Can we all get along?

This Saturday 28 May 2016 is the Rotary's Walk for Peace

Rotary International is starting their annual convention in Seoul, South Korea next week. The event starts with a Rotary Walk for Peace. Peace has a different meaning depending on where you are from and what you have experienced. Before I get too deep into my story telling, you are invited to meet up with us if you are in Seoul on Saturday.

Rotary Walk for Peace

Date 28 MAY (SAT) 2016, 08:00 am – 10:30 pm
Location : Seoul Plaza and Gwanghwamun Square

Official Rotary event details


My vision of peace comes from more than writing this blog or joining a parade. My vision for peace comes from small, consistent actions that bring the community I am living in together.

So, how does a quote from the 1992 Los Angeles riots play into Rotary and peace?

Does quiet define "peace"?

I was in university in downtown Los Angeles when the Los Angeles riots happened. I was just a few weeks from finishing the year. My campus housing was the most peaceful and quiet it had ever been during the riots. No cars driving by, no fraternity brothers singing, no dumpster bins clanging. Nothing could be heard except for the occasional helicopter (mostly the news choppers with a few police copters).

Looking out my window, I could see the National Guard protecting our buildings. These were men and women about my age with large guns. Peaceful was relative.

Why do we self segregate?

Many parts of Los Angeles were segregated when I was living there. People weren’t forced to live with their own race, people chose to live together. The familiarity of people with similar food, jobs (or lack of jobs), education and language seemed to be “safe.” Los Angeles was like a plaid work of “good streets” and “bad streets.”

Our population had self-segregated. We didn’t trust each other. We muttered audible insults or postured to protect our space. I would drive out of my way to avoid “driving through a bad neighborhood”. And, people would hassle me, yell intimidating words at me or glare at me if I “went down the wrong street.” Was there anything I could do?

Johnny Crash singing at the Sunday Arts Markets in Perth

Rotary is one of many solutions

I believe that organizations like Rotary are part of creating peace. Since I was in high school I witnessed how Kiwanis bridged the gap between old and young. In university, I participated in the Pasadena Jr Chamber of Commerce’s annual Secret Santa delivering gifts to kids in poorer neighborhoods in Los Angeles. And, after I moved to Perth Australia, I immersed myself in Rotary projects that brought together generations of people living in the same area.

Showing up every month for the Rotary’s Sunday Arts Market moved me. I heard and saw the old and the young, the city politicians and the Rotarians discuss real activities and commit to actual dates.

Starting in our neighborhoods

The Rotary of Canning Bridge Arts Markets stumbled upon an ecology of connections. Our Rotary Club had partnered with the local Rotaract to apply for a city grant. The idea was to have a group of teenage boys and young men in the city’s urban art (graffiti art) program to give a live demonstration at one of the Arts Markets.

Our Rotaract members sorted the financing. The artists needed prepared panels for the artists to paint on. Our fellow Rotary Clubs mentioned a men’s shed that they had setup. The Bicton Men’s Shed was set up for men to get together and do shop projects. They had a wood shop and metal working tools.

Bicton Men's Shed (Perth Australia)

Can we all get along? Because getting along takes more than words.

The Rotaract members, the Bicton shed members, and the city’s artists were busy coordinating the event — and something happened. The younger generation of artists and the older generation of shed men found a real partnership. The Rotary intended the live graffiti art to be an attraction to bring the public to the Arts Markets. What was really happening is two groups of people who would not have a reason to work together – found more than 1 reason.

Rotary kids tent and parents' rest area
Rotary face painting for the urban artists too
Urban artists with face paint like tigers

Old, young and those in between

There was a real connection between the Shed members and the boys from the urban art program. The boys enjoyed getting their face painted at the kids tent. The Rotary and Rotaract members were awed at the artwork. And, the city was proud to showcase one of their community outreach programs. Many people were anxious that the graffiti would appear on the office and retail buildings, but none did. In fact the owner of the coffee shop contemplated having the boys cover up graffiti on an abandoned billboard on their roof.

Not my problem

Many of us feel helpless as we listen to the news. We think, “It’s not my problem.” Your actions towards peace don’t need to be dangerous, overseas missions.You don’t have to fly to a war zone with the Red Cross to enact peace. And, posting another opinion to your social media feed alone is not what changes communities. There are probably people in your local community who will find peace and purpose by connecting with you. Even if you have kids or you are a student you can give peace.

Join us for the local Walk for Peace or find your local community events or volunteer a couple times a month at the local Red Cross office. Find an active Lyons Club, Rotary Club or Kiwanis Club and try a few different projects.

Shauna paints faces at Canning Bridge Arts Markets

Surround yourself with your community

Let go of the reasons why you cannot come. You can take a break from your studies. You can bring your kids to the event. Look for places in the community that are closer to your home or near your families’ homes. If you are busy or your kids are young, stay for a shorter period of time. Peace and healthy communities are built on people. Get to know a few people in community groups you like. You don’t have to join the groups, though many groups will ask. Start by regular commitment to the groups you love.

Change groups as your life changes

The Canning Bridge Arts Markets closed in March 2013. Don’t be afraid to change groups as your life changes or the groups change. I have many great memories from my volunteer time with the Arts Markets. I keep in touch with many of the crafters and fellow volunteers. Closing the markets was sad, yet leaving the event opened up my life to new adventures.

Need help finding a group that fits?

Please call or email me if you want help finding a group in San Diego, Perth or Seoul that fits your passions. I keep in touch with the people I met these communities. These people would be delighted to help you meet people and find projects. Try several groups and go to a few events with the groups you like before making a commitment. Find events you can share with your family and friends.

And, share your story. If you don’t have a place to publish your community service story, contact me.