I have just completed back-to-school shopping, which this year included getting glue sticks for my kids’ classrooms. First and second-graders go through kind of a lot of glue, and as I was unpacking a delivery box of about a million glue sticks, one of my sons came up, made big eyes and said “WHAT? How many glue sticks do we need???” to which I replied “Well, you know what, you can never have too much glue”. That’s probably not actually true in regards to physical glue, but there is, however, another kind that you can never have too much of.
At our wedding, the minister quoted U2’s Staring at the Sun, saying “There will be hard times ahead, but God’s glue, love, will help you stick together”. I thought that was beautiful. Whether or not you believe in a higher power, I’m sure you can agree that love is what keeps us together, in families, in communities, and as a world. And I am also pretty sure that you can also agree we need boxloads of it.
Today is world peace day, and to me peace, true peace, is love on a wider scale. It is safety, respect, equality, compassion, and freedom. The bad news is that these are all fragile things, which will inevitably get cracks, but the good news is that with enough glue, we can put them together again.
Another back-to-school activity for me is to help getting the art supplies for this year ready. Being in the art room, smelling the paint and looking at the master pieces the children will learn about, I realized that humanity actually has two kinds of glue: Love, and art. Most of us will never learn to love every single person on this planet, we will only truly love those in our immediate proximity, those whose stories we know. But that circle can get wider, through art. We might read an author, listen to a musician, a passionate speaker, view works of an artist, and over years of paying attention to a person whom we will never meet, we do learn to love them. Because they share their stories.
We learn of the stories of others in more ways, of course. Our compassion for victims of natural disasters, wars or persecution doesn’t come from cold, hard numbers, it comes from stories about individuals, or pictures of individuals. Any news team will try to interview survivors, bereaved families, first responders, people who can share their stories of what happened, because that’s how we connect. Story telling, sharing your truth, be it through talking, writing, painting, whatever expression you have, makes the world smaller, and glues us together.
So tell your story, and listen to the stories of others. In particular – find stories of people you don’t understand, people you fear, and try to see their humanity. The only way for leaders with malicious intent to stay in power is to keep us apart; to make us fear each other, to take away our glue sticks. But you can fight this. Be the one who keeps handing out new glue sticks! Keep loving, keep telling your story, keep listening to others. And if you have to – shout your words, listen harder, read more, love more.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with you.