“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me.”

These opening words to an old song popped into my head immediately when I visited May River Montessori school recently for their Pinwheels for Peace ceremony. Dozens of children, ages 2 to 15, had created and colored simple pinwheels with the help of their teachers and were celebrating – albeit belatedly – World Peace Day by “planting” them in the schoolyard.

The smallest of children caught my eye. Did they have any idea what they were doing? What does a 2-year-old know about peace?

Turns out, the teachers in each classroom had had discussions with their students in the weeks prior. (See story in this issue.) Talks were suitable for each age group. For a 2-year-old, peace might mean playing together with fussing.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me.”

International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981. It is celebrated globally on Sept. 21 each year. It is a day “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.”

In towns and cities around the world, where missiles explode on villages and enemies fight one another with automatic weapons, this mission of a cease-fire can be taken quite literally.

In the Lowcountry of South Carolina, at May River Montessori, the mission included thoughtful and inclusive discussions about the meaning of “peace,” how to experience it, and how to share it.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me.”

What comes to mind when you think about peace? As a child of the ’60s, my thoughts go immediately to the peace sign, the peace gesture, and the peace marches that were popular then. “No more war,” the young people shouted. “We want peace in the world.”

Some of those promoting peace turned into anti-war protestors, and some of those became violent. Quite a contradiction, wasn’t it?

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me.”

Peace can also be a personal thing. We strive for inner peace, when all the bothersome concerns of daily life seem to have subsided for a bit.

It’s when our very soul is comforted, whether by physical deep breathing and relaxation, or our minds are clear of negative thoughts and open to all things positive.

(Side note here: Before I sat down to finish this missive that I began writing a few days ago, I flipped through a few posts on Facebook. At the top of my newsfeed was a piece of art that my husband Amos had posted. It was one of his small originals, titled, very simply, “Peace.” That’s the image you see here.

He had no idea what I was writing about – in fact, he won’t know until he reads it in the newspaper. But I found it refreshing that our minds were hovering around the same topic.)

I’m not sure how we as individuals, or as friends, or as a town or state, can inspire a change as huge as world peace. That’s a pretty tall order, considering that some of us can’t even be civil on social media.

But I do know that we won’t get too far until we have figured out how to be kind and compassionate to others ¬– all the time.

Maybe we should pay attention to the children. And maybe it’s as simple as the song says: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin in me.”