WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Commentary : Is World Peace Possible?

Aug 3, 2016

Last summer, I left my home in Donnellson, Iowa and traveled around the world, baking pies in 9 countries as a way to promote cultural tolerance. I returned with the intention of writing a book about my experience.

 I already had the title: World PIECE.  But it is hard to write about world peace when you’ve lost your faith in it.

My trip went well enough.

  • I toured apple orchards in New Zealand.
  • I baked 75 pies for the American Embassy’s July 4th celebration in Thailand.
  • I learned how to make pie-like pastries in India.
  • I delivered a dozen pies to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon.
  • I picked blueberries in Germany’s Black Forest to make pie with 10-year-olds.
  • I made pies with a gay couple in Budapest’s bombed out Jewish quarter.
  • I interacted with people all around the globe, weaving my way through a lattice crust of nationalities, religions and races.
  • I made 211 pies and almost as many new friends.
  • I returned safely.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been listening to a lot of news. Bad news from the places where I had been.

  • A bombing in Bangkok.
  • A garbage crisis in Lebanon.
  • The Syrian refugee crisis worsening.
  • Terrorist attacks in France and Belgium. 

In New Zealand, Howard traveled to Hawke’s Bay where she was given a tour of the Yummy Fruit Company’s orchards as well as a tasting session of the many apple varieties, and some apple ciders too. Here, she meets 5th generation owner Paul Paynter.
Credit Beth Howard / www.theworldneedsmorepie.com

Instead of spreading world peace, it was as if I had left only violence in my wake. Add to that the vitriol of the presidential campaign with threats to build walls and ban certain religions from entering the U.S., to divide instead of unite people, and any remaining optimism I had for healing the world evaporated.

Lugging that rolling pin for 30,000 miles was all for nothing.

Or was it?

In my state of disillusionment, I reached out to my Facebook friends, the ones who had cheered me on during my 3-month journey. I asked them, “Do you believe world peace is possible? How do you define peace and what examples do you see of it? What do you do to make the world a better place?”

The responses were plentiful and thoughtful.

  • Limit exposure to news.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Practice kindness and tolerance.
  • Teach children to be good citizens and invest in their education.  
  • Focus on the good.
  • Live with a soft heart.
  • Dig deeper for awareness and understanding of yourself.
  • Choose to think positively.
  • Help others.
  • Talk to your neighbors.
  • Share a smile.
  • Cooperate with those you don’t agree with.
  • Believe in the ripple effect.

Howard visited the Syrian Refugee Camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on the Syrian border. She made a dozen apple pies and delivered them to refugees as a way to show support and provide comfort.
Credit Beth Howard / www.theworldneedsmorepie.com

One woman in Des Moines said, "Each Sunday, at the end of our service, we sing words of John Wesley: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." She believes the inner peace created by these words will lead to world peace.

A bike shop owner in Ottumwa said, “Peace is yin and yang because energy is in constant flow. There is goodness and there is anger. Anger has its place, because oftentimes it is what pushes a change for more goodness.”

Some of the comments included links to videos—of the Dalai Lama, a CNN story on the peaceful kingdom of Bhutan, a TED talk.

There were also links to organizations, such as World Peace is Possible out of the Netherlands, whose website states, “There was peace for 1 percent of the 3,500 years of civilization, so we know it’s possible.”

There is the #IDeclareWorldPeace movement on Twitter. There’s the book, “A Peace of my Mind," which is filled with photographs and interviews. And in Los Angeles, the Global Vision for Peace non-profit is organizing a LiveAid-type concert to be held September 21, the annual date the United Nations has established as World Peace Day

Howard admits that one of the biggest highlights of her trip was bottle feeding a baby kangaroo in Australia.
Credit Beth Howard / www.theworldneedsmorepie.com

  Humans share 99.9% of the same genetic makeup. So why can’t we get along? Why is there not 99.9% peace in the world?

We may try to be good and do good, hardwired for survival, but we are tribal. We are opinionated, power hungry, fearful and hotheaded, with some more prone than others to strap on an explosive vest and detonate it in the middle of a crowd. Still, I want to believe mankind is basically good.

I want to have hope.

One online comment suggested that wanting global piece is too daunting. “You should scale it back,” he said, “and just think about your own world, your own piece of the pie. Each piece put together in harmony can add up to the whole.”

With this in mind, I’ve re-imagined my own view of world peace.

  • It is sleeping soundly next to the man I love, in a country we are blessed to live in.
  • It is doing yoga as the sun rises over the barn.
  • It is walking to the creek to look for wildflowers.
  • It is dropping by my neighbor’s house after his heart surgery and seeing his face light up at my arrival.
  • It is listening to the stories of two 90-something-year-old sisters in my town.

It is about community, people connecting with each other, even if just on Facebook, who lend each other a helping hand, restoring their faith in humanity and, in my case, to push them through their writer’s block.

That last comment was right. It is not about world peace as a whole. It’s about having one little slice of it. And that I have found right where I started: on a farm in Iowa.