Martin Luther King Jr opened his Massey Hall lecture for CBC radio on Christmas Eve 1967 like this:
Peace on Earth. This Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without. Everywhere paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night. Our world is sick with war; everywhere we turn we see its ominous possibilities. And yet, my friends, the Christmas hope for peace and good will toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power. Martin Luther King Jr., December 24, 1967
Thirty-four years later and King’s message is more relevant today than ever. Have we made any progress at all?
Violence is still rampant in many parts of the world. But not everywhere. Not here.
Violence is only one side of the story. I am blessed beyond all measure to live in a peaceful community, in a country with relatively restrictive gun ownership laws.
When they crashed the Twin Towers, we were bewildered and it seemed like going to war was necessary. In retrospect many us us now see that war was a mistake.
But war is not the only way we responded to 9/11. Many heroes rushed in to help the survivors and they are rebuilding better than ever. This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a trend for communities to react to horrific acts of violence with a huge public outpouring of love and support.
Christmas is about love, not stuff
We are learning to be more like the Whos in Whoville.
The Grinch can’t steal Christmas because Christmas is not about stuff, it’s about love.
When really bad things happen, the first reaction for many of us is to pour love on the situation instead of hatred. We understand that healing doesn’t come from punishing evil. It’s so much better for our communities when we create the space for healing by taking care of the people who are still here.
And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two!
For example, when 26 children and adults were killed by a random gunman at a school in Newtown Connecticut, Ann Curry started the of 26 acts of kindness movement. People see the value of this and start tweeting their good deeds with the hashtag #26acts.
If you do good, you’ll feel good
Imagine the impact if all of us committed to 26 mitvahs/acts of kindness to honor each person lost in Newtown.
As Martin Luther King explains that war is never the way because you can not achieve peace through a violent means. Violence only leads to more violence just like kindness inspires kindness.
“[T]here have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means really aren’t important. The important thing is to get to the end, you see. So, if you’re seeking to develop a just society, they say, the important thing is to get there, and the means are really unimportant; any means will do so long as they get you there? they may be violent, they may be untruthful means; they may even be unjust means to a just end. There have been those who have argued this throughout history. But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.”
When we practice kindness in our everyday lives, little kindnesses add up and we are literally changing the world. Kindness is our answer King’s call to change the world through non-violent means.
What do you think? Can we tip the balance toward peace with random acts of kindness?