Editorial: Find peace in 2023

Peg McNichol/MediaNews Group

As dawn breaks over a new year, it brings with it hopes for a fresh start and a clean slate. The future is unwritten and it unfolds before us full of potential and opportunity.

For many here in Hampton Roads, the start of 2023 offers a moment to pause and reflect, to take stock of who we are and our place in the world. We may resolve to make improvements in our lives — to exercise regularly, spend more time with family, or learn a new skill or talent.

Such aspirations are noble and can make a difference in how the new year unspools. So in the spirit of setting ambitious goals, and though it may seem trite or simplistic, let’s also work toward peace — in our world, in our communities and in ourselves — in 2023.

We get it. “World peace” is the rote answer for children and beauty pageant contestants when asked what they want the future to hold. It’s easy to dismiss or to ridicule, to shrug off as unserious.

But at a time when division and discord are ubiquitous, when violence is commonplace and when neighbors and even family members are perpetually at each other’s throats, what greater hope can there be other than to see more people choose peaceful means of conflict resolution?

Some causes may exceed the reach of Hampton Roads residents. The conflict in Ukraine is a good example.

The Russian invasion in February began a brutal and destructive war that still remains far from resolved. The death count is staggering and the number of those driven from their homes is even greater. There is ample evidence Russian forces have committed war crimes and have deliberately targeted critical infrastructure in order to maximize civilians’ suffering.

While we cannot mediate a peaceful settlement that ensures Ukrainian independence and sovereignty, we can advocate for American support — especially for those displaced by the conflict, so that they might find shelter and comfort.

Closer to home, working toward peace means taking firm action to reduce violent crime, especially the gun violence that continues to inflict pain and suffering on Hampton Roads communities.

Our region has lost far too many promising young lives in senseless shootings and shouldn’t have to live with the threat of a mass shooting haunting every trip to a grocery store, every visit to a theater and every day at school.

Virginia needs to restrict access to firearms so those with ill intent cannot purchase them and the commonwealth needs to dramatically bolster behavioral health services, especially for young people, so those who need care or treatment can receive it, regardless of location or the ability to pay.

There is reason for optimism that a consensus in Richmond will advance the cause of mental health. If successful, it should also help more Virginians find balance, happiness and peace in their own lives.

That last part — working toward peace in ourselves — is particularly vexing. There are so many distractions — another notification on your phone, another commercial trying to sell you something — that finding moments for quiet and reflection can be a daunting challenge.

But to work toward peace requires us to look inward. It asks us to take time to unwind, to relax and to rest.

Some will find meditation instruction or yoga classes useful and those methods are certainly helpful for many. But something so simple as carving out five minutes in the morning or evening to switch off the phone and sit quietly can make a lasting difference in your outlook and will be reflected in how you interact with others.

The past few years have been exceedingly difficult for most area residents and most are still struggling to find their footing in a world that continues to change dramatically. But we can find some stability, some comfort and perhaps some joy in being more contemplative, more quiet, more empathetic and more peaceful.

We cannot know what the new year will hold, but by working toward peace we can help make it better than the last.