Bernie and I had the opportunity to see Peter Yarrow perform last night. It was a concert for Jim Graves running against Michelle Bachmann. I got a chuckle out of the slogan “I dig Graves”. We don’t live in that district but we were excited to hear Peter Yarrow along with his daughter, Bethany who is incredibly talented and cellist Rufus Roots. (He plays the cello like a classical guitarist) Old songs got the audience singing: “If I Had a Hammer” and “Puff, The Magic Dragon”. During the song “We Shall Overcome” Peter had us link arms as though we standing together in protest. I’d forgotten the power of music in social movements. I’d also forgotten the profound message of people like Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. He is still the peace activist. I felt more centered after the concert.
Peter talked about a program he has initiated for fighting bullying in the schools, Operation Respect.
I wish I had the statistics at the top of my head, but the number of schools using the program was around 20,000. He is going to China next week, he said, to bring the program there. “They have the same problems we have.” He sang a song “Don’t laugh at me” in which he named children who suffer ridicule for being different because of their race, religion, physical characteristics and handicaps. Yarrow’s organization focuses on children in the schools learning respect and acceptance and kindness. As Yarrow and his daughter shared in words and song I felt a dimming flame in me grow as though with a gust of new oxygen.
Do you remember these words: “Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me”? I realize that when I sang that song in the 60’s and 70’s, there was no real peace in me. As a result I wasn’t any good at fostering peaceful relationships around me. I could talk the talk but I wasn’t walking the walk.
I found Peace Pilgrim a few years ago. She is a woman who walked across the country carrying a petition for the United States Congress appealing to them to establish a Department of Peace. She also carried a letter to the United Nations. She taught as she traveled that peace begins inside oneself, radiates into one’s relationships starting with the family, then one’s circle of friends, then one’s neighbors and out toward country and world. Her message resonated with me. It is why I spend time each morning doing spiritual reading and why I have friends who can support me on my spiritual path. It is the reason I work to connect with people on all sides of an argument. Everyone needs to be heard and loved. To dismiss a person for what they believe is to push them deeper into their position. I have been involved in the peace movement and have written letters concerning peace but I have gotten away from that. There is reason for this, but after a while a reason turns into an excuse. Yarrow reminded me that I need to return.
God only knows what will happen tomorrow. But no matter who gets elected, we will always have to work for peace.