“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
It is with these words that we close our daily Lower School Morning Meeting or Chapel services. This charge, a familiar dismissal in many Christian faith traditions, is not the first time we hear the word “peace” in the service. In our opening prayer, we ask God to help us to be “peaceful and generous, compassionate and caring.” Peace is a big idea, and we have spent the last few weeks together exploring what it means to be a people of peace as we prepared for the International Day of Peace on September 21st.
I have recess duty a few days every week. I watch 2nd graders and 4th graders play on the playground. If you have ever been around classrooms of children during recess, you know that “peaceful” is not a word that comes to mind if asked to describe them. They are loud, fast, and they are often changing from one game or area to another.
When we think about peace, images of calmness, quietness, stillness, or stability are typically what comes to mind. We think of people getting along, being happy, or not being afraid or worried. But what we are teaching the kids is that peace is much bigger than any of those things.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
If we understand peace to be something more than just not fighting, then we allow the kids and ourselves to see new opportunities to be a peacemaker. Kids will disagree and argue, just like adults. We are all different, and we celebrate these differences instead of trying to force everyone into a false sense of sameness that fails to value the uniqueness that makes up each person.
On any given day, in the midst of watching the children run and play during recess, I see them living at peace. I see a girl invite another girl to come and play with her. I listen to the boy who comes to tell me that his friends are excluding another friend, and he needs help finding a way for them to be able to play all together. I see a girl stop in the middle of her run across the playground because she noticed a friend standing tearfully near the wall, and she goes to see how she can help. I hear a boy suggest a different game when one game gets too rough.
And it’s not just in the moments when tensions rise that they become peacemakers. They are peacemakers when they laugh, when they enjoy the sunlight and fresh air, and when they find rest in the middle of their other classes.
For the International Day of Peace, every child in the Lower School made a peace pinwheel and “planted” it in the front lawn as part of our Peace Day service. These pinwheels serve as a reminder to us of simple joys. The pinwheels are made of paper, a pencil, and a pin; and the only thing needed to power them is a gentle breeze. The collage of different colored pinwheels, each designed in a unique way, remind us of the beauty found in all of the things that make each person special. The simplicity of the pinwheel serves to remind us of the little joys in life that we can celebrate and the small things we can do on a daily basis to make the world a better place by being a peacemaker.
Sam Oakley started as a Lower School Religion teacher at Episcopal in August 2017. She previously served as the Associate Director of the Center for Family and Community Ministries at Baylor University where she conducted research, developed resources, and edited a journal. She received her M.S.W. and M.Div. from Baylor University. Sam is married to David Oakley, who serves as the Youth and Children’s Minister at Broadmoor Baptist Church. They have three children: Elijah, Taylor, and Sadie.