Hate your neighbor

Peace and Friendship. Those are the goals of the Peace Corps. Wonderful goals.

And you know what else is wonderful? Rainbows and puppy dogs. They make a pretty scene, spread out before you as the sun dances upon little raindrops falling from clouds now parting.

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day in the Peace Corps.

It’s easy to get lost in the ideals. It’s easy to say you’re not going to deal with all the hard stuff, all the stuff that’s real. It’s easier to just instagram the day brighter, untag the upshot, tweet about your puppy dog.

And oftentimes you need that—the world needs that—needs a break from the reality of itself.

IMG_9073All the neighbors’ pretty horses

Ok, so the world has problems, but you’re going to fix them. Lead another training. Hold an intervention. Be the mediator. Paint a mural of the world and all the people, holding hands and singing sweet harmonies for all to dance upon in peace and friendship.

But reality is, you can’t always fix it. In fact, most of the time you won’t. People can’t always get along. People won’t always get along. You’d be crazy to expect otherwise. You have to accept that some individuals and some individual groups are not going to like each other and never will. Should we work for mediated peace or mutual understanding? Of course. But in all our efforts the success rate isn’t one-hundred percent. Talks break down. Negotiations fail. Wars break out.

There are only two prerequisites for groups to hate each other: they’re a) different, and b) right next to each other. That’s it. Those are the only two ingredients in the recipe for not getting along. It doesn’t take a history of violence, it doesn’t take premeditated offence; there’s usually no root of the problem to go back to. They simply will not agree to mutually exist in the same place together.

You see it on the news. You read about it in a magazine. One-million Syrian refugees have poured into Turkey. But until you’re staring across the table, sharing a Burger King meal at the airport in Istanbul with a young man from Syria, his house bombed, his father killed in the crossfire, his sister and mother surviving day to day in a tent camp in Jordan, he sleeping nights in internet cafes as he searches for work—until that moment it’s all statistics and talking heads playing he said she said. Until that moment you wonder why they can’t just get along.

That’s the moment you realize there is no longer the question “why?” That it doesn’t matter the reason. Hell, that the reason we’re all left reeling is because there is no reason. The only thing to do is buy him a burger, to lead another training, hold an intervention, be a mediator.

Or pack an emergency box or write an e-mail or host an exchange student and you realize, you only have you, only have your little sphere of influence, your little bubble where you’re going to decide to do more good than harm, to leave your world a little better than when you arrived.

You can argue the strategy. But don’t tell me the world needs less of that. Needs less of what the Peace Corps Volunteers are doing. Just get to work. Change—movement in a new direction—it’s the only thing that can chip at the walls of hate built so long and so high between neighbors.


What things can you do to make your world a better place?

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