At the end of the day, if I helped one person, met their needs, or made them smile, that brings peace to my heart and I can rest well, knowing that I can make a difference —Jolene Whitney, Utah Department of Health
SALT LAKE CITY — It is a state of harmony, free from hostility or conflict, but also from the nagging tasks that every person must endure as part of daily life.
But with presents unwrapped and the tree on its way out the door or back into storage, various members and representatives of the community took a moment to ponder what peace means to them and how they can find it in the coming new year.
For a mother, it might only be achieved when the children are in bed, or behind a locked door, while soaking in a bathtub, as Roy resident Natalie Clemens said she claims her peace of mind. Her three young, active boys keep her busy.
"I could spend all of my waking moments cleaning, doing laundry, making meals, running errands and a whole bunch of other, non-peaceful motherly tasks," she said. "Not to mention the fact that I am very rarely alone."
But, Clemens said, "I think that everyone needs to be able to sit back and soak in the quiet reverence that comes from not doing anything."
In the wake of tragedies, such as the senseless Dec. 14 shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, the hurricane that wracked the Eastern seaboard in late October, and civil angst that continuously tears through countries abroad, individuals often turn to their hearts to seek their own sense of peace, in hope of a better world.
"To me, peace means being free of fear, having a feeling of tranquility, free from the noise of the world and its negativity," Utah's first lady Jeannette Herbert said.
She said a "love of power has greatly affected peace in the world" and she hopes virtuous qualities, such as love, forgiveness, letting go of pride and having an eye to the future can bring peace in one's life, which, in turn, could change the world.
"If each of us could show more love and kindness, the whole world would be a different place and we could find true peace in our hearts and our lives," Herbert said. "We can't always control what is happening in the world, but we can control what happens in our own homes, in our own community and in our state, by being creators of peace."
Unified Police Department Sheriff Jim Winder said he doesn't believe the world is becoming more violent, but everyone is so connected that talk of chaos spreads quickly.
"If we focus on the here and now and the daily grind, then we find ourselves continually focusing on the unimportant," he said. "We have to find things greater than ourselves to think about."
Regardless of religious affiliation, Winder said that peace comes with the recognition of a greater, higher truth. Finding peace in our lives, he said, "begins with creating an inner peace."
"We need to make time for introspection and to find things of greater importance than the day-to-day things," Winder said. "Turn it off. Sit down. Relax. Breathe."
The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines peace as a state of tranquility or quiet and while not impossible to find, sometimes the state evades various situations, said Jennifer Campbell, associate director at the South Valley Sanctuary, a domestic violence shelter.
"Anyone that is being abused is truly without peace in their lives and they begin to believe that life is a continual fight for survival," she said. "Once a person begins to be treated with respect, we begin to see the person they are and the amazing potential that they possess. It is remarkable what individuals can overcome."
Counting her own blessings — "a gentle husband who loves and respects me and children who are safe and cared for" — Campbell said, helps her get through each day as she meets and helps men and women in great emotional and physical need.
"It is through this accounting of my blessings that I remember all deserve to feel this way, no one deserves abuse and that all should feel safe," she said. "This helps me continue to stand up for those who can't, until the world is a place that is peaceful for all."
Popular musician Cori Connors of Farmington, often helps others ring in the Christmas season with festive performances. She has a devoted following of individuals who often gather to listen and gain a bit of peace in their own lives during an often busy season.
Connors said that going back to the "very few things I know for sure," her basic religious beliefs, also helps to center her own life.
"I am blessed to naturally believe there's a God and that he has a vested interest in us," she said. Connors recalls being glued to the TV on Sept. 11, 2001, watching men and women searching for loved ones within various hospitals. One woman interviewed said she would know her husband was OK if he was dead, but if not, she'd need to be with him.
"She was firmly planted in her center and she reminded me to go to my center. Peace is always dependably planted there," Connors said.
In all the hubbub that can accompany the holiday season, it is important that individuals find their own peace.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement in late November that points out the "spirit of Christmas" that many feel at this time of year — "a desire to give joy to others and to serve them."
It is a feeling that often lives on into the following new year, breathing life into relationships and commitments, giving many a desire to make it better than the last.
"I think it is a daily effort to try to understand each other and to do the right thing for the public, friends, family and neighbors," said Jolene Whitney, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health's bureau of emergency medical services and preparedness. She said knowing that the state has a plan to help people in a time of need brings her peace.
"At the end of the day, if I helped one person, met their needs, or made them smile, that brings peace to my heart and I can rest well, knowing that I can make a difference," Whitney said.
Clemens, too, said she finds great peace "when I know that someone needs something and I am able to help, even if it is something as simple as watching a neighbor's children, or giving an extra child a ride to school.
"Doing those things makes me feel good and that brings me peace," she said, adding that peace is better felt in calm times, but those times must also sometimes be created and then recognized.
"I try to harbor peace in our home by creating a safe place where my children can feel comfortable about themselves," Clemens said. "They know, in our home, that I won't do anything to scare or harm them. They know that I won't laugh at their ideas or make fun of their artwork. I try to shut out the world and foster a positive environment where they can learn, grow and ask me about anything."
The family of five often stops to feel the presence of another brother who died at birth more than two years ago. Clemens said such experiences happen "when it is peaceful in our home."
"We all need recharging time," she said. "We all need peace."