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Over the years, I have come to learn that peace is not the answer to violence; it is the consequence of its answer.

One night, in the middle of my regular evening walk, I had the fortune of witnessing one of the most unadulterated and socially unfiltered scenes I have ever encountered.

It was simple: A 3-year-old girl was talking to an old vendor, urging him to stop what he was doing and play with her. In a moment of social amnesia, I rejoiced at the disregard this little one was practicing by her simple actions. Only a few years from now, she will hold all kinds of inhibitions and apprehensions about the most innocent of persons and guard herself from others. She will learn to steer clear of the swings where the boys play. She will quit playing if a child of her class and family stature is not available to sport along with her. She will skip peeking through the windows of the religious places that do not chant the name of her God.

And, probably, after meeting that vendor, this little girl was scolded for her actions and warned against connecting with a stranger. And now, deep within her, a discomfort is brewing and she is already forgetting the hearty greetings she bestowed without scruples.

The opposite of violence is not peace; it is not love. Peace cannot be unearthed without the acorn of innocence. The opposite of violence is childhood: childhood, with its universal acceptance and all-embracing smiles.

If only we could reverse the thoughts that have been pushed down our throats right from our nascent years of experience, the thoughts that have warned us against those who are almost exactly like us, the thoughts that have urged us to conduct our bodies in a certain way and our minds in another… if only.

Have you ever noticed how easily a child forgets? Remember the last time you coaxed a child away from a dangerous activity? Did he complain? It amazes me how adults lie to children and despite being innocently betrayed over and over again, the little ones run back and hug those very same adults with so much love in their hearts.

The 21st century is an extremely complicated time to be alive. Caught in the vicious circles of hatred and violence, connections and cyber crimes, technology and nuclear weapons, instigation and reaction—we are losing track of what we were born as: children.

Being as accepting and as welcoming as little children is the only hope I have for our ever-violent world. There is an urgent need to unlearn and unload the ideas of otherness and alienation that we have amassed in the “natural” process of growing up. Let us all return to the reservoir of childlike innocence and acceptance, for that is who we truly are.

Manmeet Kaur is a contributor from India. This piece was originally published on World Pulse. Sign up to get international stories of women leading social change delivered to your inbox every month here.

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