Which Comes First

At this time of year we celebrate the festival of lights called Hanukah as well as the Christmas season. We are encouraged to concentrate on hope, joy, giving, and securing peace in our world. To do this we must be positive. Being positive is often a harder path to follow than wallowing in the negative always blaming “them.”

If I comment about the continuing threats to our national peace and security, I may be addressing the symptoms and not the problem. We yearn for peace and civility in our family, community, and national public lives. We yearn for this same peace and civility, based on a mutual respect for all human welfare, in our international lives. We seem to have neither peace nor civility. Can we as individual citizens even consider addressing such a vast concern? Perhaps we can.

Our political leaders know of our displeasure with their performance but remain unable to get beyond partisan bickering. Many, but not all, have lost their ability to listen to others. Some have lost their respect for truth. We give these leaders poor national performance ratings but they seem not to notice and to care only for the “wisdom” of their own voices.

I would offer that we acknowledge this vacuum of leadership and agree we cannot wait for “them” to change. We must make the change ourselves, one person at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time. I need to start with myself. You need to start with yourself. I must become a more positive source of kindness, concern, and respect for all whom I meet on life’s journey. No exceptions. When others speak, I must devote my attention to listening. Learning comes more from conversations with others then from inner self-revelations.

I can start by making it a habit to extend a warm greeting to everyone I meet. I have always liked the Muslim greeting “As-Salaam-Alaikum,” peace be unto you. The response “Alaikum-As-Salaam” returns the wish for peace. It is the standard salutation exchanged between Muslims, given many times a day, and is often accompanied by a physical sign of affection. In Judaism, the simple greeting Shalom is well understood.  In Christianity, the Gospels constantly encourage us to extend the wish of God’s peace upon each other.

We are taught we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This is a scary proposition, but one we need to incorporate into our personal, professional, and community lives. Those who offer their time, talent, and treasure in service to others often say they receive far more than they give.

Let us take a moment to reflect on how we can use a simple greeting this holiday season to begin a higher level of interaction with others. Let us think about changing ourselves first so that we might serve as examples to others. Let us think about the art of listening. Let’s start at home and from there go forward to the neighborhood, the business, and our community.  We can more forcefully demand better behavior from our national and international leaders when we can demonstrate we have made the necessary adjustments in our own personal lives. This must come first.