By Jim Healy, a Peace Ambassador

I took the Peace Ambassador Training in the spring of 2012.  It  changed my life in several ways, including by putting me in touch with good hearted people from all around the world.  It invited me to focus on peace and some of the elements of life and personal discipline that allow peace to flourish.  The training exposed me to the views and perspectives of others who were simultaneously staring hard at some of the same issues I was considering.  It was helpful to hear from people who had reached a point in their journey where, because of their experience but also because of their skills, they were able to set forth hard-earned templates that had allowed them to put peace into play in their lives and the lives of their communities (local, national, and even international).

The biggest and, for me, the most important concept/notion I took away from my Peace Ambassador Training was the central role the idea/reality of SPACE plays in the building of peace.  I have learned to take the time to focus and breathe, even as confrontation may be happening, and allow myself to remember to be who I am (and not who I might feel like being).  This chosen space then helps me not simply to react, but rather to choose how I will act, and therefore any act I take is a chosen response.  But it turns out that the establishing of that space doesn’t just allow me to focus; rather, it also invites the other party, or parties, in the dance to feel, even if just a little, honored and respected.  The space I created, and put out there, literally allows others to consider, at least for a second, to enter into a communal space where all parties have more of a chance to be their true and best selves, and to act out of love.

I have seen this chosen space work wonders.  When I choose it, my own dignity seems to be automatically asserted and put to the front.  I’ve found that self-dignity, contrary to immediate anger and/or fear, elicits the same self-dignity in others, and has, often, the effect of the parties involved unconsciously taking an important first step towards dignity and a slower response.  Two important ingredients for any peace – dignity and respect – are already being established and, perhaps more importantly, subconsciously acknowledged.  This has got to make for a much better ballgame for all involved.

Jim Healy lives in Centreville, Virginia (northern Virginia, about twenty miles west by northwest from D.C.) with my sweetie, Linda.  He has a great son who is 29. He is the oldest of 9 kids.  Jim is semi-retired, but he will be working 'til I die.  He has been a Jesuit seminarian, a laborer, lawyer, carpenter, waiter, cashier, teacher, and truck driver.  Mostly, he is just a struggling journeyer.

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This article appears in: 2014 Catalyst, Issue 6: Peace Ambassadors for the 21st Century