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Jonathan Whitmore

Jonathan Whitmore is employed at the Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement at Whitworth University as the Sustainable Partnerships Coordinator. He is a Whitworth alumnus and is working at Whitworth through AmeriCorps VISTA. He uses his knowledge, skills, and passion to encourage students to help their community through volunteer work and education.

Interview by Olivia Carkulis,  May 2014

             I have seen peace play out in the scope of the world specifically through students. It is only when students understand the impacts of their decisions that they decide to make healthy choices that result in positive and nurturing relationships with others. There are many types of conflict; they are not just physical. You can be a peaceful person in how you relate to others. Instead of being confrontational, ill-willed, pointing out flaws, you can choose to build others up and encourage them.

How we act around others on a day-to-day basis is important. There are so many different levels of peace and it all comes down to relationships. Wars and conflicts have not only a global level, but also, an interpersonal level; each conflict can be broken down to individual people. Peace at the smallest level is what needs to be worked on to have global peace.

AmeriCorps VISTA is a program that is working to create sustainability in our communities. They help to build up communities with the strengths that are already present; you can’t build up a community with negativity.  This negativity can be broken down and usually stems from interpersonal violence, home violence, abuse and neglect, drugs and alcohol substance abuse, etc. Generally, these are only reactions to the actual problems and the problems are rooted much deeper. It is the smallest areas where you find that peace can impact the greater whole.

            One of my favorite ideas comes from the philosopher Epictetus, who expresses the notion that some things are in our power and some things that are not. This idea illustrates how much frustration we can have when we try to focus on things that are out of our control. I can’t change someone else’s behavior, but I can change mine.  I must ask how I am contributing to the problem.  We must have a responsibility to ourselves to understand and make a difference.

I think it is imperative to have more patience and be at peace with yourself. Do what you love so it can reflect positively on the people around you. In my work, there are times when I am at peace and can see the joy of what I do; it makes people around me better. When I don’t reflect confidence and self-worth, it impacts people around me. The key is finding peace in the short-term and seemingly insignificant decisions.

            To more effectively promote peace people should be involved in something. It’s a simple idea, but one that is not always acted out. Each individual should find one or more ways in which to actively engage their community. Instead of talking and merely philosophizing about how you can impact the world, students should take action, because talking without action does nothing. I think both students and the community would benefit more if they made commitments to actively participate in the same organization for a sustained amount of time.

            There is an interesting phenomenon in regards to volunteer work and empathy. It seems that people who are lacking are the ones who tend to have more compassion and involvement with volunteer work. The people who persevere through the most difficult obstacles are the ones who have the most strength, and I have learned the most from those people who seemingly have the least to give.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman