Christmas is just two weeks away. It is a celebration of the birth of Christ for Christians and a cultural celebration for many non-Christians in this country and others.  

The parties, gifts, food and celebrations with family and friends easily occupy our time and our thoughts at this time of year. But one Christmas phrase has stuck in my mind over the last week or so. It is a simple phrase used in the Bible and Christmas carols,  “Peace on Earth. Good will to men.”

In thinking about this sentiment and the immense failure to achieve peace and the lack of good will toward some we see in our culture and others, I wonder if people even think about the meaning of the phrase.

I searched for the number of serious conflicts that are occurring in the world this Christmas season. Wikipedia had a list. I think that Wikipedia makes great lists. The number I found was shocking and horrifying: 54.

In 54 countries or regions, people are not eating cookies and singing carols. They are killing each other and the innocent men, women and children who get in the way. Homes are being destroyed and people are being displaced. People are losing whatever they have and, in many cases, the very food they rely on. In many cases, there is no end to the destruction. There are no real winners. Everyone loses.

It is a depressing issue to consider during the holidays. But perhaps it is the issue we should be thinking about the most during the holiday season. 

No one of us can end conflict in the world. We can, however, make peace in our hearts, our families and our communities. We can pray for peace or contemplate peace depending on our beliefs. We can elect leaders who seek peace and understanding. We can support efforts to help people rise out of poverty because poverty itself breeds violence.  

Good will to our fellow man is within reach of all of us. It is easy to show good will to our families and our friends. Showing our concern for the homeless, incarcerated, poor and lonely by volunteering and/or donating to local efforts and organizations such as the Interfaith Shelter of Hope, food pantries, Catholic Social Services, Assistance Center and many others.

Acts of peace might help calm the discord, if not in the world, at least in our hearts.

Jane Gies is a Leavenworth Times columnist.