Dona Nobis Pacem

Posted: Friday, November 04, 2011 by Travis Cody in

Do you know about backwards day?  I remember it from elementary school.  Teachers generally called the attendance alphabetically by last name from A to Z.  Often students sat in rows from A to Z.  And students sometimes lined up for things from A to Z.

Backwards day turned all that around, so everything was from Z to A.

I was mostly indifferent to it.  My last name starts with a C, so I usually fell in the top 3rd of the class when we lined up.  For backwards day, I was in the bottom third.  In 6th grade, I think I ended up about 7th or 8th in line.  There were 30 kids in my class, so you can do the math to see where I ended up when we reversed the order. 

I never gave much thought to what it meant to be first or last in those situations.  I knew about winning and losing from football and sports, and of course I understood the difference between championships and finishing dead last.  But the real difference between first and last in line wasn't something I contemplated much.

Then I met Beth A, the girl in the first desk whose name was always read first for attendance and who led the class in line to the cafeteria for lunch and assemblies.  She was first in line when we lined up alphabetically during a fire drill.  She was first in line in the morning when we lined up to get into the class room.

Being first was very important to Beth A.  Beth A was a bossy little brat just because her name always made her first in line.

Cynthia V was always last. 

I rarely noticed Cynthia V.  I couldn't see her in class because her desk was behind me.  She never seemed to say much.  She was quiet and kept to herself.  She always seemed to be on the edge of things, almost as though if the line moved too fast, she'd fall behind and eventually fade into the distance.

So backwards day.  We sat in our same desks in our same places.  We just turned them around.  Our teacher had a desk in the front of the room and a table in the back.  He sat at that table in the back for backwards day.  And we all turned our desks to face that table.

I couldn't see Beth A anymore.  I did see Cynthia V.  She had dark hair.  She did raise her hand a lot.  She knew a lot of answers...she was smart.  When we lined up, she just walked at the head of the line.  She didn't care if anyone acted up or messed around...the hall monitors wrote slips for those kids.  Cynthia just walked to wherever the line was headed, and we walked there too.

It was very comfortable to be led by Cynthia on backwards day, because she wasn't trying to lead anyone.  She was just Cynthia V, whether it was a regular day and she was last, or backwards day and she was first.

I saw Beth A every day.  But on backwards day, she wasn't in front of me anymore and she faded.  And when things got back to normal...when we turned back to the front and became A to Z again...the veneer was broken for me.  Beth A became just a little girl who took her prestige and self worth from her position in class, made possible because some teachers like order and order is often best served by alphabetizing.

Cynthia V was virtually invisible to me until backwards day.  Once I saw her, she became real.  But then when things got back to normal...when we turned back to the front and became A to Z again...she was still there.  She was still smart and had a lot of answers.  She had a sweet laugh.  And she became my friend from that backwards day and on through high school.

Intended or not, backwards day taught me something valuable.  It taught me that there are a lot of people who get left out simply because we can't see them as we look forward.  Backwards day revealed one of those people to me. 

I knew about changing circumstances by the time I reached 6th grade.  I had mine changed by divorce.  Then my 6th grade teacher changed them for me with backwards day.

Those two lessons, and the natural course of maturity, helped me to understand how to begin to change my own circumstances. 

A simple thing...turn the class around and see it from back to front instead of from front to back.  It was like unlocking a stiff neck and restoring the swivel so I could look to my left, and to my right, and behind me.  Total perspective change.

You might be wondering what this has to do with peace.  Or maybe you've figured out my message on this 8th Blog Blast Day.  It's really very simple.

We all impact others as we move through our lives.  We know about that impact because we see a lot of it happening in front of us.  We impact our families...parents, siblings, our own children.  We impact our co-workers and our friends.  We impact the kid at the fast food counter who reminds us that we probably want fries with that burger.

But there is also an impact of which we may not be as readily aware.  It's the impact we have on people we're not seeing because we're not turning our heads.  We're not looking left, or right, or behind us.  We don't consciously intend to ignore them, but they get ignored anyway because we become so narrowly focused in our perspective.

Peace begins within each of us.  We find it.  We nurture it.  We settle into it.  We live in it.  We rush back to it when something disturbs us. 

Our awareness of it can generate ripples that spread in all directions, as long as we don't selfishly keep it all for ourselves.  Or rather, as long as we consciously make an effort to share it.

And finally, just after two bells at first watch on Blog Blast Eve, 21:04 hours, or 9:04pm, I've discovered what my 2011 Peace Globe should be.  It's a thing that has one of the most positive impacts on people I've ever known.  Anyone can do it.  It takes no preparation. 

It spreads peace ripples.  And I remember so vividly now the first time I saw Cynthia V with hers.

Dona Nobis Pacem


  1. A smile is such a simple thing and has such a positive impact on everyone. May you and yours find many reasons to smile on this day. Peace to you and yours.

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    Well, Trav, you made me smile today. That was very thought-through post. I loved it! Have a peaceful day - today and always :)

  1. Michelle says:

    Trav.. you have written such a wonderful post. I love the story. Your teacher was a genius.

    So much to think about here - I'll be back to reread this one!

    Best Peace day wishes to you

    evol htiw


  1. Julie says:

    Oh've done it again! You are such a smart man...and your sensitivity blurts out loud and clear. Never lose it sweet man!

    My favorite graphic of all time. The sunshine smile! So simple! Some may call it trite and common...but not me. Oh no...not me. I tried to stay up until 3am to see your post...but at 2am I remembered that I would be handing out food to the hungry.

    ....and smiling.

    Love you dear man! **hugs**

  1. Jamie says:

    This year seems to be shaping up to one person at a time for a theme. The only person you really control is you. Your post this year is a great reminder that a smile can start all sorts of wonderful things. Did a 5 On Friday for my post.

  1. jennifer says:

    It was cute that I thought I could wait and read your post Monday. Just. Couldn't. Do it.

    And I'm glad. This is a lovely story to take with me as I travel. I smiled big when you pointed out "some teachers like order and order is often best served by alphabetizing." Beautifully written post, Travis.


  1. "It taught me that there are a lot of people who get left out simply because we can't see them as we look forward."

    I think this sentence says it all for me. Travis, your post is very true. I feel your sensitivity and awareness in this piece.

    Have a Peace filled day, my friend.

  1. Jeff B says:

    What a great perspective on peace. It's amazing how something as seemingly simple as backwards day can be so inspirational and pivotal in a life if you look for the lessons within it.

  1. Happy Peace Day, Trav! Funny you bring up backwards day. At school yesterday, someone challenged the kids to say the alphabet backwards. My granddaughter's hand shot up quick as a wink and she stood to recite (at least that's what they thought.) She didn't recite it, she spewed it! She can say it as fast backwards or faster than most of us can say it forward. In the retelling of her story, I had to laugh at her impression of the faces the boys made in awe of her talent. Happy backwards day, too! Thanks for your stories,peace quotes and reasons to blog for peace.

  1. I do not remember Backwards Day. I would have been in the middle either way...but I would have seen those behind me more clearly.

    This is taking life and turning it into such a meaningful post.

    I have never seen your face, but I always imagined your smile would be bright and welcoming...I get that from the voice you have shared in your words over the years.

  1. Anndi says:

    Thoughts and smiles... always a good idea to share them. Well done.

  1. Jeni says:

    Very good analogy, Trav! And so very true about a smile being the start of things so much bigger than any of us all put together, isn't it? Peace to you and yours and to everyone!

  1. Ahh...a simple thing with a profound consequence. Perception. Now I know about Mr. Smiley and your mysterious peace post. What a silly happy peace globe!

    The muse is quite aMUSING this year (I ended up in a shed with a hammer) and always profoundly simple...if we listen.
    You listened.
    Excellent post with vivid imagery and the best part? It made me smile!!! (and giggle too but don't tell anybody cause the sillies came out)

    OK. Going to find more peace globes - the bulk of which are on Facebook this year. Trying to catch them before they disappear from view tomorrow is proving to be quite challenging!!

    But I'll remember this one and SMMIIILLLEEEE!! I hope you and Pam are enjoying a relaxing day.


  1. Marilyn says:

    I'm sure you already know, but that was awesome. Awesome post. The story especially. I'm glad I know you.

  1. Claudia says:

    Peace be with you, Trav. Thanks for all you do! :)

  1. Happy peace day to you (and Cynthia V, an all the others we don't always see).

  1. Carver says:

    Wonderful post for peace. Wishing peace to you and yours.

  1. One of my favorite peace quotes - so simple yet so true and so easy if we all just try! What a wonderful post! Peace!

  1. Sending peace, love & purrs. We're also blogging for peace at my other blog the Boomer Muse http://blog.laylamorganwilde

  1. Daisy says:

    What a beautiful, thoughtful post. Peace to you.

  1. dawn says:

    I think this is one of the most inspiring posts I've read all day!

  1. Cherie says:

    Such a great illustration to help us notice our tunnel vision and look at the people all around us.

  1. What a wonderful post and very thought-provoking. Thanks for the insight.

  1. Kwizgiver says:

    Great post! Thanks for visiting my Peace post.

  1. Great story about Cynthia V - peace to you with a smile!

  1. The world turned upside-down for me began when I began to see value in moving downward on the economic pyramid rather than always looking upward. Thanks for explicating the power of backwards and how it can bring peace!

  1. Momma says storytelling is one of the most powerful ways in the world to connect with others - and she loved the story you told.

    Thank you for your post - and thank you for visiting our blog!

  1. cheryl says:

    A smilie peace Travis, one simple affection and all would be well. Peace to you and your loved ones.

  1. Clooney says:

    Loved your post and your writing. Terrific. (And it does all start with a smile, doesn't it? Great peace globe.)

    Dona Nobis Pacem

  1. Thanks for visiting today. I hope we can get to know each other better. I just love hanging out with your doggies. Oh what fun you all have.
    United we furries stand today, and every day, for world peace. Oh if only the humans could get it together. Peace to you and your family.

  1. Shannon says:

    Peace be with you today and every day!

  1. What a lovely way to look at life.

    It reminds me of when my cousin and I were kids and used to lay on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, giggling over what it would be like to have to step over the light fixture if the ceiling should suddenly become the floor. We kept saying, 'I've never looked at it THAT way before!' and laughed and laughed.

    But I have a feeling the two of us have kept that outlook even today. We tend to look deeper, look at different angles. And both of us embrace peace over conflict.

    Peace to you and Pam, Travis.

  1. nelsonRN says:

    I looooooooooove your post, Trav! Very thought-provoking! I learned so much! Well-written! Peace be with you alwats!

  1. Lui says:

    That was quite a meaningful reminiscing. Growing up we still take others for granted until we keep remembering to face each day with new eyes. The better to see all the Beths and Cynthias.

    Enjoy your peace week!

  1. We seldom think of our impact on strangers...those who may only see us once, but what have we left them with? Your blog gave me a lot to think about..thank you... Peace

  1. Bluezy says:

    Awesome lesson. I love the smile power. I use it daily. Get eye contact with an accompanying smile. It is like a happy switch. Just love it!

  1. rumpydog says:

    That's a great piece Trav. My job is to conduct observations and provide feedback. The people I observe often get angry and accuse me of making things up, but actually they get so stuck in the routine they miss things. My job is to show them what they're missing. Unfortunately, some of them don't want to see what they're missing.

  1. Tink says:

    Great minds think alike. :) Smiling all the way! Peace to you and yours.

  1. I loved this story... Thanks for sharing :)

  1. Beautifully written. Your insightful post made me reflect and smile. Dona Nobis Pacem. May peace be upon all of us. Best wishes to you and yours.

  1. Robin says:

    And that's how it begins, from the simplest of gestures, the simplest of intents.

    I wish you peace, today and every day, and may those around you be open to the peace you spread.

  1. Thank you for stopping by my blog with your nice words.
    I wish peace for you too and for the whole world.
    Your blog is beautiful. I will come back

  1. Sorry I'm just reading your post now, Trav. It's thoughtful, and beautiful. Peace -- and smiles -- to you today and always.

  1. Thanks for visiting us at our other blog The Boomer Muse. Peace does ripple out. Re: the reversal of A to Z. The year I graduated high school, we decided to take the words of Bob Dylan to heart, "The order is
    Rapidly fadin'.
    And the first one now
    Will later be last
    For the times they are a-changin'." We reversed the alphabet in the yearbook from Z to A.

  1. Aksharaa says:

    Travis Cody (or should it be Cody Travis?!)

    Glad u came over..Now I have stmbled upon a blog that makes me smile,think all at once.
    Love this Peace post.Cynthia V sounds such a nice,unassuming person. We need more Cynthias..

  1. Lolamouse says:

    Yes, indeed. We often have a profound effect on people and don't even realize it. Sometimes a change of perspective is just what's needed. Great post!

  1. A great post, is my opinion that a smile and a dose of kindness are within everyone's capabilities and can work small miracles.

    I'm off to check out your recommended sites!

  1. Annelisa says:

    Excellent advice! I remember my dad saying a similar thing to me when I was little, to always look around you, not straight ahead, because that's where the scenery was on the road, and that's where most of life takes place...

    [A link to your post will be on my blog 'Peace Bloggers Unite' soon]

  1. This most excellent peace post has been recorded as #2402 in the Official Peace Globe Gallery at

    Smiles again for me re-reading this!

  1. TopChamp says:

    Beautiful, Travis.