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As Simple as Peace and Love

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As I continue to learn the language and culture of this country, I will also continue to spread, by way of my peace sign, a little bit of my own language and culture – not that of the United States, but that of peace, hopefulness, integrity, and understanding.”

One month ago, I arrived in Marseille, France to spend the

year here as an au pair. I graduated from college four months ago and majored in French and Peace Studies, so having the opportunity to live in France and perfect my use of the language is an exceptionally lucky endeavor. I anticipated only using one half of my degree — I did not immediately realize that Peace Studies would also have its place in Marseille.

The first weekend I was here, the family I live with took me to dinner at their friends’ house. These friends have two sons, ages seventeen and fourteen, and they are typical teenage boys. Once they found out that I am an American, they began to fire questions at me, most of which concerned popular television shows and sports teams. Eventually, though, the younger one pointed to the necklace I wear every day – a simple peace sign, which was a birthday present from my mom right before I left the country – and said, in English, “ahh…peace and love.”

This was certainly a moment of hilarity as none of us expected to hear him reply in English. For me, it was also very humbling. I realized, then, the power of a symbol and how some concepts truthfully can transcend cultures and time zones. It was a moment of pure hope and it reminded me why I wear that silver pendant each day: because, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, we must first be at peace with ourselves before we can make peace in the world. By keeping those words close to my heart, as I do when I wear my necklace, I allow others to see what is at the core of who I am and what I do each day. To have someone in another country recognize that within an hour of meeting me is something special. I went on to explain to them what it means to study peace, and what I hope to do with this passion in the future. As an American in a foreign country, my nationality certainly precedes me but at dinner that night I was simply myself: a woman at their table who happened to be American and not the other way around. I allowed them to define me by my values, and not the piece of land I call home.

This year, I have a unique opportunity to be myself in a country that does not grant diplomas in Peace Studies. When my neighbors, friends, and even strangers on the street see the peace sign around my neck they see someone who is truthfully at peace with herself, and who has hope for future peace throughout the world. They pause for a moment and consider their own peacefulness, or a void where that peacefulness should be, and they think. In a world of constant motion and evolution, the weight of that pause is immeasurable.

I cannot pretend that a fashion accessory has the power to bring about lasting peace on its own, or that everyone who sees it will have an epiphany that leads to drastic change, but at the very base of peace is the recognition that each person has the capacity to bring forth his or her own contribution. As I continue to learn the language and culture of this country, I will also continue to spread, by way of my peace sign, a little bit of my own language and culture – not that of the United States, but that of peace, hopefulness, integrity, and understanding. These form the language and culture of the world we can choose to live in at any point. Despite the differences in lifestyles, viewpoints, countries, and every other category that divides us, I truly believe, as this evening chez les Français confirmed, that it really can be as simple as peace and love.


Michelle Eberhard
France/USA


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Peace X Peace
Raising women's voices and building cultures of Peace - one piece at a time...







  






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