Warmest regards: Holding on to the gift of peace
By Pattie Mihalik
In many churches, including mine, there is a part in the service where we greet those near us and say, “Peace be with you.”
Many denominations have a similar tradition. Some call it the handshake of peace and include shaking hands with others as part of the service.
It’s a beautiful ritual to offer someone the gift of peace by saying, “Peace be with you.”
However, it’s one expression we say so often that we don’t reflect on peace as truly one of the most significant things we can wish for ourselves and others.
While peace is a gift, it’s one that’s not all that easy to come by. We can’t give anyone the gift of peace, and no one can give it to us.
It’s something that each of us has to work to attain. And even when we do, it’s not something that stays with us permanently.
Our personal peace can ebb and flow based on what’s going on in our lives.
I’ve often found that I can be awash in a great feeling of peace, but one phone call can send that peace tumbling away. If a get a call saying something is wrong with a daughter or grandchild, my serenity vanishes.
I know it’s not supposed to be that way, but it’s what I experience. And I think many parents feel the same way.
I find I can be tranquil about my own life, holding onto my personal peace regardless of what I encounter. But I can’t do it when it involves a child or grandchild.
I marvel at those who can be tranquil in the face of a loved one’s suffering. Stoic I can manage almost all the time. But tranquillity doesn’t stay when a loved one is hurting.
At a religious retreat, I was amazed how my roommate managed to stay tranquil during what I viewed as her family’s crisis.
She told me she was worried about her adult daughter because she was deeply depressed. After the two-day retreat was over my roommate planned to fly out to see that daughter.
Instead, later that day she received a phone call saying her daughter had a serious breakdown that involved the police. The daughter had to be committed to a mental institution for 21 days.
If I had a call like that I would have been so distraught and would have left immediately.
Instead my roommate kept her peaceful countenance.
Her daughter got a message to her that night that also astonished me. The message simply said: “All is well with my soul.”
What amazed me is that my roommate had said the same thing a bit earlier when she got the news: “All is well with my soul.”
I admit I don’t have that kind of peace.
Worse yet, I find I have to work hard to hang on to my peace when it’s only something mundane such as mechanical problems plaguing me.
When my new, ridiculously expensive refrigerator broke down, any and all peace I had went down the drain until a friend put it in perspective with just a few words.
“That’s a first-world problem,” she said. “A third-world problem would be no refrigerator at all and no food either.”
Ever since she told me that I’ve learned to put “first-world problems” like a faulty refrigerator into perspective. I don’t let it wash away my peace.
There’s a bulletin board outside a local church that alludes to the same thing.
The sign says: “Somewhere, someone is praying for the very thing we/you take for granted.”
My friend Sue says the sign reminds her that we all have troubles, hurts, pains, issues, and life and health challenges.
“But at the same time, if we stop to take time to appreciate what is good in life we stop dwelling on those troubles,” she says.
For me, there is authority behind Sue’s words because I know she has plenty of her own troubles and health issues. She has learned to balance those issues with a keen sense of gratitude for what she does have.
I also have a keen sense of gratitude for every single blessing in my life. Yet, when troubles strike I have to work at holding on to my peace.
I have had to adopt a lot of strategies to maintain my personal peace.
Distinguishing between “a first-world problem” and a “third-world problem” helps. Not many of us in this country have a third-world problem.
I also maintain my personal peace by not going online to read the national news. I can’t do that without drowning in waves of anxiety, worry and consternation bought on by the dastardly news of the day.
If it’s something I can personally change, that’s one thing. But I have no control over national issues.
I also cope by hanging out with the right people. One of my versions of “the right people” are those like Sue or that retreat roommate I told you about.
I have quite a few friends with a positive outlook on life, uncommon wisdom and a strong faith. We help each other maintain perspective.
That, in turn, let’s us hang onto the gift of peace.
I’m wishing you the gift of peace — along with an understanding and appreciation of how blessed we truly are when we have it.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.