I was a pretty angry kid. Not a get-in-a-lot-of-fights kind of angry, but angry nonetheless. The world felt unfair to me. Adults often let me down or were dismissive of my ideas. I attended a large high school in the Midwest at a time when students with disabilities – students who talked differently or walked differently or spoke differently were no longer being kept in separate classrooms but joining the rest of the school for many of the daily activities – gym, lunch, health class. And often, because they were different, these students were tormented, made fun of, and bullied. This made me even angrier.
A group of us organized to change this. We held workshops and trainings. We brought in speakers and held fundraisers. Most importantly, we organized ourselves to intervene when bad things happened in the cafeteria or hallway. It made a difference. Not because the principal or teachers made a new rule but because we changed the culture of our school, student to student.
When I was 18 I worked with a group of teenagers to help other young people create their own projects to make their schools or neighborhoods safer, kinder, better. Now, 25 years later, the group – Peace First – has supported young people all over the world to be brave, kind, and collaborative. And we have learned about how young people can change the world for the better – not someday, but right now – through choices they make every day.
There is a parable which is often credited to the Cherokee people about a grandfather and his grandson. A child approaches his grandfather who is visibly upset. “Grandfather,” he asks, “what is wrong?” “My son,” the grandfather replies, “I feel like I have these two wolves fighting inside of me. One wolf is vengeful, angry, and violent. The other wolf is loving, peaceful, and kind. They are at war inside my spirit.” The grandson thinks about this for a moment then, turning to his grandfather he asks, “Which of these two wolves do you think will win, grandfather?” To which the grandfather replies, “Whichever wolf I choose to feed.”
I want you to feed the good in yourselves and in the world