When I was 4 years old, my grandfather died. I was very sad because although I did not understand death, I knew it meant I would not see him anymore. At the funeral, everyone was crying and I missed him already. That was when the preacher said that we should not worry about him because "por fin el a alcanzado la paz" which means (in Spanish) that he has finally reached peace.
As I listened to him I began to think that peace was really important if grandfather had to go away to attain it. So I asked my mom what it meant "to have peace". She told me that it meant grandfather was with people that respected and loved him, and that he would not get into arguments or fights, because he was in a special place.
Can We Live in a World of Peace?
Ever since, I have always wondered if my family and I would ever live in such a place, where there was compromise and, in turn, respect for one another. I also began to wonder why our world couldn't be like that. But as I have grown older and look back on that moment over a decade ago, I began to doubt if we can ever live in a world like that here on earth. The more I know about the world, the more impossible that dream of peace sounds.
With all of the fighting of wars that goes on, the violence, the racial attacks, and probably worst of all, the struggle within our own communities, the vision of peace in this world seems unattainable. But, if we, as a people, can learn to respect each other's differences, and learn to find common ground from which we can come together, we can reach that dream and make it a reality.
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We first must realize that this cannot and will not happen overnight. It will take work by each and every individual, because peace is not only a "global" issue. What does it matter if our countries are at war or not, if we cannot live with respect towards one another in our own community?
Peace is the Cause of Every Individual
Peace is an issue that must be the cause of every individual. We must help each other to understand each other's differences. For this is where peace must start -- within ourselves -- so that we can deal with conflict with an open mind. We can start taking those slow steps to peace, first as individuals, and then as a people of earth.
If peace is ever attained, we must learn to live as "a" people -- one world working together to make it a better place to live. If only people would not look at each other as a race, or a color, or a certain nationality, and look at whether that person is good or bad. If only we could all learn from past mistakes.
Millions of people were killed just because they were black, or Jewish, or not from their country. That is why respecting each other and our differences is so important.
Everyone Has Some Good in Them
Everyone has good in them, but unfortunately they also have prejudice in them. But we must all look past this if peace is ever to be achieved. When we see a person that is different or may look weird, keep in mind that to them you look different too. We must not only have respect for people and their differences, but give thanks that we are all different and, who knows, we may even learn something.
Well, I hope I got my message across because I am nearly done. One more thing, when you think about what I have said, ask yourselves if you can be a little nicer to someone and think of someone as equal to you. Try it and you will see the benefits of respecting one another.
But don't do it because you read it in an essay contest where some kid put the idea into your head with a memory of his grandfather. Do it because you want to make the world a better place to live in, and you will find yourself standing on a stepping stone to peace.
With the dream of that special place within your reach, and a new friend by your side, then maybe we can all "alcanzar la paz" while we are still on this earth.
Reprinted with permission from "Young Voices, Essays On Peace" ©1992, published by The Grace Contrino Abrams Peace Education Foundation, Inc., 2627 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, Florida 33137. All rights reserved.
About The Author
Erick Munoz wrote the above as part of an essay contest when he was in the 9th grade and attending John F. Kennedy Middle School, in Miami, FIorida.