This summer was not what I imagined it would be. It didn’t have a carefree essence. It wasn’t calm or tender. After the stressful, grueling first year of college, I was expecting ambrosia – a sweet, welcoming May – but I was met with bitterness instead.
I don’t need to recount the tragedies that have occurred in the past few months, but I fear deeply that all of us are already forgetting. Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge. And similar chaos has been seen around the world.Terrorist attacks have occurred in Turkey, Belgium and France. Heartbreaking words banner every news media while we all bow our heads for a moment in despair and think, “My God. Again.”
The conflicts are not limited to violent tragedies. Even this presidential election is contentious and divisive. Each candidate’s remarks are countered by more vitriolic backlash. While most election years are polarizing, this cycle has taken that rhetoric to another level; there is anger brewing beneath every surface and little tolerance for others’ thoughts and stances on controversial issues.
I keep witnessing the same contradiction: people today view themselves as increasingly respectful and open-minded, while their behavior exhibits a complete disregard for others.
The events of these past few months suggested that sorrow would linger for much longer than the summer. More terrible headlines would continue to print. We were already becoming desensitized to the heartaches. There seemed to be no end to the violence, anger and contempt that ravaged the world. After all, what could we small people do to placate such large battles?
Hope came, as it usually does, in the most unexpected way.
On Jul. 14 in Nice, France, a man in a truck plowed through people walking the streets in a gruesome terrorist attack. The world was pain-stricken and disheartened yet again. But among the thousands of tragic headlines, there was one glistening pearl that caught my eye. Just one sentence, a brief mention in a Wall Street Journal article reporting the attack: “A man said people had taken white tablecloths to cover dead bodies before police and emergency services arrived after the attack.”
This was something to hold onto, something good. These people should be the focus – the peacemakers.
These restaurant-goers veiled the horror of violence. They refused to abandon human dignity out of fear. They brought peace where terror had, just moments before, brought destruction and turmoil. The symbolic white tablecloths reminded me of the white flag used to signal truce. The color itself echoes purity and innocence.
Humans aren’t destined to make each other miserable. While many show hatred in acts of violence, others continue to show love in acts of peace.
This small gesture has continued to resonate with me. It is evident that the world needs to look inward. Whether you are religious or not, introspective or not, we can all appreciate a reformation of conscience, a new conviction to be peacemakers. And it does not have to start the day a tragedy occurs.
How do you speak to your waitress when you are in a rush? How do you discuss politics with people who have different views? How do you treat the most insignificant person in your life, such as the homeless man you pass by? Or the barista who hands you your coffee? Do you go out of your way to show compassion to the suffering and a listening ear to the resentful?
I never thought the answers to the questions I had pondered so long would be so simple. That individual character – if we took the time to develop it – would be enough to remedy our heartaches and bring hope to the disillusioned and embittered.
Blessed be the peacemakers.
Elizabeth Lleonart is a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and creative writing.
Featured image courtesy Pixabay user AlexanderPaukner