Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Are you sick and tired of all the news about people killing other people because of whatever misguided excuse they have for doing that? Me too. Do you feel helpless to do anything to turn the tide away from yet more violence and vitriol? Me too. Do you wonder if there is anything a mere mortal can do about it? Me too.

It seems our leaders – both elected and selected by virtue of their fame and notoriety – are powerless to make any real progress toward calming things down. Opinions sprout on Facebook faster than dandelions take over northern lawns in the spring. Who can bring about an end to this tidal wave of bloodshed on our city streets, in our places of worship, in our schools, movie theaters, and at our public events? Who? I don’t know.

But I have an idea. It’s simple. It may not change the world, but it will change the mood. At least it changes my mood, and then we have one less despondent person wandering around. It changes my mood from one of despair to one of hope, because I am doing something constructive. And I believe in some small way it is making life just a little better.

The idea started when our church posted a message on the sign board wishing our Muslim neighbors blessed Ramadan. People from around the responded to that one simple sentence. They responded on Facebook, via e-mails to the church, phone calls to our pastor, and drop-in visits to the church. The vast majority of the responders were grateful to see a sentiment of good will. In a way it’s tragic how little kindness to takes to make such a huge impact because it’s indicative how starved we are for a little kindness these days. On the other hand, it’s encouraging how little effort it takes to make to have a huge, positive impact. Such efforts probably won’t make the headlines. But the people who receive them will appreciate them and pass them on.

So, here’s the idea. Read books by authors from cultures different than your own. Then write a review about the book on Amazon, assuming you’ll write a positive review. If you disagree with the author, may I, as an author myself, humbly suggest you share your opinions politely and privately with the author. We have an ample supply of negativity on social media. Almost all authors these days have websites where you can send them a private message.

Why, you may ask? Why bother? What good will that do? Well, for starters you will know more now than you used to about whatever culture you read about. Assuming you talk about what you read with other book-lovers, you’ll also be educating them.  The more we understand about each other, the less likely we are to want to annihilate one another.

Additionally, you’ll be encouraging the authors. They will be informed that you have reviewed their book. There, you just made the day for someone from a different-than-your-own culture. Good for you. In the electronic era numbers matter a great deal. More book reviews mean higher placement on search engines, which also means more credibility with people who promote and sell books. You’re helping starving artists. That is ultimately good for the economy. See, how little effort it takes to get the ball rolling the right direction? Plus, isn’t it more pleasant to be curled up reading a good book than digesting endless replays of the latest horror?

Additionally, by publicly promoting the work of people of a different culture than your own, you’re sowing seeds of hope and peace. Here are my two most recent reading and reviewing endeavors to promote peace. You’ll find my reviews on Amazon.

1) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (Don’t let the last name fool you. His ancestors changed their very Asian-sounding last name to Ford in their eagerness to become Americans asap after immigrating from China). It’s the tale of two young teens whose friendship is torn apart when the Japanese friend’s family is sent to an internment camp.
2) Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan by Saadia Faruqi. I met Saadia Faruqi while doing an article about Lutherans and Muslims of Houston working together to foster mutual understanding and respect. This one is a series of short stories about life in Pakistan. It is very well written and will give you great insights into the Pakistan that isn’t covered in the news.

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