Peace, the little acts that help build peace in everyday life, often go unnoticed, we ignore them, don’t see them, but they are there, so much so that when we take the time to really observe, we see they are as clear as day.
We had a glimpse of this one day when we were in a fancy restaurant in Bogota, in an exclusive neighbourhood in the north of the city, full of fine restaurants that are frequented by high status professionals seeking gourmet food; in other words, the kind of people who go there are “well turned out”.
Suddenly an elderly lady appears at the door, dressed in the clothes of a poor person, looking sad and desolate. She earns her money by begging. From the door she asks for a bowl of soup. Just inside the restaurant, a woman who is sitting with her friend, sees the lady and observes how the waiter doesn’t even notice her. After a while she asks again for a bowl of soup, but she’s not rude about it. The waiter brings her some soup out in a plastic container, like the kind used for take away orders.
The woman who is sitting at the table and enjoying her lunch smiles broadly at the lady and beckons her over to the table. With a characteristic gesture she calls the waiter and while he brings another chair over to the table, she asks him to bring some soup in a proper bowl. He does just this.
Many of the customers observe the scene, some indifferent, and others pleased by the generosity of these women, who happily shared their table and their conversation with the lady. Interestingly enough, no one protested, which, perhaps a few years ago, would have been a very common reaction.
This story is an act of justice, justice that comes from a place of love, existential brotherhood and solidarity. Dignity being restored in a moment in time, this really is peace work, an everyday kind of effort. We must be clear about being respectful towards all human beings, who deserve to be happy, we must be aware that we all have the power to contribute to the happiness of others and that injustice itself means that we, on some level bear shared responsibility.
We are sure that more than one person learnt something from this simple yet heartfelt human act, in a society that is slowly overcoming exclusive social discrimination. When are we giving peace and when are we taking it away?