Peace: for me, it’s the most important value of all.
It includes many others, and it’s the foundation upon which I build my life.
Yesterday, I received a surprise box of flowers. My husband was with me as I opened the box. He asked jokingly if I was sure I wanted to open the box in front of him. I didn’t know who they were from – no idea at all – but I did know they weren’t from anyone I had been up to no good with!
They were from my sister. The card read: ‘To my beautiful sister. This is just a small token of my appreciation in everything you do for me, and how much you care. I don’t know what I would do without you. Love you to bits and see you soon.’
When we were little, my sister and I fought like cat and dog. When I was little, I was not at peace within myself and my world was not a peaceful one. I was an unhappy, fearful child. As I grew older, I was not at peace in my teenage years, and my world was not a peaceful one. I was in a miserable, unconfident and needy teenager.
I began to be able to feel more at peace and started to discover that there was a better ‘me’ once I left home, and went ‘up north’ to Scarborough (very far away from home) to train as a teacher. I got my first teaching job in Leeds, made some really good friends and was embraced into some wonderful Yorkshire families. I still love these people and visit after 30 years. At that time, I was finding peace in my life and I was starting to find me. A nice person, a good friend, a passionate teacher. I loved my new Yorkshire family – but circumstances meant I had to come back down south after a my NQT year.
Happily, shortly after I returned, I met the man who would become my husband, providing more love and peace in my life (we still have this love and peace after 32 years together). I had wonderful work, I was learning to be the best teacher I could be – and I was continuing the slow process of discovering the real ‘me’ inside.
Out of the blue, I met and started to practice Buddhism and things really started to make sense. The very first of ten elements of our Buddhist ‘charter’ is: ‘we shall contribute to peace, culture and education for the happiness and welfare of all humanity based on Buddhist respect for the sanctity of life.’ The whole charter matched what I knew in my heart to be true – and this was a significant turning point in my life.
I really started to make sense of myself. I began to define my purpose, and to start to work for peace for myself, for others, and for the world. Eventually, I became a head teacher, and worked with my whole school community to create a school culture based on positive human values. We had the privilege of working with Dr. Neil Hawkes, the founder of Values-based Education and we transformed our school into a happy, peaceful environment for all. I was so proud when our work as a community was recognised by becoming a ‘Values-based Quality Mark School’ and a ‘Beacon Peaceful School’.
I believe peace is in all of our hearts, but we have to dig deep to find it through the negatives and challenges in life, and through other people’s perceptions of us and in our past and current environments.
I left headship to work harder in the field of Values and Peace Education. I became a professional coach and feel huge privilege in working deeply with wonderful people – ultimately searching for more peace and happiness in their lives.
I also work with closely with Neil and the VbE team, helping schools in this country and overseas focus on positive values, and ultimately become happy, peaceful places of learning for adults and children. As a community, when we focus on a value such as ‘love’, we are building peace in ourselves and in our environment. The same goes for other values such as kindness, courage, compassion, respect, equality, consideration, unity, friendship and so many others.
So, the flowers are a beautiful symbol of the wonderful, loving, caring and peaceful relationship I now have with my amazing sister – and also with my parents. But most of all – with myself.
Thank you to everyone in my life who’s helped me to discover my strong, happy, peaceful self thus far, and I wish you peace and happiness in your journey through life.