"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Friday, September 21, 2012


Over the past week, I've been slipping a little something extra into each one of my classes -- that little something being - peace. 

Today, September 21, is the the United Nation's International Day of Peace. I just happen to work for an organization that promotes peace, am from a country in the UN, and living in a country that is also a member. With each of my forms, we talked about what exactly "peace" means to them. Of course, some discussions were more in depth because my 11th Formers, highly conversational in their English, are able to more eloquently express their ideas than say, my 5th Forms. 

My younger classes, using simple sentences and fun cutout shapes, expressed how we can be peaceful or how we can "Be the change" as Gandhi puts it. (Yes, I had them read and translate Gandhi!) Their ideas were fantastic, and although it's quite the abstract idea, they did really well with it. Some of their ideas included, but are certainly not limited to: "Solving problems more creatively", "Making my parents lunch", "Respecting my classmates", and "Giving hugs and smiling"

How can you "Be the Change"?

My older forms were assigned to translate some small texts about famous peaceful leaders in history. Some more recent, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese politician who led the pro-democracy movement and recently won a seat in Parliament in Burma's first free elections. Some were quite famous, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Princess Diana, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. Others, they had never heard of, like "El General" the 22-year old Tunisian rapper whose song "Rais Lebled" ("President of the Republic) became the anthem for the Arab Spring, calling for the corruption to end. Or The Corinthians Football Club, a Brazilian team who started managing their team as a democracy, a small but public protest against the military dictatorship of the 1980's.  

Also, they found peace quotes and lyrics and brought them to school with translations. My favorite was: "Peace increases as we make higher choices from our heart's intuitive guidance. The peace we create within ourselves, creates the emergence of peace outside ourselves." ~Doc Childr

This all accumulated into Friday's big reveal of our Peace Board in the main corridor of our school. It was a bit too rainy for our planned street art, putting the UN Peace Day logo and song lyrics on the sidewalk outside in chalk. Next year, I hope -- or for another holiday.

Happy International Day of Peace! 

Peace Day really hit home for me when I attended my first funeral while being here in Ukraine. Yesterday morning, I got the unfortunate news that the mother of one of my dearest friends and colleagues had passed away. I knew Oksana Pavlina well, as we shared many bowls of borsch together, and she'd tell me stories about the great famine and raising daughters in the USSR. She'd always laugh when I tried to convince her that it was actually me that had made the banana bread she was eating, and Anastasia Serhivna would laugh at the two of us and our funny misunderstandings because of the language barrier, pouring me a little more congnac and telling her Mom it was in fact I who made the bread. My visits at Anastasia's house won't be the same, but the laughter and memories will be remembered and cherished.

So, on this drizzly evening in Kolky, I wish peace be with you all. In a world with uprisings and gaffes, I pray that tonight, my dear friend Oksana Pavlina -- and all of us -- can rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Ben I love what you did with your students for International Peace Day!! Especially the Peace Board. It didn't occur to me to do anything with my students for that but I will try to remember your ideas for next year. Very inspiring.