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The Peacebuilder: Connecting With the Thread Within and Beyond

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

        — William Stafford, from “The Way It Is”, 1998

It was an autumn Saturday morning, and it was day two (of four) of The Peacebuilder workshop offered at the Kroc School by Professor of Practice Michael Fryer. This workshop was offered to lead Kroc School students, like myself, to (re)connect with our core values and motivations that will help us make the world a more peaceful place. I logged into Zoom, and Professor Fryer started the class by reading us the above poem. Then, he gave the class of 25 students a chance to reflect on what we each thought the meaning of “the thread” was.

As an incoming Master’s in Peace and Justice student at the Kroc School, I felt a sense of curiosity as to what this semester would bring. I asked myself: What was driving me to this program? How will this program impact my life? 

For me, a line that sticks out in the above poem is, “While you hold it (the thread) you can’t get lost.” This workshop provided the space for us to reconnect with the thread that has been guiding our lives up until this point, even when we may feel as if we are lost. Even amidst a year that has turned so many things upside down. 

Each of us in the The Peacebuilder workshop had our own way of interpreting “the thread”, and maybe you reading this also see “the thread” in your own and unique way. 

For me, the thread feels like the guiding force of my life. The force that drives me each day to share myself authentically with the world. As students, we all have different guiding forces, different stories, and different reasons for being in a program that the Kroc School offers. However, we have all found our way here. As the world continues to rapidly change, especially in a year like this one, it is inspiring to be a part of a program that constantly engages with these changes and empowers students to find their own unique ways to serve the world. 

Additionally, our own, individual thread connects us deeper with one another, combining with others to create a stronger, common thread that helps people see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. The Kroc School has been that place for me this semester, and this experience in The Peacebuilder workshop reminded me that I am not alone. We have been brought together at this time to build the internal tools to figure out ways to shine more light into areas of darkness, individually and collectively. The deepest learnings from this semester have come in small- and large-group conversations, where participants have shared their perspectives and others have listened openly, free of judgment.

Notes from the Peacebuilder workshop.

The Peacebuilder workshop continued for two more days, and we were joined by a Kroc School alum, Lu Hanessian, who has deep knowledge of trauma-informed resilience and emotional literacy. Lu generously shared her time, passion, and insights with our class, challenging us to think of ways to carry what we were learning into our lives once the workshop concluded. Professor Fryer and Lu invited us to re-connect to ourselves, then they encouraged us to continue building that connection beyond the four-day workshop. Professor Fryer provided the time and space for us to slow down, to reflect, and to have authentic conversations with our classmates. 

More poems were read, and more reflections came about. Ultimately, these four days highlighted that building peace is an endeavor that invites us to connect with not just the external world, but also with ourselves and those close to us. These four days helped me start to answer the questions that I had when I entered this program, revealing the thread that has guided my life up until this point. Just as the poem says, “you don’t ever let go of the thread,” I believe that the collection of people that make up the Kroc School are committed to uncovering something we don’t ever let go of, something deeper about our shared humanity, and committed to uncovering the place within us that goes beyond divisiveness and judgment.

Most of all, they are committed to trusting that inner place, or that thread — the thread that will continue to guide us in shining light into darkness, both within and beyond.

About the Author

Christopher Giuffré is in his second year of the four-year JD/MAPJ Dual Degree Program at the University of San Diego. Originally from Durham, California, Chris attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he received his BA in Political Science. Then, Chris taught English at a high school near Santiago, Chile. Most recently, he worked with Casa Cornelia Law Center, supporting undocumented youth with their immigration applications. Chris lives in an intentional community in San Diego, and he is drawn to projects that help humans feel accepted, supported, and loved along their life journey. 

Learn more about the Kroc School's JD/MAPJ Dual Degree in Law and Peace and Justice.

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