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'Be the change that you wish to see in the world'

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Gandhi, the world's most renowned proponent of nonviolent resistance to oppression, said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

In a ceremony at Hiroshima Memorial Park back in May, Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka said: “Peace is not something that can only be achieved through treaties, by governments, or through heroic struggles. It is something that we can find, and that we can achieve — every day, and in many simple ways.”

It is interesting to most of us that in a world in which we have historically professed the value of peace, in which sages around the globe have advised us how to pursue peace, and in which we profess locally, at least in our church services, to value peace, that peace is so hard to find.

I can only speak for myself, but I could not be more pained (sometimes tearfully so) to hear the daily news from places as diverse as Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cairo, Egypt.

My problem stems from, if I may confess, my belief that people are born with an innate goodness.

So where do we go wrong?

It is, of course, a question for the ages and one for which there is a myriad of theories, one which would simply argue that anger and warfare are just the human way.

I refuse to buy it.

We can't afford to buy it.

Debates ranging from gun owners' rights to nuclear weapons treaties are just skirting the key issue of our need for respect and appreciation for our fellow planet dwellers.

We can't allow anger to get in the way.

We can't allow bigotry to get in the way.

We can't allow greed or jealousy to get in the way.

But we do.

Bigotry and greed/jealousy are large issues to tackle today, so let's just consider anger.

I think much of it stems from the “me-fist” generation in which we live. If we are offended, our “me” feels threatened, our self-esteem is diminished.

Consider this example: How many of us have gotten into a line at a check-out counter at a busy store and then discovered that the shopper currently being served and the clerk are struggling with a price or with a credit card or with some other issue? And you and others in the line are waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

Eyes begin to roll, some look for another faster-moving line. Some begin to mutter to themselves or others.

Really? How inconsiderate of that customer, that teller.

Then we carry that frustration out into the street, and that becomes how we “pay it forward” in a negative sense.

It is anger over the most simple of life's interactions.

Such anger exists in small towns as much as large cities.

Some of you may be saying to yourself: “I try to be kind, but I will only be pushed so far, abused so much, and then it is my right to speak up in self-defense.”

In a larger sense, we align ourselves with those carry like angers, as often as not of late it is a manufactured anger over a political issue. It is them against us and we are on the side of right and we are angry about it.

I watch the faces of people in Cairo on the evening news and I try to fathom such anger.

Yet, no matter how we view it, anger is a personal issue

For my part, I try – not always successfully – to take myself out of the picture.

The shopper's problem is not about me; the noisy person in the movie theater does not purposely want to disturb me; life is continuous change over which I have no control.

When anger arises we need to let go and “be the change” we wish to see in our world.

An addendum

On Monday my wife Mary Ellen called me here at work and said she had a dumb question. I love those, something I can answer, I thought.

She asked: When we went on the whale-watching cruise in July out of Boston Harbor what body of water was that?

I thought, “really?” What I said was: “It was the Atlantic Ocean.”

Then came the zinger: Then why did I write in my column last week that I hadn't been to the ocean this year? she wanted to know.

I had been set up.

I hemmed and hawed; well I was meaning that I hadn't been on a beach vacation, sitting and contemplating the movement of water. I was thinking more of our trip to Boston as a city vacation. I said she was nitpicking.

She was not, I was angry at myself.

Then I blamed it on my being old and stupid and I laughed ... and I dumped the ego, the foolish me. And it worked. Until I do something stupid again. After 40-plus years in newspapering, I have learned that it always happens again.

Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with News Editor Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to

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