A smarter man than me


I often describe A Peace of My Mind’s process and development as a walk down a foggy path…where you can see two steps ahead, but not much more. Look any farther, and the path disappears into a murky mist and the destination is uncertain. But, if you commit to walking those two steps, more of the path is revealed. Not much…but enough to keep going.

During A Peace of My Mind’s early days, I knew I was on a good path. I was certain I wanted to be on it, but I wasn’t quite sure where it would lead. Maybe a smarter person could have done this quicker. Maybe a wiser soul wouldn’t have tripped on the same obstacles I did. But, we do what we can, and I am certain this journey has unfolded as it should.

Somewhere, a couple years back, the fog started to lift. I saw how these stories fit into the world…the way they impact people and can encourage new beginnings. I began to understand where there is an appetite for these conversations and how to engage a community for a day or a week, in a way that feels like impact and purpose.

2018 is off to a busy start, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. In these first few weeks of the new year, I have driven 5,000 miles, installed exhibits in six states, and led programming at a dozen venues. I am equal parts excited, inspired, and to be honest, tired.

Tomorrow I head out again, this time to Memphis and Boston. As I begin the second leg of this year’s tour, here are some of the things I’ve learned.

People are hungry for connection. Everywhere I go, people are looking for ways to build connections, start dialogues, bridge divides, and learn new ways of supporting one another.

People want to be heard. We don’t need the answers right now. We just need to feel like we are being heard. To say to someone, “I hear you…I see you,” is a powerful place to begin and starts to heal many wounds.

We all have blind spots. We get so enclosed in our bubbles that we have trouble imagining a different experience. Soon enough, we don’t even know what we don’t know. Bubbles are lovely…but don’t get stuck in one.

We are all wounded. It’s not a competition. I may not know your pain, but I know what it’s like to have some. If we can recognize that pain, it tends to soften us to others’ pain and is the start of compassion.

We are better together. There is richness in connection. And there is beauty in reconciliation.

Below are some of the stories we have gathered when we set up studios across the country to gather stories. The questions can vary, but the process is the same. Listen. Just listen.

This is a great way for people to articulate their mission and vision. To claim their values in a tangible way in a world that is often shifting.

Thiel College: What does peace mean to you?

UPENN: How will you work toward peace and justice in the coming year?

St. Joseph’s University: What is the unique opportunity or challenge of talking about race at this moment in history?

University of North Dakota: How do you work for justice and peace?

When I share these stories back to the community, I always close with the same line of gratitude…”you are wise and you are beautiful.” And it’s true…the same wisdom and beauty is all around us…if we choose to listen.

Final lesson of the day…Small words create huge ripples. On the days when I am tired…when I miss my friends and family and wonder what I’m doing, I will sometimes go back and read some of the kind words people have about the project. This one came in just today from a person in Grand Forks:

“A Peace of My Mind restored my faith in humanity and my hope for justice.”

That’s not bad. That’ll keep me going for a while.

2 thoughts on “A smarter man than me

  1. John,
    This is amazing work you are doing. The honesty of it is so beautiful.
    Shows the beauty and pain of being human…
    And how it is all so meaningful when we make those connections with others.
    You are spreading peace which in turn leads to healing.
    Thank you,

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