Chapter 8
 

Acknowledgements
Preface
Foreword
Introduction
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
References

Finding Personal Peace

If we can create peace in our lives and communities then we will be able to work together to build a better world. But it begins with us and our commitment to finding peace with ourselves.

Read children's stories:   Activity 11   Activity 12   Activity 13  

Peace is something that we all need to own and take responsibility for creating if only in our own lives. It is not just the responsibility of the American Armed Forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Australian Peace Keeping Forces in East Timor or the Solomon Islands to create world peace. Peace, even world peace, begins with us in our own communities. The problems arising from the present world unrest and the threat of terrorism do not entirely belong to the Middle East. Peace is just as important to create in our own lives as it is for the Iraqis, Afghanis, the East Timorese or any community throughout the world. We are all interconnected.

Peace relies upon everyone seeking happiness in every minute of every day. Begin exploring this understanding by revisiting the legendary story of King Midas with children.

“King Midas and the Golden Touch” by Charlotte Craft and

illustrated by K Y Craft  

(Harper Collins Publishers 1999)

This story presents an interesting version about the legend of King Midas. Midas was the most important king of Phrygia. He has appeared in many legends written by both Greek and Roman authors. He may not have been very wise. But, as the legend goes, he did rescue a drunken Silenus, the favourite companion of Dionysos. Dionysos wanted to thank Midas for treating his companion well. So he granted Midas one wish. Midas chose, despite the advice of Dionysos, the ability of changing everything in gold by a simple touch, a gift Midas thought would certainly make him happy.

Midas proudly went around his palace and changed everything he touched into gold, including his palace gates, believing his gift was a good one. But soon he became hungry and thirsty but unfortunately everything including his food, drink and his much beloved daughter changed into gold before him. His servants tried to feed him but this didn’t help. Appreciating by this time his wish may not have been the wisest one he could have chosen, Midas pleaded with Dionysos to return his life to normal. Fortunately for Midas, Dionysos cured him.

Critical questions to explore with children

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Why did the stranger want to reward Midas?

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What did Midas wish for?

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What did Midas do with his gift?

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What unfortunately happened that distressed Midas?

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What did Midas wish for a second time?

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Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

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What kind of king was Midas?

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What gift would you wish for?

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What gift would you grant for the world’s people?

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Why is gold so highly valued?

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How could Midas have kept his gift and created good with it?

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How else could the story have ended with win-win?

This powerful story about greed when it was shared with year 6 students, inspired them to create their own stories. But they chose to create different stories, not ones about about greed. They examined what might be the sources of personal happiness in their stories. They chose very special gifts, ones that could make the world a better place. Their stories had happy endings as well.

Activity 11- Context: RAVE topic What makes us happy? Year 6

Task: to create a story similar in plot to the story of King Midas but one that explores the use of a gift that can dramatically even magically make the world a better and happier place. The story needs to have a happy ending in which everyone benefits from the gift.

read Jessica's story

Jessica presented her view of happiness as being dependent upon peace prevailing in the land. Her understanding about the power of a touch of peace so simply demonstrated her appreciation that peace, at all levels, begins with each of us.

read Prudence's story

Pru powerfully presented her understanding that good health not only physical but emotional as well, is the foundation to happiness in this very emotive story.

read Caitlyn's story

Caitlin believed friendship was the basis of peace and personal happiness. Caitlin seemed to express her own personal wish for such a gift as well to help her resolve peacefully her problems with friends.

read Stephanie's story

Stephanie’s magical use of language and her ability to weave storylines imparting quite profound messages for someone aged only eleven, revealed her very deep appreciation for the things that really matter in life, especially those things that provided the source of happiness.

read William's story

William’s story was constructed in a different situation. His story evolved as part of a Studies of Asia: Vietnam assignment. He chose the story of Midas as he had remembered the story sharing that was done when he was in year 4 with another group of children. He enjoyed being playful with the plot, knowing his task was to set the story in Vietnam. His theme remained consistent with the original Midas story

Using peace-building symbols

The following activity was planned for the International Day of Peace. It was part of a whole day’s celebration that included creating a mosaic of a dove and painting peace posters.

Activity 12- Context: Year 6 and year 3 students peer support programme

Task: choosing one of three story starters to use as an introduction to a story about a overcoming a stressful situation such as being lost or a bad nightmare. The story needs to end happily and detail of the stressful event needs to be limited to only the necessary information required to create a context for the story.

The peer group activity involved:

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teacher explored with all children the significance and history of the dove symbol and its relation to peace before they began painting peace posters together and creating the mosaics

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teacher safely exploring year 6 students’ experiences that may have been stressful discussing feelings and especially the overwhelming fear and what were the consequences

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peer partners sharing any previous stressful experiences and year 6 students using year 3 students' input to assist in the structuring of the plot

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year 6 students typing first draft

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peer partners together editing the first story draft and deciding on changes to plot and especially the ending that may be required

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year 6 students editing each others’ stories and making suggestions for changes of plot while focussing upon happy endings

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year 3 students reading second drafts and negotiating any further plot changes

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final type up and publishing by year 6 students

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peer partners drawing picture together on final copy

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stories shared between the classes on Peace Day
 

Dove Song

Memories of that day still haunt me. Even though it happened many years ago, when I was a very small child, I can still recall everything. But the one memory that lingers the most is the one of the dove and the song it sung. I found my peace as the melody floated around me in the gentle breeze that blew off the ocean. I was distraught but the melody calmed me and helped me remain strong.


Night Flight

Dreams can be scary and frighten the life out of you. I can dream of monsters and savage beasts but lately I have had different dreams. White feathers fall on my nose and gentle birds fly about my room. I can feel the air move as they flutter past my sleeping head lying on the pillow. I wake up expecting to still see the doves as they seem so real in my dreams. But one night I dreamt……


Feathers and Friends

There have been times when I have felt alone. I felt as though I had no friends left then. I felt they had found new friends and no longer wanted to spend time with me. One summer morning, as I lay back on the grass in our garden, I looked up towards the sky. Clouds swirled and tossed above me. I imagined white doves soaring on high, darting in and about the soft white feathery tuffs that hung in the sky. A cool summer breeze gently tickled my nose. Suddenly, alongside me, was……

 


Catherine related a familiar story, one we can all connect to. Amazingly she wove the doves into her retelling cleverly detailing the events, hinting at distress but not allowing the reader to fall into despair. Suddenly her rescue lifted her spirits and ours as we are also able to connect a happy ending with the dove’s appearance.

read Catherine's story

Susannah’s mastery of language allowed her to choose just enough and the right words to develop her story. Her distress was related to more universal frustrations revealing her level of understanding for world issues and how they affected her happiness and future life. Again the power of dreaming has surfaced.

read Susannah's story

Sophie’s pain and frustration due to friendships not being what she would like them to be were revealed in her piece of writing. Many emotions were unravelled, some revealing her confusion while others uncovered a deeper meaning underlying her struggles.

read Sophie's story

read Kelsey's story

Editing comment by one student after reading Kelsey’s story:

"I like the way that at the start you were imagining something then at the end you have the dove putting you to sleep. Also I liked the way that all of your friends had smiley faces. I changed hate to dislike because that is a better way to say it."

This exercise revealed the students’ ability to clarify and identify their feelings at a surprisingly mature and intimate level. The sharing of stories that followed awakened each of them to the sensitive spirit that dwelt within them. Even the year 3 children responded positively to the sharing and identified similar situations in which they had found themselves. Despite the trauma experienced the prevailing sense that all will be well had endured. Each student revealed their own personal meaning for peace.

Stories about finding peace

Tolstoy’s green stick symbolism was presented in the previous chapter. The following retelling of one of Tolstoy’s original stories further explores the meaning of personal happiness.

“The Three Questions” by Jon J Muth

(Scholastic Press NY 2002)

In this story many of Tolstoy’s timeless messages are delivered similarly to those in many of his more mature writings. But in this book Jon Muth has simply interpreted Tolstoy's intentions and captured the true essence in relation to his understandings about the meaning of life. He explored the answers to three basic questions, we all tend to ask, at some time in our lives. This amazing story is one for all ages to enjoy and share together and it contains many other significant peace-building elements.

Nikolai was uncertain and needed to find answers to his burning questions. First he asked his friends, who as friends always do, happily gave their advice. Still dissatisfied Nikolai decided to ask the oldest and wisest of his friends, but it was not until Nikolai helped someone in need did he truly appreciate the meaning of his friend's words.

Critical questions to explore with children

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What did Nikolai want to be?

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What were the three questions he wanted his friends to help answer?

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Who did Nikolai finally choose to ask for help?

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What did Nikolai hear as he moved towards shelter from the storm?

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What did the panda ask Nikolai?

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What did Nikolai learn from the turtle?

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Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

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Why do you think Nikolai asked his animals friends the questions?

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How do good people behave?

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Which animal do you think would be the wisest of all the animals?

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Why was the wise old turtle proud of Nikolai?

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What questions would you ask the wise old turtle?

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How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Peace is a very special gift, one we can actually give ourselves. Teresa Hsu, the wonderful peacemaker responsible for the development of the Heart to Heart Foundation in Singapore, possessed some very simple beliefs. Teresa believed there are three important pathways to peace:

have no regrets
mind your own business
and serve others

Teresa continued to find peace by serving others.

In "The Precious Present" by Spencer Johnson MD (Exley Publications 1985) a similar theme is presented. Do the best you can in this moment is the message. So often we can get lost in our yesterdays or overwhelmed by the uncertainties of our tomorrows. Peace belongs in the precious present.

These wonderful stories remind us of the importance establishing personal peace before we seek it for others.

Exploring the things that really matter

For every child there exists many things that really matter. Life tends to lose any meaning without them. The following activity helps children safely explore their deeper level emotions.

Activity 13- Context: Year 6 and year 3 students peer support programme

Task: reconstructing a peace-building story that explores similar themes to those of the Velveteen Rabbit. The story needs to end happily and involve a loved cuddly toy that your peer support partner possesses.
The peer group activity involved:

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teacher exploring year 6 students’ experiences and discussing their own personal feelings about special toys they have loved

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teacher read story to both year 6 and year 3 students

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peer partners spend time discussing the toy to be used in the story and the sequence of events that their story will entail

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typing first draft together

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peer partners together editing the first story draft and deciding on changes to plot and especially the ending that may be required

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year 6 students editing each others’ stories and making suggestions for changes of plot while focussing upon happy endings

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year 3 students reading second drafts and negotiating any further plot changes

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final type up and publishing by year 6 students

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peer partners drawing picture together on final copy

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 stories shared between the classes

“The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams

(HarperCollins Sydney 1996, first published in 1922 by Vermillion USA)

(The particular edition used was beautifully illustrated by Donna Green as the illustrations certainly assisted in imparting the story.)

This timeless story for all ages to enjoy and share together contains many of the defined peace-building elements but especially is an exploration into the meaning of love.

The story, though, is particularly about the meaning of life, and what is important. The Velveteen Rabbit learnt what it means to become real. By being loved by a small boy and becoming shabby and dirty as a result, the toy earned his right to become real, yet as the story unfolded, we learnt there was more involved with becoming real than the rabbit first was aware. Unlike many of his nursery companions, who had springs and working parts, the rabbit had no hind legs, so when he was presented with the opportunity to run about like other rabbits did, he feared he was unable to do so. But being loved by the boy as much as the rabbit was allowed for some incredible magic to occur.
 

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.

“Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”

‘Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,“ he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,“ said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally by the time you are Real, Most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

The happy ending in this story is especially heart-warming. The Velveteen Rabbit lived happily ever after once he became real. The boy became an adult yet never forgot his special rabbit. The rabbit learned to appreciate that becoming real can take a lifetime, and it did involve getting hurt. Becoming real doesn't happen to people who "break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept." One must endure and be patient. A child's love makes us real.

Critical questions to explore with children

bullet Which toy did the small boy treasure the most?
bullet What questions did the rabbit ask the Skin Horse?
bullet What happened to the boy?
bullet What did the boy’s nana choose to do?
bullet Did the rabbit become real?
bullet Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

bullet Do you have toys you treasure?
bullet How did you feel when you lost one that you really treasured?
bullet When you were very small did you talk to your toys?
bullet What do you think makes someone REAL?
bullet What things change the most as you grow older?
bullet How else could the story have ended with win-win?

read Stephanie's and Imogen's story

Stephanie and Imogen have cleverly mixed the imaginary world of fairies and pixies with the real world in their story plot and have similarly captured the essence of the Velveteen Rabbit’s awakening to what it means to become real.

read Dana's and Prudence's story

Dana and Prudence also creatively and sensitively crafted a beautiful story that mirrored the Velveteen Rabbit’s journey.

Another story about finding peace

Some stories are so beautifully crafted that they could be read over and over again. The following story is certainly within that category.

“Mole Music” written by David McPhail

(Henry Holt and Co New York 1999)

In this very magical and uplifting story the reader was invited to believe we all have a special gift worth sharing. But Mole's gift of music, when it was shared with others, transformed the world. This story is for all ages to enjoy and share together contains many peace-building elements:

Quietly and peacefully, in his underground tunnel, Mole tirelessly practised and perfected his violin playing. Unbeknown to him, as his notes drifted into the evening air, these transformative and magical notes changed the people in the world living above Mole's tunnel.

"He even imagined that his music could reach into people's hearts and melt away their anger and sadness. Why, maybe his music could even change the world!"

Maria Montessori believed all children are born with a special gift to share with the world. Colin Turnbull referred to the healing music that was sung and played by the forest pygmies. It was called molimo. The healing music healed the forest which then in turn healed its inhabitants. Peace-building storytelling is always molimo.

At the end of 'Mole Music' our hero finds his own personal peace...

and dreams beautiful peaceful dreams.

Critical questions to explore with children

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What did Mole believe?

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What did he decide to do?

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Did Mole persevere with learning how to play the violin?

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What did Mole imagine himself doing?

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Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

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What do you enjoy doing the most?

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Is there anything you would like to learn how to do?

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Would you like to live underground like a mole does?

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What don’t you enjoy doing?

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What things do you have to do each day?

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How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Reflecting

Peace-building relies upon each peace-builder responding to others from a place of peace. Finding that place is not always easy to do and every person’s definition is different. A place of peace is a happy place, a place of contentment, a place in which all is well. Taking children on guided meditations can assist them in finding that place if they cannot define it for themselves. Author Maureen Garth has written many books on meditations for children.

(See References)

 

 

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