As he sat huddled in that cold, dark trench with bombs exploding all around him was a young Hungarian soldier thinking to himself, “there must be a better way to live.” But, "how to find peace in the midst of war", that was the question burning in his conscience. That young Hungarian soldier fighting in the First World War was my grandfather, the late Julius John Kubassek.
As he crawled out of the trench he had spent the night in, he quickly realized that only two other soldiers had survived the attack. They had both spent the night in the same trench he had; one had been on his left, the other on his right. That was all he could take. He'd had enough of the war and all the killing that was going on.
He kept thinking to himself, “there must be a better way.” Fed up, he stuck the bayonet of his gun into the ground and refused to take up arms from that moment on. He defected from the Hungarian army. He chose to follow his convictions with the risk of imprisonment rather than follow the orders he had been given to kill his fellowman.
My grandfather spent the next six weeks hiding in a cave under the pigpen on his parents’ farm. It was here he had plenty of time to do some serious thinking. He began to think about the war and how God, who had created all of us certainly would not condone us killing each other. He also began to read the New Testament. As he studied the Book of Acts he realized that the first church had lived together and had all things in common. No one called anything their own. Wow, he thought, “what a concept....what a peaceful way to live” if we lived that way today there would be no need for war.
Realizing that peace was something that needed to pursued and sought after, my grandfather decided to follow his dream of finding such a place. A place of peace and harmony where everyone lived together and shared their possessions. A place where people lived to serve each other. A place where nobody called anything their own.
He realized a dream without a plan was useless. He realized that a plan without action was just as useless. However, taking action means choice. Taking no action is also a choice; it’s choosing to do nothing. He could choose to stay with his family and his familiar surroundings, or he could choose to follow his dream. Even though it meant taking a great risk, he chose to follow his dream. So one night he left his family and friends and his homeland, in search of his dream, running at night and hiding in the woods by day.
When my grandfather finally reached the border he was stopped by a guard and asked for his travel papers. Unable to produce the correct documents, he simply asked the guard if he had anything better. Miraculously, the guard gave my grandfather his own papers, allowing him to cross the border into Austria. It’s amazing what happens when we know our purpose, have a plan and are persistent in following it. It’s also amazing what happens when you ask.
In search of his dream he began to attend a Baptist church in Vienna, where he brought up his idea of living together and sharing earthly possessions. The people in the church thought it was a great idea and suggested he travel to America where there was plenty of wealth, get a job, and bring back to Austria enough money to buy land and start a commune.
Grandpa wasn’t about to let his dream die. If following his dream meant sailing to a country he knew very little about except that it was a land of opportunity, he would do it. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t speak the language, had little money and no contacts. He had faith in himself and he had faith in God. He didn’t need any more than that.
By the time my grandfather arrived in America it was the 1930s and he couldn’t even buy a job. He spent weeks walking from one factory to the next, asking if they had a job for him. But he was not about to give up after he had come this far; besides, he had only purchased a one-way ticket to America. There was no going back, so he decided to check out the possibilities in Canada. He walked across Ambassador Bridge on foot, and he applied for and got a job at Ford Motor Company as a tool and die maker. He finally had the job he had come so far to find.
Many times in life, we are just one bridge away from success. We give up because we lose sight of our purpose. Grandpa had been persistent; he never gave up in his search for his dream—a place of harmony and peace, a place where people lived together and shared all things. Not finding his dream, he created it. In 1940, with a net worth of 6 cents and a vendor who offered 100 percent financing, my grandfather purchased a 200-acre farm near Kitchener, Ontario, and there he founded the Community Farm of the Brethren. His dream had come true! It was in that community that my life began.
The lessons I've learned about living a peaceful life from my grandfather's experience and growing up in a commune are lessons that have helped me maintain my inner peace to this day:
1. Peace always comes with a price. However, peace is something everyone wants but not all are willing to pay for. The price is usually letting the other person have the final word and just walking away.
2. There are times when peace can only be found in a new place. Perhaps it means changing jobs. It could mean moving to different neighborhood. It may mean moving to new country like my grandfather did.
3. The people we associate with have a great determining influence on the level of peace we are able to attain. Without unity there can be no peace.
4. Sometimes it takes pain for us to discover peace. When the pain of chaos, abuse or turmoil becomes greater than the fear of choosing a path of peace out of our situation we finally take the first step. Happiness is what we think we want. There can be no happiness without peace.
5. Living a life of peace always includes gratitude, thanksgiving and praise. The most important is the relationship we can have with our Creator. Religion never brings peace, right relationship always does. Right relationships include respect, honor and love. Things we all have within ourselves to give.
Past choices may have prevented peace but today is a new day and the way to peace for you may be some necessary endings and a new beginning. That is easier said than done. Especially when those past choices include a spouse, an employer, or even a best friend.
What do you need to bring to an end in order to bring peace into your life? What do you need to begin in order to bring peace into life?
Ben Kubassek is an international expert on social entrepreneurship, author, and speaker. He’s on a mission to help young people in developing countries launch their own businesses in order to create jobs and bring transformation to their communities.
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