As the student leader of the Washington D.C. social justice trip, I was primarily focused on attending to the group’s needs and then my own. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Hopefully, I would learn something new and come back refreshed and recommitted to peace, but then again I had dedicated myself to an important position that needed to be my priority. However, soon after arriving in Washington and getting situated, I realized how much I needed this trip for my well-being, both spiritually and emotionally. So often it’s easy to feel isolated on one’s journey to peace, because it typically means going against a deep core belief of society and either receiving backlash or just feeling unsupported. However, through encountering various groups, such as Little Friends for Peace, the Fr. McKenna Center and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker committed to their own peacekeeping capabilities that the feeling of empowerment was unmistakable.
The amount of work that these groups devoted their lives to was exhaustive and often seemed as if they were chipping away a mountain. It was easy to become disheartened at all the work that needs to be put into enacting peace. Just blocks away from the opulence of the Capitol were these groups attending to people’s basic needs as best as they could. I struggled greatly with the tension between the need for charity and social justice. Both are necessary and yet it can seem nearly impossible to do both, and to do them on a wide scale. For the past two weeks, I have been reflecting on this conundrum and I constantly find myself coming back to what peace activist MJ Park, the founder of Little Friends For Peace, told me – she said that we all need to be “violence interrupters,” and do little things to effect change. I knew in my heart’s core that she was right, but it was extremely hard to feel that little things can create massive change when you witness the prevalent economic, social, and racial disparity in Washington D.C. However, after coming back to Dubuque, I came to two major realizations. First, that the journey to peace is long, and that fast results do not effectively dismantle oppressive systems. Second, it’s foolish to think that large scale movements of authentic peace can be achieved without internal commitments to authentic peace. You have to change so that the change you generate actually lasts. The last thing that I want to leave the reader with is this question: how can you be a daily violence interrupter?