Did we manage to get peace right in 2003?

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 30, 2003

This column began 2003 with a simple New Year's resolution: "Get peace right."

It was the suggestion of Staff Sgt. Mike O'Rielly, RCMP "K" Division Conflict Resolution Coordinator.

"We have a responsibility to help others learn how to resolve their issues," Mike said, "and as such journey from the personal to the social, ultimately contributing to the improvement of the human condition."

Well, how did we do?

On a global scale, people are still blowing each other up in Baghdad, Kabul, Nablus and Tel Aviv. Fear of terrorism grounds Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles. North Korea and Washington play nuclear brinkmanship. The body of a key witness to acts of violent repression by Mexico's security forces is found bullet-ridden in Guerrero.

If that were the whole picture, it doesn't seem we're doing a very good job.

But that's not the whole picture.

Both here in Cochrane, and by e-mail from the four corners of the world, I've connected with many coffee companions who did get peace right in 2003.

The Town of Cochrane itself, for instance. On Nov. 18, Mayor Judy Stewart and Coun. Jeff Genung teamed up with Bill Belsey, creator of the world-renowned Web site www.bullying.org, to unveil signs declaring Cochrane "A Community Striving To Be Bully Free." This seemingly small step in a small, peaceful foothills town – well, actually the fastest growing town in Canada – has already inspired larger centres to become proactive in dealing with bullying at all levels.

Ottawa journalist Henry Heald also got peace right. He used his influence in the media to promote greater honesty, accuracy, balance and thoroughness in reporting, and so help build bridges instead of blowing them up.

Olivia Scott, in sharing her dragonfly tale of a love stronger than death, got peace right. She refused to let the tragic loss of her husband, Danny, to leukemia poison the memory of the short months of their marriage. "I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end," she said, quoting from Garth Brooks' song "The Dance"; "I could have missed the pain. But I'd of had to miss the dance."

Naomi "S." got peace right. She headed to Nepal with Calgary-based Servants Anonymous to do her part in countering the international child sex trade and providing recovery for its victims.

The Beaupré Community Association got peace right. When their original hall was destroyed by fire, the members rebuilt this centre of rural life where friendly moments and joyful memories could be celebrated.

Morley entrepreneur Greg Twoyoungmen got peace right. Speaking during the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce Small Business Week, he stressed the importance of respect in doing business with First Nations.

Cochrane Movie House got peace right. They ran two films that especially spoke to me about the triumph of light over darkness. Seabiscuit was about a broken-down racehorse that helped three broken-down men rise above their bitter circumstances to embrace their humanity with grace and passion. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King called us to become who we were born to be, resolute, not distracted by greed, power or fear.

Stained-glass artist "feather" Mills got peace right. "The good produced by small kindesses is never lost," she wrote to us, echoing the words of recently beatified Mother Teresa: "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love."

All of you got peace right. Your votes for the three most beautiful words in the English language spoke volumes: "love," "peace" and "happiness."

And finally, Mary Lou Davis, owner of Bentleys Books in Cochrane, got peace right. Just the other day, she shared with me her New Year's resolution for 2004 – a resolution, I think, we might all take to heart: "to end the year with forgiveness, and start the new year with a clean slate."

Happy New Year, my treasured coffee companions. In 2004, let's strive together to comprehend even better the beauty of our identity, and so become the human beings we were born to be.

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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