This post comes from Sarah Gough, Executive Director of Play for Peace.
I had this great idea that if I tended a garden of fresh herbs, I would miraculously become an amazing cook. Does Jamie Oliver not prepare fabulous meals in 30 minutes or less by twisting off sprigs of mint, cilantro and other green perfections in a pot? When my planted herbs did not quite have the right shape and definitely not result in culinary talent, I did not give up. Visions of heavy Spanish tile and dried hanging mysteries led me to my next experiment of drying my less than perfect herbs.
That’s when it happened.
Basil, a hardy Central American species, cut and hanging on my wall, would not dry. It would not die, to be more specific. With no water or soil in sight, four months now and counting, this plant has not only survived but sprouted new stems and baby leaves. I am sure there is a banal scientific explanation. Perhaps it is a common occurrence.
However, every morning as I pour my coffee, I choose to see this plant as my touchstone that anything is possible. Even a lofty goal such as world peace is possible. As director of Play for Peace, my mission is to bring together children, youth and organizations from communities in conflict using cooperative play to create laughter, compassion and peace. We are a network of hundreds of volunteers, children, youth and the young-at-heart, united by this common goal. We educate children, change young lives and transform neighborhoods.
The result? On the playground, children have stopped using racial slurs. Youth have chosen volunteerism and high school graduation over gangs. Adults have followed the lead of young adults looking for local solutions to their challenges. Because we work primarily with youth at-risk in the U.S. and in communities faced with poverty and conflict abroad, their challenges can be daunting. A few years ago, the mother of Maria, one of our young university leaders, was shot and killed in their home while Maria was attending church. She moved away after the tragedy and when I met up with her again about a month ago I found her running an inspiring grassroots violence-prevention project in her new neighborhood and with the desire to re-join the Play for Peace Community.
The beauty, the strength and the courage that is flourishing in this world is humbling. When we only read about war, hate crimes and violence, sometimes we just need a reminder that good is also part of our reality. I believe resilience to be the very essence of nature. In the morning, it is nature, in the form of a stubborn aromatic weed, that is my reminder. During the day, the Play for Peace youth and children who demand that we learn to play together, work together and live together, regardless of background or circumstances — they are my teachers.
I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never be a good cook. My place is with the kids. I invite you to learn more about the youth of Play for Peace by visiting our website and joining our World Peace Day Celebration where we will stand up and honor our global youth peace-builders. Let the Play for Peace community be your touchstone to the beauty and resilience of the world.
photo via Play for Peace
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