forgiveness • peacemaking • reconciliation
equality • poverty • missions


It Starts With Us

May 11, 2018 by

Riva Maendel is an eighth grade student who lives at Fox Hill, a Bruderhof near Walden, NY. Her class – along with thousands of other students – entered the annual Maryknoll essay contest, this year’s theme on the problem of violence, and what they can do as individuals to work for peace. Riva’s essay took first place in her division (congrats, Riva!), so we’re sharing it with you here:

With all the strength in my arm, I furiously slammed the door. On the other side, my sister was almost as mad as I was. In my opinion, she deserved getting hurt. Looking back, I am embarrassed that all this anger was about washing dishes, but that’s how walls of hatred are built – one small brick at a time. Later, as I lay on my bed, I regretted my actions and thought about steps I could take to promote peace.

Some girls from the Bruderhof drinking coffee together

The pope gives me a good direction: he tells us to take a clear stand for creative and active nonviolence. I like that word, creative. Thinking back to my conflict with my sister, I realize that taking a nonviolent stand would have made me so much happier. If I had offered to do the dishes for her, I would be promoting peace! Our world is full of violence. There are people dying from drug overdoses, shootings, gang-related issues, and war. I can’t even begin to take a stand on these bigger issues if I fight my sister. So, my first small step is to apologize, and I realize what an amazing power two small words, “I’m sorry,” can have.

Almost everyone in the world wants peace, but we don’t know how to find it. One way to bring peace is by praying. We need to pray every day for peace – in our hearts, in our families, in our schools, communities, churches, and the entire world. I think of all the Christians in the Middle Eastern countries who are dying for their faith. These Christians risk their lives to bring the message of peace and nonviolence to those in the Middle East. I also worry about the nuclear standoff that we have with North Korea. I pray that our country will find a peaceful solution to this issue. Another thing that bothers me is the escalation of shootings in our country. We need to pray for all those mourning the loss of loved ones. They are in desperate need of peace.

I can’t even begin to take a stand on bigger issues like addiction or violence if I fight with my sister.

Before we can achieve peace on an international level, we must work toward attaining peace in our daily relationships with those closest to us. I will probably never get a chance to put my life on the line like the Christians in the Middle East. I pray that my school never experiences a school shooting, but nonetheless, I can take a stand for peace and nonviolence every day. I can show my convictions in the small things I do each day. Respecting my parents is promoting peace. Helping out with chores in my house and avoiding conflict with my sister are definite ways to promote peace. At school, the way I interact with my peers will influence the younger students in our school. I can also show interest and support the local organizations in my community that work for peace: our local police officers, AA, and other organizations that work towards bringing peace to those who are trapped in a cycle of violence. Even though our efforts might seem small and insignificant, we are actively working for peace.

As we strive for peace, we must remember how important forgiveness is. When we forgive, we can learn to trust. Every little block of peace will help build the foundation for future generations.

Thanks to the Maryknoll Society for running the 2017 Recognizing Violence and Promoting Peace essay contest. Their efforts for peace and reconciliation should be applauded. Find out about Maryknoll and read the other winning essays here.


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  • As mother Teressa says '' Peace begins with a smile. Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of Love. We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do'' Thanks dear sister Riva.