of a people who are opressed by an inhumane regime, which to me is an obligation as a follower of God towards my fellow man. Although I question the official justification for war in Iraq and also the unilateral actions taken in defiance of intelligence reports of other nations, I find reconciliation in the fact that the actions of Soldiers are with the best of intentions in the service of a subjugated people throughout the world, regardless of the dangers involved. Although there were perhaps faulty reasons surrounding such actions, one must do the best with the situation that presents itself. The fact that violence exists, that people are dying everyday not only in Iraq, but throughout the world is undeniable, and also the fact that some means and methods far from honorable have been undertaken during many recent military campaigns by a small minority of the overall military population is absolutely despicable. However, it is my sincere belief that like St. Marcellus, we must act in such a way as to advance the desires of a peaceful world, whether that be by serving in a military who should be acting to bring that peace against any forces that disrupt that peace for selfish ends, or by renouncing war altogether, as conscientious objectors like St. Marcellus did. I went to this service as a means to get extra credit in one of my other courses, to say the truth, as I was not even aware of who St. Marcellus was. However, as one of the prayers I heard today, I cannot sit with a “silent soul,” and simply wish to offer my humble input on the means towards peace from my perspective. So if you know any personnel who serve or have served in the military, give him or her a hug as another means to "be peace."
For my peace blog today I decided to compile some inspirational quotes about seeking peace and working for positive change in the world. As an English major slash romantic sap, I love collecting quotes, so this wasn't too difficult for me to find material. It was a really good experience though, because I sat for awhile and really thought. With each quote I picked, I spent a little time contemplating what it was about, why the author may have said it (historical context, personal background, etc.), and how it applies to our world. My hero is Robert F. Kennedy, and I included a beautiful quote from his Day of Affirmation address, which I believe is timeless and priceless. I also included a quote from his daybook: "None can usurp the height but those to whom the miseries of the world are a misery and will not let them rest." It's actually a quote from a John Keats poem and I absolutely love it. I am in Peace Studies because I have been reading English literature for the past 2.5 years and am restless to find answers in the real world. Through my community service experience, primarily in New Orleans, I have seen human misery and I never want to be comfortable with it. I want to see it as misery and use that as inspiration to work for change. Sorry if I'm rambling but reading those quotes really gets me riled up and ready to fight for peace, as paradoxical as that sounds. I brought a copy of the peace quotes for everyone to class today, and I hope you all enjoyed it. If anyone didn't get one, let me know; I have extras. I encourage you all to collect sayings, quotes, and even just book titles for future reading, that mean something to you, because it serves as education, inspiration, and sincere motivation. And it may just make you smile!
This blog entry is more on the economy and poverty than new and old wars. Over fall break, I went on a service trip to Appalachia. I went to a site called Nazareth Farm. The Farm is a Catholic community of volunteers who repair homes in the area for impoverished family free of labor costs. Every day I was at a different site. I sided homes and installed insulation. It wasn’t that difficult of manual labor, and we never made that large of a dent into the projects. During the week, some people on my trip asked the staff members if they really were making a difference. Our minor efforts just got a few panels of siding on one home. The economic problems of the area ran way deeper than our home repairs could help. One of the staff members explained to some of us that it is not about making a significant change at Naz Farm, but about solidarity. Yes, they realize that the economic distress is too great for a few college students to reverse. But, when working on Naz Farm projects, volunteers interact with the homeowners. I met Penny and her sons Randall and Corey. I ate lunch with Harry and listened to his stories about Dobermans and life in the Navy. I got to meet Desiree, whose mother bought a condemned house and now has to fix it up or she will lose the money she put down for it. We are part of a long chain of volunteers who will do their share of work on the house, and talk to the homeowners and show them that there are people in the world who care for them. Solidarity is really what service trips such as this are about. Solidarity means that I show the people that I care about them and their situation in life. Solidarity means that I used an outhouse and took bucket showers at the farm to help conserve water. My efforts may not make a huge difference, but the actions show that I care, and that is what really matters. This service trip taught me the importance of solidarity and also the importance of human connection. Human beings need to feel like they are not alone in the world. They need to feel as if they are cared for and acknowledged. I am unable to solve the economic problems in Appalachia. No one person can. Not even a group of people could correct the system. But one thing I can do is show the people of Appalachia that they have human dignity and I care for them. Our generation is accused of being all talk and no action. My friend and I were discussing this today, and I have to say I agree. I know that I at least feel as though my efforts will not make a difference. The problems in our world are too deeply rooted in the structure of the economy and society. But I am going to try not to be distressed anymore. I don’t want to be labeled as the passive generation. I will show people I care.
New Friendship/Old Friendship (sort of on topic)This peace blog entry is actually an update of an earlier entry that I had made regarding a fallout with my friend from London. We have seen each other on campus and it is really weird to avoid him and not stop and talk about recent happenings. So, I decided to take another step toward reviving our friendship, which is much harder than one would really think or want to believe. When it actually came down to it, I almost pulled away at the last second standing on his front porch. But I pushed myself to go through with it. Over break (we live close to each other at home), I decided to stop by his house to try to see if we could meet face to face and at least talk things out. It was really quite awkward when his mother answered the door, as I know she is aware of our conflict. But I held strong, and asked to see my friend. He was surprised I think, but he received me and we started talking about things. We both kind of told our stories and apologized to each other (me for the second time now). Then we just started talking about school and all that has been going on since we got into this situation (so 5 months now). It seemed like old times.I stayed at his house and we hung out for about two hours. It was really good to see him and talk with him, and certainly good to hear an apology from him. I think my persistence paid off, and I think he really appreciated my willingness to put it all on the line, and really put myself out there in a vulnerable position. The response was great. Do I think we will be as good of friends as before? Probably not. But I think the most important thing is that we have started becoming friends again. I am hopeful that once we build trust in each other, we can build a new friendship. I think that this will be possible! It is just a great feeling to know that I was able to make a difference and get through to him, which will hopefully lead to better things. It is so difficult to 'give in' and not be stubborn in the situation, but doing so can achieve positive results.
So, a few minutes ago, my friend persuaded me to sign a petition for extending healthcare to immigrants in the United States as health is a public good as well as an inherent human right. As of the passing of federal legislation in 1996, most legal immigrants in the US lost federal funding for healthcare benefits. In conjunction with the immigration forum and our discussions on immigration in class, I thought signing the petition would be an interesting act of peace-building. And after I signed it, I got into a pretty deep discussion with my roommate and my friend about the reality of again providing healthcare to legal immigrants as well as illegal immigrants. I kind of second-guessed what I had done as I found myself saying that all American citizens are not receiving healthcare, so why should immigrants, especially illegal immigrants? My friend, on the other hand, says (in rebuttal) that all people should receive healthcare regardless of status or citizenship or any distinction, other than the fact that we are humans.I'm not so sure how I truly feel about the petition. I believe that signing it was a peaceful action, but I am not so certain about its implementation. Can it really work? Shouldn't American citizens take precedence for receiving healthcare, especially when citizens are actually paying taxes for federal healthcare? I believe that everyone has the right to healthcare, but shouldn't the government -- our government -- be caring for its citizens first and foremost? I'm not sure what the answer is or whether I am approaching this issue in the right perspective. I just believe that peace means providing rights equally to every person because every person is equally a member of humanity.If anyone would like to sign the petition, head to http://www.cihj.org/. If you have any comments, reactions, etc., let me know.
Random acts of kindness are not always the most readily accepted. I came to this realization the other day when I was driving through downtown South Bend and got seriously cut off by a run-down Cadillac on my way to the airport. While I hadn't necessarily planned the occurrence, I figured I would take advantage of the situation and resist my temptation to throw the bird. I threw the driver a peace sign instead. Well, I didn't get the response I was looking for...the driver swiftly put up his middle finger in response to my peaceful gesture. I was a little shocked (along with my passenger) that the driver would counter-attack like that. Did he think I flipped him off? Well, it got a little awkward when I pulled up next to the Cadillac about a minute later. I looked over at him and he looked at me. I smiled and gave it another try...this time flashing him an unmistakeable peace sign. He looked at me, a little confused, and looked forward. Green light. At least he didn't flip me off again...? I'm hoping his response the second time was out of pleasant surprise, not ignorance. I can understand that he may have not known what to do in reaction to my sign of peace, and I'm hoping it at least created a mini peaceful domino-effect, if even for a short time. Receptvity to random acts of kindness does not always constitute a positive reaction. I think people try to justify these acts with selfish intentions, but it's better to be misunderstood, I guess, than to not do them at all. You never know how people will respond, but there is no sense in hesitating to spread the peace because you are afraid of rejection or misunderstanding. Peace!
This is a peace blog I did a few Fridays back. I went to the Center for the Homeless with the Children Defense Fund. Every week a group of ND students go to the center and do various activities with the children that live there or go to after school care there. The week I went we ended up bringing ice cream and making masks out of paper plates. About 8 kids showed up and we dished out the ice cream and started helping them make their masks, which often turned out to be a plate with eye and mouth holes colored indiscriminately with construction paper glued at random places. And it was started out ok until one the boys around 11 hid under the table. He refused to come out because he said we ran out of chocolate ice cream, even though we didn't, and because he said his mask "sucked" and that he was terrible. I sat on the ground and eventually persuaded him to come out by giving him some chocolate ice cream and saying his mask was good and promising him to make another one if he wished. So I did that and pretty soon all the kids had enough of making mask and decided to burn off all their sugar energy by running around. So we started playing duck-duck-goose. It started out well with everyone playing but soon the 11 year old boy, who happened to be the only white kid that night, and some of the other kids started arguing and fighting. It was very startling to see this boy who was almost crying 20 minutes before hand now resort to racial comments and fighting with the other kids, who acted likewise. I realized that this shift of mood from feeling worthless to making other feel worthless obviously came from his home life, or lack there of. This made me face the starch reality that family instability and racist comments can cause serious damage to children. I realize that it will take a lot of work to help this boy to overcome some issues that he has now. And if we are going to ever have a peaceful world we are going to have to address these problems.
Last week over fall break I went on a service trip to Appalachia. My group went to the McDowell Mission in Welch, West Virginia. On this trip my group did various things; from building ladders on bunk beds, to hauling dirt from a landslide, to building rails on a couple porches, to patching a roof, to power-washing a house, to sorting baby clothes for a shelter. The best thing I think we did though was to sand and stain the floors of a couple. This was not the easiest work but the people we did it for were awesome. The husband is 65 and is mostly deaf because he was abused as a child. The wife is 45 and does not get along with her siblings. They live in a house that was bought for them by his sister who recently passed away from cancer. They live off of social security and welfare for less than 400 dollars a month, half of which goes to paying bills the other half goes towards food. He was recently removed from medicare because the house his sister bought supposedly put them over the poverty mark. So they cant afford basic medical care, despite several issues. He has high blood pressure and has a history of cancer in his family, but he cannot afford treatment for any of these. They do not have a car but her father comes at the first of the month and brings them to get their checks cashed and buy groceries. But when we got there their fridge was all but empty. She was never taught to read because people told her that she was "retarded" and she didn't need to know it. She was also abused as a child and up until she got married her aunt kept her locked in a room, except to go to work and then took her check to pay for her car and giving her bread and water to eat. Yet despite their terrible pasts and few possessions, they were really happy. They were happy to just know each other and be with another. They had some of the best family values I know. They talked out problems and spoke truthfully. They did what every successful marriage book tells you to do, but they never read it in any book. You could tell they loved each other greatly. They also greatly treasured what little they did have and took prize in even their littlest trinkets. So when we showed up to do their floors they couldn't be more grateful. They were not lazy, he used to work as a mechanic in the coal mines but is too old now and she is now about to graduate from a reading class she is taking. She showed to with pride her first study Bible that her teacher gave her to read. Their lives made me realize how much and how priviledge I am to have all that I have. Yet i am even less grateful then them. I have done similar service projects but for some reason this time, this message really hit home.
Exactly one month ago, I began my own micro-lending account at Kiva.org. I lent money to one man and one woman, both residing in Ecuador. The woman, Mary, sells cosmetics and perfume. She is married with two children, who unfortunately live in a home made of bamboo and concrete. The man, Carlos, owns a hardware store. He is also married with two children, hoping to improve their futures. Their loan goals were met within days, and the website actually limited the amount you could lend to a $25 maximum for some time because of the surge of lenders. I think about the two of them from time to time, and I try to imagine their lives. I basically just hope that this money actually finds its way to their businesses. A great part of this loaning program is the fact that the families and businesses in need get to maintain, or so I would assume, a strong sense of dignity. After all, these people are not just beggars or charity cases, but people with initiative and goals, but have been dealt a bad hand in life or their government has left them with no other choice but to seek some assistance which they plan to repay in full. These small efforts help me to realize the impact we can have on our world. We can’t change everything, but we can help in life-changing ways. Entering your credit card information and loaning money is a simple step that takes about 5 minutes online. Who wouldn’t want to help out? I sent messages to 20 of my friends with information about the organization and the website, but never got a response from anyone. Of course, they maybe lent money on their own without telling me, but I kind of have a bad feeling they dismissed it with all of my other “peace antics.”
So for Fall Break I went to the Youth, Violence, and Society service seminar to Indianapolis. By chance, the Dalai Lama happened to be at the University of Indiana, Bloomington (I know, boooooo) to speak during his tour through the United States. This is a small, frail-looking man (but a very flexible one to be able to sit in a cross-legged position for an hour and a half, I know I can't acheive that!), but while he walked to his chair, and as he took his seat, the man seemed to emit a sort of aura that I can only describe as "peaceful." I mean, this man looked like he wouldn't hurt a fly. Anyways, a few significant points he talked about that struck me personally: The first was that love and compassion are necessary for the peace and survival of mankind. Also, he said that physical affection is necessary to feel love and compassion towards others. In order to be peaceful, you must begin by being at peace with yourself. With this chain of reasoning, I realized that I'm not being very good at being completely peaceful. I know I had plenty of affection as a child from my mom, but as I grew older, I've become a lot less affectionate towards others. I have a hard time even hugging most people, as I'm pretty protective of my space, and I guess people tend to be intimidated by my presence sometimes. I've even had trouble being affectionate in relationships, which partially causes most of my romantic relationships to gradually come crashing down. The only person I hug on a regular basis is my mom (as you can probably tell, I'm a mama's boy deep down), so when I'm away from home, I very seldom even hug people. Last time I hugged someone was my neighbor across the hall in my dorm as he embraced me in passing as he was ecstatically running around celebrating the Red Sox winning the World Series. This was 5 days ago! When I think about it, I often go WEEKS without even hugging anyone. Therefore, I must not be completely at peace even with myself.That is why I'm setting off on a small mission in order to be more at peace with myself, and ultimately, with the world. Starting tonight, I'm going to make it a point to hug at least one person a day for the next week. It may seem insignificant to most, but that's saying a lot for me. I'll also make it a point to hug people who would never expect a hug from me. I'll make sure it's not a random person who would just be creeped out, though, but maybe I'll just hug a person who doesn't realize I appreciate their friendship by manifesting that appreciation by means of a heartfelt hug. If I can successfully break down this barrier I set between myself and others, then I'll know I'm being more "peace!"
I used to say that Myspace was the devil. I'm beginning to think the same about facebook. For about a month now my friend and I have been in a standstill debate over a facebook picture. The picture involved me with another friend at a restaurant that I promised to attend with her. Granted, she and I barely hung out over the summer so she was upset that I blew her off once again. Long story short, she wrote on my wall that our friendship was "over." Typically, I am the kind of person to ignore petty comments and it the honor of this class, I promised myself to approach the situation in a peaceful manner. But I just can't. It's been almost a month now and we haven't spoken since that comment. Others insist that her comment was merely a joke and how I should call her, but I can't seem to get over the rudeness of the comment or the incredibly stressful week during which I had to read such a comment. What puzzles me is that I just can't seem to let it go. I've prayed, meditated and all I seem to feel is a tinge of resentment with an overwhelming growth in indifference. Admittedly, I'm extremely disappointed in myself. It's easy to fight for ideals of peace but it's so hard to put those ideals into practice when someone you trusted really gets under your skin.
So once again I have not actually updated the blog about my peace activities. Going back to the week before fall break, here is what I’ve done…1. The week before break was a crazy midterm week for most people, my very good friend being one of them. My crazy week was actually the week before, so I had a little bit of free time. She, on the other hand, had 5 exams, numerous projects and a couple of presentations. She had been stressing and I thought I could do my peaceful act to help her. I did not do anything amazing and I did not solve her problems, but I tried to be extra nice to her as often as I could. If she ever needed help or food I was there! I even made her cookies and brought her Subway because she didn’t have time to get to dinner. Overall I know she appreciated it and it felt good to me because little things like printing some of her assignments while I was already at Como saved her time and did not take much on my part. I never told her that I was purposefully helping her, but I think she noticed something was up. She said thanks for all of the help that week and it was nice to know she noticed. It is funny because I think we both got used to it though because I still find myself helping her with little things, but she has started to do the same for me. It’s nice just to do small things that help each other a lot but do not take a lot of extra work to do.2. During fall break I decided that my peaceful act would be to spread the wealth of knowledge from my minor in peace studies. More specifically I explained to my friends and loved ones what my minor in peace studies entails. Most people do not understand the relevance of peace studies in everyday life as well as politics. Actually most people do not see the importance of peace studies in any way. While catching up with people at home, I would mention that I am a peace studies minor and that usually received an interesting look from my audience. So instead of simply saying “Yeah it’s a minor.” I would engage in a dialogue about all that the study includes. It was nice to see how some people would change from scoffing at me to shaking their head and saying “Interesting.” I felt like I was spreading the peaceful word by telling people about some of the peace projects and it was encouraging to see the good responses from people. Some of my friends that I talked to though did not get as excited about it as I had hoped. Some still said it was a stupid field of study, but for the most part I got positive feedback.3. This past week has been a very busy one for me. I decided that for my peace blog activity I would focus on my internal peace a bit more. Each morning and night since I returned to school I take a look at myself in the mirror and smile. I do not think about anything, but I just look at my smile for a couple of seconds and I have found that this fake smile creates a real smile on my face. It starts my day off right and finishes each day in a good way too. I like it because I end up just laughing at myself. I do not know what it is exactly, but it relieves me when I am stressed and lets me take a deep breath. I would highly recommend others to try it because it is simple, takes no time and has instant results. I think I am actually going to continue this to next week too.
IRISH AD said.....During Halloween, in speaking with many of my friends about possible plans they might have regarding possibly dressing up or going “trick or treating” I soon discovered that regrettably many of them would not be able to enjoy the festivities of Halloween due to test and homework. While on my way back to my dorm, I made a quick stop at Lafun to get some milk for my morning breakfast when I saw mounds and mounds of candy scattered through out the huddle. I decided to buy some and hand out candy to some of the girls I know around my dorm. I figured that maybe this would brighten up their day and make them get into the spirit of Halloween a bit when their exams or homework where otherwise preventing them from doing so. After passing out the “candy baskets” I had assembled, the girls across from my dorm and my room mate where so thankful and glad that I had given them candy and gotten them into the spirit of the day. Another girl, Katie, came up to me this weekend and said that that small gesture made her day. I guess I wasn’t doing the whole candy thing to “have another thing to write for my peace blog” or anything, but in order to bring a smile to these friends faces. I guess in a way this could be considered promoting peace because as aspect of peace is looking out for your fellow humans and being concerned about their well being and happiness. In handing out the candy, I was trying to bring a smile to their faces and maybe…just maybe…help them feel better about their day =)
This weekend, I went to Chicago for my appointment at the Consulate of Spain in order to obtain a student visa for studying abroad in Spain next semester. The process of getting a student visa has been a nightmare thus far, and I was warned that it would be a very difficult process. It was very challenging to get the forms completed and to schedule an appointment, but I was able to finish everything at the last minute! The process is so much stricter and takes so much more time because of security concerns in our world today. Before September 11, 2001 and the terrorist attacks recently in Spain, for example, obtaining a student visa would not have been such a long process. There are so many trade-offs associated with heightened security and background checks. On the positive side, governments are being extra cautious in issuing visas in an effort to make sure their countries are safe. At the same time, the negative effects are evident on a daily basis in airports or at embassies and consulates around the world. Obviously, we prefer the increased security and protection rather than an increased suceptibility to danger. It is just very interesting to observe the everyday effects of terrorism in our world. When we talked about new and old wars this week, we discussed how global terrorism has redefined traditional conceptions about war. The effects of terrorism can be seen in so many different facets of life. In this sense, the “war on terrorism” really does affect more people than we might initially think.This week, instead of focusing on how much time and effort seems to be wasted trying to obtain a student visa, I tried to focus on the bigger picture and understand why, in fact, this has become such a complicated process. I am thankful that the procedure helps to protect citizens, and these positive benefits outweigh the negative costs, a realization that was initially hard for me to see but one that I now appreciate.
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