B4Peace: How do we raise children to be peaceful?

Gift of Peace

Gift of Peace (Photo credit: YardSale)

This post is in response to April’s Monthly Peace Challenge which has a focus on children and peace.  Thanks for a thought-provoking topic Kozo.

When our children are young (and even when they aren’t so young) our natural instinct is to protect them, keep them from harm and shelter them from some of life’s harsher realities.  Like many other parents I didn’t want my son being exposed to violence, abusive language or torrid images when he was very young.  I don’t want him being exposed to those things today either but I know there’s little hope of preventing it. He, like me, watches and reads the news, walks down the street and drives a car.  He can now see for himself how delicate a flower peace is and I am pleased that he has grown into a peaceable young man.

So what made him grow up valuing peace more than war and humour more than aggression? I think it was a combination of things.

Before my son was born I read that the experience a developing baby has inside the womb can influence their character and demeanour after birth. To me that made a lot of sense.  Every emotion I felt whilst pregnant was transmitted if not physically then chemically to my unborn son. I made it my mission to remain calm and happy throughout the whole pregnancy and birth experience.  My son was a very calm and happy baby.

Throughout my son’s childhood there was always lots of love for him coupled with plenty of encouragement and understanding.  More smiles than frowns and more laughter than tears. From a very early age I taught him to value nature and respect all living things (this is a lesson my parents taught me).   I believe that if we teach our children to value the planet we live on and the flora and fauna that inhabit it they are more likely to think about the consequences of their actions.  Those thoughts, the realisation that actions have consequences some of which are desirable and some of which are not, help us maintain balance, harmony, peace and equilibrium in the grand system that we’re all a part of.

As he grew older I taught my son about some of the harsher realities of life. We visited the WWII cemeteries in France, we discussed the reason for Remembrance and why people wear poppies.  We talked about people whose behaviour is markedly different through no fault of their own, the sociopath and psychopath who do not relate to the world in the same way we do and thus do not live by the same rules.  We also talked about everyday people, people like us who have a range of emotions along with the capacity to master them, to avoid anger, hatred and spite.   I never promised mastering one’s emotions would be easy but I was clear our reactions to any situation are our choice, not anyone else’s doing.  Easy to say, not always easy to remember so regular practice is required.

My son has become a compassionate and calm young man. Trouble is something he steps away from.  I wondered for a very long time whether I had done the right thing – should I have taught him to have more fight, more bravado?  Our youngsters get beaten-up, stabbed and shot in the streets because some people choose rage and hostility over peace and the sanctity of life.   I pondered on these thoughts for a long while and concluded that teaching aggression, disrespect and violence only breeds more of those things making our world a turbulent, unhappy and dangerous place.

Only time will tell but I think I did the right thing.  Teaching love, peace, respect and dignity offers at least some hope that future generations may be more tolerant, more placid and more peaceful than those who went before.


Guest Post: Susan Vento – Asbestos Cancer Victims Rights Campaign

Susan recently approached me about writing a guest post regarding the FACT Act and the Asbestos Cancer Victims Rights Campaign.  I am happy to help support Susan in raising awareness of these important issues following the untimely death of her husband Bruce from mesothelioma.  Please take a few minutes to read her story and join the campaign.

My name is Susan Vento, and I am writing to you about a cause that is very close to my heart. On October 10th 2000 my husband, Bruce Vento, passed away. He was serving as a congressman for the state of Minnesota when he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a very rare cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure and kills 90-95% of its victims. Please read my post below to learn more about my personal story.

I Support Victims’ Rights: My Family’s Fight Against Cancer & Unfair Legislation

It was on a Saturday––January 29th, 2000 to be exact––that mesothelioma entered our lives. “Asbestos,” they told us, the name of the killer that would eventually take my husband’s life nine months later.

Like any story, I would like to start at the beginning because only then can you understand the meaning of the ending. My husband, Bruce, grew up on St. Paul’s East Side, the second of eight children in a second generation Italian-German family. He attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, working construction to put himself through college. He then went on to teach junior-high science in the Minneapolis Public School system and later was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1970, representing East Side St. Paul families. In 1976, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District, where he served his constituents in the Fourth District up until his death, just barely 60.

He and I first met while Bruce was lobbying in Washington D.C. in 1980. Four years later, I started doing volunteer work in support of his re-election campaigns. Like Bruce, I was an educator, and I believed in his impact. He supported working men and women, our public schools, and those who are poor and homeless, those who do not typically have a voice in the political process. Little did I know that our love story would start in those campaign rooms, working together for a future we both believed in.

Our first date wasn’t until mid-April of 1995, where he took me out to a comedy club. I was 40 at the time, and hadn’t been dating much because I was more focused on work than anything personal in my life. It sparked the start of my life’s great love, one that I thought would last a lifetime.

In early January of 2000, Bruce left on a Congressional trip to Europe. Each night he called to check in, he kept talking about a shortness of breath and lower back pain. The morning after he returned to Washington, D.C., he went to the House physician, who immediately had him go to the hospital nearby.  They drew a significant amount of fluid from Bruce’s lung for testing.  The following afternoon, he received the call: he had lung cancer. I met him at the airport here in the Twin Cities that night, and we spent the weekend having the conversations you have when you’ve received news like this.  Bruce and I had his sons and their spouses over to share the news with them, and then we went to tell his parents––a most difficult conversation.

The following week, we went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. After testing, Bruce’s doctor shared with us that he had mesothelioma. It was caused by asbestos exposure, which happened during Bruce’s construction work back in college. We had never heard of this disease let alone knew how to spell it. While the doctors took Bruce for additional tests, I spent a couple of hours in the hospital library, desperately searching for any kind of information I could find on this vicious cancer. Little was available at the time, so I came up with less information than I had hoped.

It was on Valentines Day that the surgeons removed Bruce’s lung, half of his diaphragm, and lymph nodes. When the toxicology reports came back, we found out that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. In April, he began several rounds of chemotherapy, followed by five weeks of radiation. All the while, Bruce continued serving his people from Washington. He never stopped fighting for that cause, that same vision that brought us together.

Since Bruce’s death, I have been a part of several efforts both in Washington as well as here in Minnesota to advocate for patients and their families. Too often, the corporate interests hold court and control the outcomes on much of the legislation being enacted, especially when it comes to issues like asbestos and mesothelioma. The opportunity to share Bruce’s story has been both healing and empowering. So many only know the word “mesothelioma” from the late-night cable advertisements and have not yet experienced it in their own lives.

I’ve met so many patients and families and have learned so much from their experiences. The “small world” connections have been stunning––Bruce’s nurse during his radiation was diagnosed with mesothelioma after his death and later died. My former teaching partner’s father died of mesothelioma, as did a former staff member from my elementary school.  The candidate who challenged Bruce in his last three, successful re-election bids for the U.S. House was diagnosed following Bruce’s death and died a few months after.

I’m doing this to honor Bruce’s legacy as well as to do what I can to help other patients and families protect their legal and constitutional rights. The Asbestos Cancer Victims’ Rights Campaign (ACVRC) is committed to providing a voice for patients and their families as Congress debates and makes decisions regarding legislation that would seriously erode our rights. While awareness and information surrounding mesothelioma has improved in the last thirteen years, we need to continue raising our voices. Starting with signing our petition, I encourage you to join our effort in whatever way you can.  With your help, we can take a stand. Together, we can work towards building a better tomorrow and truly make a lasting difference.


There is something YOU can do to help. Recently, asbestos companies have been using their political influence to introduce a new bill. It is called the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act” (FACT Act), and it will delay, and in some cases, deny justice and badly needed compensation to people suffering from asbestos-related diseases. I am a spokesperson for the Asbestos Cancer Victims’ Rights Campaign (www.cancervictimsrights.org). The ACVRC is a national campaign dedicated to protecting the rights of cancer victims and their families.  I hope that you will join our fight to defeat this unfair legislation. Here are a couple of simple steps you can take to make a difference:

1.    Sign the petition to stop legislation that threatens cancer victims!

Go to www.CancerVictimsRights.org/take-action/sign-the-petition/ and follow the instructions to sign the petition at the bottom of the page.

2.    Spread the word!

Share your thoughts on our cause and the protection of cancer victims’ rights with your blog audience. Place a link to our petition on your blog to allow your readers to sign and showcase their public support – every signature matters!
Thank you so much! Together we can truly make a difference!