Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Peace and Preparedness In the 1880s the great black educator, Booker T. Washington, was an advocate for peace and against useless conflict. Once, as he walked past the mansion of a wealthy Alabama plantation owner, he demonstrated his commitment to peace. The white lady of the house didn’t know Professor Washington by sight. As he strolled by, she yelled out to him to “chop some firewood”. Washington understood her mistake, yet he took off his coat, grabbed an ax and proceeded to cut a pile of wood. As he carried the wood to the lady’s kitchen (per instruction) he smiled pleasantly at the woman. He then went on his way. After he had disappeared, one of her servants told her mistress, “That was Professor Washington.” The woman of the house felt horrible and deeply embarrassed by her error. Thus, she went the following day to Professor Washington’s office to apologize. Washington responded to her admission of guilt with grace. “It is entirely all right, madam. I like to work and I’m delighted to do favors for my friends.” Washington’s poise and dignity in a potentially humiliating situation created a true friend for him, as this woman graciously supported him for many years and ultimately raised thousands of dollars for his Tuskegee Institute. We can all learn to respond to conflict with the same artistic efficiency as Washington. To do this we must have a strong desire to experience and express peace in our lives and harmony in our relationships. Plus, we must be willing to discipline our egos so that when opportunities for discourse arise, we can be fully present and prepared. This discipline requires that we examine our need “to be right”, to have the last word, and to choose to be offended over small matters that don’t necessarily matter. Daily our words and actions state our preference for peace or strife. What signals are you putting forth? Are your actions consistent with your desires? Author, Jerry Jampolsky states this principle of choice well. “Would you rather be right or happy?”

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