Dear friends, family and strangers in the crowd,

Reaching out to other people is hard. Connecting with strangers seems dangerous at times. We are fragile and when someone doesn’t agree on something we think is important, we often see them as “other”. But why aren’t we also the “other”? We are. And if we are, what exactly is not “other”? We need to change perspective. We need to find more common ground. Find more grey area than black and white sides. We need to listen without always thinking of what we will say next. It is infuriating though. We are RIGHT! We already know it! Our views are clearly better, based in reality, founded in truth. But what if we miss something? What if we miss all our chances to learn? What if we miss out on opportunities to grow? What if our growth triggers the growth of those around us but we never get that far? Who’s fault is it? Expecting others to listen to what we have to say, when we present things in condescending tones and closed arguments, is just as crazy as staying silent and praying for change. We are frustrated and sometimes furious that others don’t see the world from where we do, but it must be someone else’s fault. The responsibility to change minds lies with others, definitely not with us. The project is too immense. The progress too slow to matter.

We are a people confused by peace and how it relates to us directly. We cannot continue the way we are headed. One cannot scream their thoughts into the faces of others and hope to be understood. Sending a bomb to do the work of a peacekeeper is somehow viewed as effective because it is explained to us as the only way. We are spoken to like children, treated like sheep, and we follow and listen. “There are rules!” we scream! But we forget and disregard it is the collective “we” who made these rules. We say we are sceptical, that we want the truth, but we see nothing beyond what is presented to us. No time is given to digging away and discovering the depth of an argument. A headline is read and an opinion is formed.

When interacting with the world we don’t often begin with our core beliefs and work outward. These are not the beliefs of religion or the ones taught to us by our parents and “leaders”. Often they are even hard to put into words. The beliefs we must begin with lie inside each one of us. They are the quiet list of things that make us feel hopeful when we use them to make decisions. The things which we, in moments of true introspection, would knowingly build up our world around.

Beginning with basics such as freedom, health, love, equality and honesty is a place that requires us to put aside fear. Dig back to basics. Making decisions from this place is not our default setting but it isn’t ignorant or naive either. How much confusion and contradiction is there in this world because people do not decide on their own personal foundations but rather allow others to tell us what we believe. We are not born with fear, we are given fear. Fear of others, fear of disagreement, fear of loss, fear of change. Arguing that it is hard is useless, because where we are now is harder. When we admit that we are each responsible, just like the next person is responsible, for our world, how can we not change and shift? Hide, remain stubborn, bury yourself and blame the universe for not behaving the way you would like. That is an option. But if that is the choice we make, we need to acknowledge it and own up. Doing that makes us more honest and it makes this stance much more difficult to maintain, but the choice is ours.

I challenge us all. Every day. With every decision. To try and make small changes in ourselves. These small changes inevitably bring about change in the environment around us. While that may seem small, it also seems attainable doesn’t it? Do not underestimate the power of a single person’s impact on the world. Consider the people around you who have impacted your life? How did it happen? How do they touch you in this way? Usually it is small and they don’t even know it, because usually it is a result in something they are doing all on their own. Take initiative and stop being so afraid and angry with “others”. Like it or not, we are all in it together, and we are more than just single dots on a map. We are a whole. Now act like it.