Peace on Earth: One Small Act at a Time

Violence and hatred seem to dominate headline stories reported from city streets, houses of worship, schools, and playgrounds: the acts of madmen, bigots, and extremists. But they do not tell us the whole story, and they are not the only news. On October 2, 2014, Ellen Degeneres introduced an inspiring family to her NBC audience. A firefighter from Pittsburgh, PA, was diagnosed with ALS seven years ago. Since he had to stop working, other firefighters from Matt Onyshko’s department have been volunteering to work extra shifts so that he has never had to go without a paycheck to support his family. The most amazing thing about this story is that all the firefighters who talk about it describe their selfless acts as gifts they have received. They say it is an honor to do this for Matt because he is an inspiration. “… what he has been through …” one said, “This guy is my hero. He makes me cheer up when I’m sad.” [Watch the segment Hero Firefighters and Their Emotional Story, Ellen: The Ellen Degeneres Show, NBC, 02.Oct.2014.]

And on December 19, 2014, NPR’s StoryCorps shared the memories of Col. Harry Shoup’s three adult children, who explained how the U.S. military first began tracking the flight of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. It began with a misprint in an ad in December 1955. At the height of the Cold War, this very important, appropriately serious military officer had two phones on his desk – one of them red. The number to ring the red phone was known by only one other person – a four-star general at the Pentagon. But the course of Col. Shoup’s life was changed with the first call from the first little boy who asked if he was speaking to Santa. [Listen or read NORAD’s Santa Tracker Began With a Typo and a Good Sport,, 19.Dec.2014.]

When he was in his 90s, Col. Shoup was most proud of the people he had made happy in his life. The Pittsburgh firefighters see every day in the life of Matt Onyshko, as a blessing in their lives. At this time of year in particular, it is customary to offer wishes for peace on Earth. But the wish is feeble if we do not share in the work it takes to bring about peace and, perhaps, a little joy. It really takes so little effort to spread some joy. This year, let us come together in our commonality, instead of being further divided by our differences. There are many the world over who believe in the power of prayer, although our prayers are heard by One envisioned in a myriad of forms, and called upon by different names. Whatever your belief, may your wishes become prayers, and your prayers become acts of kindness at every opportunity. Peace on Earth is achievable only if it spreads as a grassroots movement.


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