3 min read

I mean really, what can one person do to make things better? A lot.

At the desk, 8:51 a.m.

When I was at university, Central America was on fire with war; Northern Ireland and England were caught in a war politely called "The Troubles"; South Africa was caught in brutal apartheid; and the Soviets were building bombs to blow my country to bits. There was very, very little hope that anything would ever change.

We protested. We wrote letters. We sat on steps. But I don't think any of us believed change would ever come.

I knew so many "advisers" to the wars in Central America who were never really sure what they were fighting for.

Northern Ireland burned every summer in a fire of rage that only went out in the cold dark of winter.

I was sure Nelson Mandela would die on Robben Island.

And the media, and the president, told me the Soviets were coming and wanted to kill me.

I was wrong. Change came. There is peace in Central America, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the USSR never came.

You have to wonder, "How did it finally happen?"

The Central American story is vast and filled with heroic men and women who took back their countries from foreign supported (US and USSR) governments. In Guatemala, ironically the dictator Efrain Rios Montt is credited ending 36 years of civil war with his beans or bullets policy: "If you are with us, we’ll feed you, if not, we’ll kill you." In El Salvador, brave nuns, priest, a few honest government workers, and a few UN officials pushed, nudged, and finally shoved the country to broker the peace agreement in 1992. (No link for this - I was told this story by the daughter of one of those in the government. He was assassinated before he ever saw the peace agreement.) Honduras, where the battle for freedom continues, is filled with brave men and women who have worked tirelessly for peace and democracy.  In Nicaragua, the story is so complicated and fraught with so many ups and downs, it's just worth a read.

In Northern Ireland,  Mairead Maguire, Ciaran McKeowen, and Betty Williams just got tired of seeing their children die. Together, they formed the Community of Peaceful People.

They took their idea to the streets and for the first time ever 10,000 Protestant and Catholic mothers marched for peace. With their dedication, they introduced the idea that maybe, just maybe there could be peace in Northern Ireland. And today? There's a Parliament and peace. It's not perfect nor is it easy. But where there was once a bloody violent war, there is now (mostly) peace.

In South Africa, F. W. De Klerk was elected under a conservative umbrella and then worked to bring peace to his country. In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. And from 1990 to 1994, he and Nelson Mandela negotiated their butts off to create a coalition government and end apartheid.

And the Soviet Union fell apart under the work of Mikhail Gorbachev. A single man ended decades of totalitarianism.

It's not perfect. But there isn't such a thing as a perfect peace.

So when you look at the problems of our world today, know that they are a lot less than they were.

Today, on Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday, I encourage you to look around your world to see what peace you might create in your world. It could be as simple as not making the snide comment that lingers on your tongue or saying hello to your neighbor. Maybe it's time to encourage your representative to start negotiating for peace or reaching out to someone in Iran or Syria. Maybe it's something simple like donating to Kiva or another peace organization.

You are more powerful than you know. You can change the course of the world. You can create peace in your world and that peace reverberates outward to your neighborhood, your city and your country.

What peace can you create today?