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In the weeks before Christmas, one of the radios stations had a Santa hotline of sorts. Kids would call in and leave their requests in a recording. I heard two calls one morning, two messages back to back, that influenced the way I perceived this entire holiday season.
One was asking for world peace (and remember, these were little kids). Many of you know that I am president of the international organization Writing for Peace, and our mission is, well, peace. We seek to cultivate empathy to value each other’s difference and embrace our common humanity.
Yet, although “world peace” might be a popular pageant response, I was immediately struck by the young voice in the recording. What is his own concept of peace, his concept of a larger world at all?
“World peace” … that’s what he said. I wonder, does he hear about peace in Christmas music: sleep in heavenly peace, peace on earth, and so on? Does he hear his parents, his siblings, his teachers talk about the state of the world? Does he watch the news, does he process what he sees? Did something specific led to his wish?
Another child, a little girl, asked for a Polaroid camera. Oh, how well I remember my own excitement of seeing a photograph happen right away, to watch it materialize right before my eyes, when the only other option was to take a whole roll of film and send it away to be developed, sometimes waiting weeks.
I have heard that Polaroid cameras were making a comeback, and I find this somewhat mystifying because, with digital photography, we get to see our pictures immediately anyway. So, I surmise that it’s the tangibility of holding the photo in your hand, feeling the chemicals sting inside your nose as it processed, and shake, shake, shaking the flap of paper to produce the image.
Plus, you can then give the photo to someone else, to share the moment.
In any case, the contrast of these two requests had a synchronicity was palpable for me. One was looking to the future. He was so humble, so small-sounding. Yet he was so confident, so sure that world peace could happen because he himself believes in it.
And she, somehow, at such a young age, knew about living in the moment, knew that the here and now is all we really have, knew that being present is itself a gift. And that sharing this gift with others is a noble endeavor.
Am I attributing too much to these wish lists? No, I don’t think so. The young people with whom I work – writers, storytellers, thinkers – show me this level of contemplation all the time. They care about people, they want to do good, and they understand each other better than most of the rest of us ever will.
It’s said that Christmas and the holidays are all about children. This has never been more true for me than this year, as I capture the memories of the moment in my mind just as if I had a Polaroid camera, and as I also look to the future with the hope – no, the belief – that world peace is possible if we want all it enough.
Andrea Doray is a writer who wishes you world peace and personal serenity. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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