And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour , which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.
As the holiday season swings into full gear, I find myself pondering on Luke’s account of the first Christmas and am drawn not only to the events but also to its declarations and hope : the promise of peace on earth and good will for all people. In every strata of our society today, there is a decided lack of peace. It is evident in broken homes, tattered lives and social ills too numerous to mention. Our newspapers and airwaves are riffed with the gory details of war and turmoil.
I just returned from Sierra Leone where, as an Athlete Ambassador for Right to Play, I witnessed first hand the lingering effects of ten years of bloody civil war. The lack of infrastructure, electricity, running water and young men hobbling around with amputated limps are compelling reminders as are all the images from the other war torn areas of our planet that we are indeed not experiencing “peace on earth” nor showing “goodwill’ to each other. In October I participated in a World Peace conference in Edmonton, Alberta where a disparate group of individuals from all corners of the globe, representing diverse ethnic groups, religions and vocations met to discuss a common idea: a commitment to peace. During his keynote address on the opening night of the conference, James Loney, a former Iraq hostage passionately declared “Peace is the most important achievement we can strive for.” That statement struck a chord with me because I spend a great deal of my time encouraging people to live up to their full potential, as I believe that self actualization is the ultimate in personal achievement. As I mulled over James’ comment, I finally concluded that we were finding different ways to express the same idea.
Strive to achieve
The effort to achieve our dreams helps us to focus on thoughts and actions that challenges, inspires and lifts us. In so doing we are able to marshal and draw out of ourselves all that is good and noble. The good intentions that we have for ourselves not only benefit us but also benefit those that we come in contact with. It allows us
to see goodness and the potential for greatness in others as well.
This was brought home quite forcefully to me during the Olympics in Calgary. These Games took place during the height of the cold war- a time when everyone living behind the Iron Curtain was supposedly evil. As we lived in and experience the Utopia of the Olympic Village, I came to realize that the only difference between us was ideology and that we shared similar hopes and aspirations. I believe the root cause of much of the conflicts in the world is our lack of ability to see that we have more in common than our perceived differences and that when we are able to see the same goodness and potential for greatness that we see in our selves in others we will be able to treat them more kindly.
Be the change
As you know goal achievement and striving to attain self actualization requires growth and change. This of course is internal change. Through our ability to change ourselves, we have the ability to achieve our goals despite what our family members, friends, acquaintances, think or say or do. The same principle holds true in our pursuit of peace in the world. In the words of Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Realizing our full potential is not only about the amount of material things we can stack up, it is also about learning and practicing the ways of peace, cooperation, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. In many ways these things are more difficult to achieve than an increase in our bank balances but these are the very things that I say the poverty stricken kids of Sierra Leone learning and practicing this past week through sports and play. While I am forced to admit, that in my opinion they have resigned themselves to what they perceive as their economic realities, they have found peace within themselves and as Prem Rawat says, “ When people in the world are at peace within, the world will be at peace”.