|Wintertime, 1989||"Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, hatred with love"||Number 6|
Table of Contents: Dear Friends of Peace Pilgrim
Spiritual Life in China
Finding Your Place in the Divine Plan
The Library Edition
The Less Traveled Path
Letter from Saskatchewan
A Solitary Witness
Those Who Do Mean Things
A Spiritual Tornado
Witness For Peace
Peace Pilgrim Book
Peace Pilgrim Saved My Life
Friends of Peace Pilgrim Home || Newsletter Index
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|Dear Friends of Peace Pilgrim,
ALMOST EVERY MORNING LATELY, in the dawns early light, a huge black crow lands on a "bird-wire" outside our office window. (Just in case you dont know, telephone wires are really bird-wires, a very young child once told us.) Sometimes a brigade of little birds attacks our crow from every side. And a cottontail bunny has been making a nest in our greenhouse, where a bunny had a baby last year. I just saw two bunnies chasing each other and leaping straight in the air over one another. Spring must be on its way, though in California seasons do get a little confused. This is only January!
We get up early to answer your letters and to fill shipping bags and boxes with your requests. But we get up the earliest when we are writing the newsletter, because it is so exciting sharing all our good news (4 A.M. this morning). We find we do our most creative work first thing in the morning when our minds are fresh and before the phone starts ringing and people start coming. It is so inspiring to read your letters that we simply cant keep ourselves in bed. We believe in getting eight hours of sleep, so we go to bed very early. We love your letters, love answering them, and love sending Peace Pilgrims books and tapes around the world. There is nothing we would rather be doing, and we consider it an amazing privilege.
We have been especially busy since last summer when the Wider Quaker Fellowship included STEPS in their regular mailing to 3,000 people in 72 countries. Many of these people wrote for more STEPS and now request books and still more steps to share. The Executive Secretary of the European Section wrote from Luxembourg, "I received many periodicals and much reading material, but STEPS is the most powerful tool I have found so far in the pursuit of my endeavors It is my intention to encourage translations/circulation of this precious booklet."
Thousands of STEPS and boxes of books and tapes were requested for the holidays. Now people who received them as gifts are writing for more to share with their friends. And so it goes one spin off after another.
Recently, Peace Pilgrim was features in a lead article by John Amidon in the A.R.E. magazine with a beautiful front cover painting. After reading the article more than 200 eager and enthusiastic people have phoned or written to us requesting books and STEPS. Now we are hearing from them again. Many want audio and videotapes and more books for their friends.
Lastly (except there is not last, no end to this wonderful process Peace Pilgrim started) the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the major newspaper in this area, published a long article about our Center. Four people have volunteered their services after reading those recent articles. One is recording copies of audiotapes right now in our living room for those of you who like to hear Peace Pilgrim.
Friends of Peace Pilgrim have been very fortunate to have had Bill Hamilton working with us as a volunteer for a year. He had a successful trip to the Pacific Northwest last Fall, making video presentations and giving talks to groups about Peace Pilgrim. After receiving more invitations, he returned in January to show the video to groups in northern California, Oregon and Washington. He led a weekend Peace Pilgrim "Steps Toward Inner Peace retreat at Breitenbush Hot Spring Retreat Center in Oregon.
Bill will be leaving us the middle of March, completing the year he agreed to give to our Center. As he drives to Massachusetts he will stop to show groups and individuals the wonderful new 55-minute video of Peace Pilgrim answering university students questions.
Please call us if you would like to have him give a video presentation or lead a retreat in your area. There is no charge. Or perhaps you would just like to talk with him about Peace Pilgrim and offer him a place to stay. He will be glad to tell you about his experiences at the Peace Pilgrim Center.
We appreciate Bills devotion and service, his delightful sense of humor and his sensitivity to the needs of the household. Many people have been introduced to Peace Pilgrim because of his efforts. The new compact book, book cards, and revisions of the wording on the inside front and back covers of our Peace Pilgrim books were among his many good ideas. Many of his suggestions have increased our efficiency. We especially appreciate the low cost audio tapes that he made possible. We know that other groups will benefit from his help, and he goes with our blessings.
We cannot do great things in life: we can only do small things with great love.
From Germantown, Maryland: "It was a wonder to read of an everyday little person making such a difference. It gave me hope to try harder to live life for God, and to find the path God wants me to take."
German Language Edition
Imagine our happiness in receiving PEACE PILGRIM in German!
The beautiful hardback edition came out last Fall in Germany the first foreign language edition. If you want a copy please wrote to Aquamarin Verlag, Voglherd 1, Grafing D-8018, West Germany.
Here is the story of how the German book came about: Prem Kumar, from India, was on a Peace Walk around the world, when someone in Europe gave him STEPS. Heidi Sorgel, one of many who walked short distances with him, liked Prems STEPS so much he gave it to her. She wrote to us volunteering to translate STEPS into German, and of course we were delighted.
Heidi then wanted to translate the PEACE PILGRIM book, and Solange Fernex, a leader of Femmes Pour La Paix in France, offered to support her. After two or three years the German publisher, Dr. Peter Michel, requested permission to publish the PEACE PILGRIM book and was happy to use Heidis translation with a few changes from their official translator.
Russian Language Edition
Our efforts to publish a Russian edition of "Steps Towards Inner Peace are moving right along, and we hope to have it available by the end of May. Numerous people traveling to the Soviet Union have requested it, and Soviets who have received English editions of Peace Pilgrim materials have expressed appreciation.
The translation was made by Prof. George Dolnikowsky, retired from Juniata College. Eight other people fluent in Russian are assisting, for four it is their native tongue. Stanley Bertsch is in charge of coordinating the editing process. Here at the Peace Pilgrim Center, where the actual typing and revisions are being done, we have configured one of our computers to type and print in the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet.
Prof. Dolnikowsky is currently translating the PEACE PILGRIM book into Russian. We hope to have the Russian edition of the book available in about a year.
The PEACE PILGRIM book is being translated into Japanese by a Japanese professor in Japan, into Chinese by an American professor in China, and into Tamil by Indian Friends of Peace Pilgrim.
We are revising the format of PASOS HACIA LA PAZ INTERIOR (Spanish STEPS) to bring our cost down to about 17 cents a copy. The new edition, with a press run of 20,000, will closely match the format of English STEPS.
We are still looking for volunteers fluent in Spanish to serve on our Spanish Peace Pilgrim book translating committee. If you are skilled in translating English to Spanish and are interested in helping translate Peace Pilgrims book, please let us know.
Letter from Professor Lee
We had a lovely holiday season here. The Chinese were very motivated to celebrate Christmas, and it was not just trees, Santa Claus and all the commercial trimmings. Many were interested in the birth of Christ and the spiritual side of this major holiday. The people have begun to explore religion and spirituality here, like never before. They were so deprived for so long of anything meaningful in regard to spirituality.
Foshan has a small church here, which is of mixed denominations. One of my students went there recently and reported in her oral exam how much she enjoyed the feeling of holiness there
Though China has gone through the hell of the Cultural Revolution, there is a real atmosphere here to work on spiritual problems .
During one of my evening classes, I showed the video you first sent. My students were very moved. I just received the other one this last week. I cannot wait to use it. All my evening class students now have a copy of Peaces book They are visibly moved. Those that do express themselves are just in wonderment about the American lady who would give up everything, every comfort, to make the world a better and safer place. I get the feeling that a remarkable seed has been planted. Their souls have been crying out for some spiritual nourishment, and now they have tasted the very essence of Divine Life.
I suggest that you send me another large shipment I would love to have books for all of my conversation students around 200 is that possible?
Because of your gifts we are able to send free books and tapes to Lee to share with his colleagues and students in the Peoples Republic of China. What a wonder?
By Peace Pilgrim
The main things, if you are to find inner peace, are to bring your life into harmony with the laws which govern this universe (these are the same for all of us), and to find and fit into your special work in this world your job in the divine plan.
These are two ways that are very effective for finding your job in the divine plan. The first one is to put yourself into special inspirational circumstances. Do something that will inspire you, and lift you up, and awaken your higher nature, so that you will know what your life pattern is. If you like, and feel inspired by beautiful words, maybe poetry, read beautiful words. If it inspires you to walk amid the beauties of nature, walk amid the beauties of nature.
The other way, since you probably had some awakening, possibly even when you were a child, is to ask yourself, "What do I really like to do? What do I really feel is right for me to do?" Its more likely to be a well-recognized useful task in society than something unusual. Its more apt to be a number of things than just one thing.
Several hundred libraries purchased our PEACE PILGRIM book after seeing it reviewed in the Library Journal in 1983 which said, "Her reflections on voluntary simplicity and the dynamics of surrender to God make eloquent reading. A unique book by a unique woman, highly recommended." Also some libraries have been given books by various friends of Peace Pilgrim. Many have written that they were inspired by reading a library copy of Peace Pilgrim. This has encouraged us to pursue our long-cherished goal of putting a book into all of the 20,000 public and college libraries in this country.
Now, because of a gift, we will be able to partially fulfill this dream. This summer we are planning to print as many copies as we can afford of a special hard cover edition, designed to have a long library shelf life. We will then send a book to as many libraries as we can.
The following are quotes from those who have found our book in their local libraries:
Oregon: "After coming across the book about Peace Pilgrim in the local library, I have ordered the two videotapes and a personal copy of her book. I was struggling with the whole concept of simplification when I first encountered the book. God really spoke to me concerning this, through Peace Pilgrim. Gods ways are so timely!"
Ontario, Canada: "Could you please tell me where I can buy a copy of PEACE PILGRIM? I am halfway through a copy, which belongs to our local library. It is a wonderfully inspiring book that I could read over and over again. Everyone should read this book at least once in a life time particularly politicians."
Ohio: "I just saw a copy of the book PEACE PILGRIM in the library and was greatly impressed by it."
Massachusetts: "Please send me a copy of Peace Pilgrims book. I discovered it in a small library in Maine and was able to read most of it. I would like a copy to share with others. I would like to use quotes from her to initiate dialogue in groups I am associated with."
Missouri: "I have gotten the book PEACE PILGRIM from the St. Louis Public Library. I love it and want to buy it"
Pat Mische, who with her husband are founders of Global Education Associates wrote, "As I told you, I met Peace Pilgrim twice in my life at my mother-in-laws house in St. Cloud, MN. I was very very impressed by her commitment. Reading her book you gave me has brought back many memories of a wonderful human being who started me thinking. She planted some seeds that have grown within me through the years."
"I am so grateful you are keeping the cost of PEACE PILGRIM so very low. In this way we in the field can distribute so many more." From a Peace Pilgrim friend in Florida who has given out hundreds of books to schools, churches and conventions.
An American working with the poor in Haiti wrote in his newsletter:
A letter recently came from a monk in a Monasterrio in Venezuela who had also received this Haiti newsletter. He requested a PEACE PILGRIM book. Thus her message goes around the world.
"How much I wish I too could have been a personal friend of Peace Pilgrim, because I have never, never read another book that said EXACTLY what I know and feel on every page as this one does. "STEPS TOWARD INNER PEACE came in the mail today of all days, the day before my husbands funeral. It gave me courage to continue being courageous.
"I began reading it and could not put it down. I kept saying yes, yes, yes. Everything I read brought a positive response. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
"Our lives have been lived in and for peace, and here I have found what we have been trying to say said so simply, so beautifully, so clearly that it has to be read by many.
"I am Co-Director of The School of Lay Ministry for the Diocese of Prince Albert.
"We have 25 students, all adults who are already deeply involved in the church, but some not so involved in the inner life.
"This little book is exactly what is needed to speak to them, and to many, many others who are trapped in fears of all kinds. Would it be possible to obtain lots of copies of STEPS and the book?
"Thank you for any help you can give. I am going to read this over and over until I too can say it as beautifully as she does.
"God bless and assist you in your continued efforts to make her life and work known."
Facts for this article were taken from the book IN SOLITARY WITNESS by Gordon Zahn. In Austria, Franz Jagerstatter has been posthumously proclaimed a national hero. Efforts are being made within the Catholic Church to promote his canonization.
During the bitter European winter of 1943, when the German army was experiencing heavy causalities along the Russian front, the Nazi government began to feverishly search out new recruits for its armed forces. In the Austrian village of St. Radegund, a 36-year-old peasant farmer received a letter that would alter the course of his life. It was a document ordering him to report within a week for active duty in the German military.
A deeply religious Catholic and sexton of his church, Franz Jagerstatter was married with three young daughters to support. When Nazi troops first entered his country in 1938, Franz was the only man in his town to vote against German annexation. When he received his draft notice he immediately sought counsel with the local pastor. He informed the priest that his conscience would not allow him to participate in the terrible war that the Nazis were waging. He innocently inquired whether or not it was morally permissible to fight in the war, explaining that by such conduct one would be breaking the sixth commandment, "Thou shall not kill." He was advised to report for military duty as ordered.
Undaunted, the peasant farmer then journeyed to Linz for a personal audience with the bishop. For over an hour the bishop lectured Franz on the moral responsibility of ordinary citizens to obey the laws of civil authority. He also reminded Franz of his personal responsibility for his own life as well as the welfare of his family. The reason for this was obvious -Nazi law mandated that all conscientious objectors be executed.
When he arrive home he announced to his wife and family that he would not take part in Hitlers war. Three was no choice but to refuse induction.
The pressure upon Franz to reconsider grew even greater as the date of induction grew closer, and fellow villagers tried to convince him of the folly of his ways. Friends told him he was becoming a religious fanatic. In-laws intimated he was abandoning his wife and children. His mother and wife made passionate pleas reminding him of his obligation to his three small children. His conscience could not be swayed.
On March 1, 1943, he appeared at the local induction board and announced his refusal to enter the armed service. At this point he was immediately placed under arrest and transported to a military prison in Linz, Germany.
During his two months imprisonment, the chaplain tried to convince Franz that an individual had no responsibility for the acts and policies of the government, that taking an oath and performing his military service did not endorse the German government. Franz could not be stirred to alter his beliefs.
On May 6th the German authorities moved Franz to a Berlin prison where he was scheduled to be tried by a military tribunal for crimes against the state. Franz then received the services of a court-appointed attorney who quoted scripture and cited the familiar New Testament verse of "rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesars." The prisoner said that there was s distinct difference between "those things of Caesar" and "those things of God."
The lawyer could not change Franzs mind. Even sharp personal criticism that the prisoners beliefs were endangering the welfare of his family failed to make an impression. Franzs deeply rooted faith that he was acting in accordance with Gods will by not taking the life of another person could not be swayed. He simply replied that the dictates of conscience took precedence over every other personal consideration, including that of family.
On the day of his court appearance Franzs trial was delayed for a short period of time. Franzs attorney took this unexpected delay to explain to the presiding military officer that Franz was a sincerely devout Catholic, who was stubbornly refusing military induction. It was the attorneys opinion that perhaps the court could convince this Austrian peasant to change his position before the trial. In an unprecedented procedure, two high-ranking military officers agreed to meet with the defendant.
The meeting began with a harsh lecture on the prisoners responsibility to serve the Fatherland Franz was reminded that failure to live up to his obligations as a citizen of the Third Reich would mean forfeiture of his life. In a steadfast voice Franz acknowledged he was well aware of the consequences of his actions.
Soon the court officials were pleading with him to modify his stand so that he might be spared the death penalty. They promised him noncombatant service if he agreed to be drafted into the military. But Franz had long maintained that such a duty would only serve to free another soldier to fight on the battlefield. He could not bring himself to accept such a compromise.
Thereafter Franzs trial was swift and formal. The tribunal had no choice but to condemn him to death. His date of execution was set to take place in a month. He was reminded that if he chose to change his mind and serve in the Fuhrers army, the sentence would be rescinded.
When word of Franzs execution date reached his wife and pastor, the made a long journey to Berlin to see the condemned prisoner. They were allowed one twenty-minute visit in which they begged him to recant his decision. His wife later wrote: "He could not promise us he would become a soldier with heavy hearts we had to take leave of each other."
The evening before his execution Franz penned his final farewell to his family. He wrote: "Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us. For love will conquer and will endure for all eternity. And happy are they who live and die in Gods love."
When the priest offered to read comforting passages from the New Testament, Franz declined the invitation by saying: "I am completely bound in inner communion with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God." The chaplain noticed a sense of joy and inner peace in the condemned mans eyes that he would never forget.
On August 9, 1943 he was beheaded for refusing to pay allegiance to Hitlers war machine, one solitary witness with the courage and grace to adhere to his moral convictions.
Of his own six-month ordeal, Franz wrote: "It is always possible to save ones own soul and perhaps some others as well by bearing individual witness against evil." Franz Jagerstatters story is a source of strength and inspiration for those called upon to assert their moral and ethical responsibility both to God and themselves.
The first woman in Congress
Whenever I hear Jeanette Rankin mentioned, a feeling of gratitude wells up within me. She was the only member of Congress to vote against both world wars. I heard her speak forcibly about peace in our church in Wichita, Kansas, when I was in my teens. During my years in Washington, D.C. I was aware of her courageous work for peace as a congresswoman from Montana.
In 1967 we were thrilled to learn that Jeanette Rankin, at the age of 86, was beginning to speak out against the Vietnam War. The "Jeanette Rankin Brigade" was formed to petition Congress to end the war. Little did we know then that Jeanette had been inspired by meeting Peace Pilgrim.
The following information about Jeanette Rankin is taken from our Vietnam War files and from a letter we thankfully received from Mary OKelley of Atherns, Georgia, a friend of Peace Pilgrim.
When Jeanette voted against our entry into the First World War, many were not pleased. When she voted against our entry in the Second World War in 1941, they burned her Georgia house down. Later she moved to a small house and lived the life of a recluse with few friends. She was disillusioned with society and felt that the men in Congress were leading us toward destruction.
Many years later when Jeanette heard that Peace Pilgrim was coming to their community, she and Mary arranged to have a meeting. About 60 people came, and after the meeting Jeanette and Peace Pilgrim spent the night talking. Peace persuaded her to become active again by telling her that with her name she could do much for the cause of peace that society needed her.
Slowly, Jeanette began to change. She, Coretta Scott King and many other women sent out a CALL TO AMERICAN WOMEN to go to Washington, D.C., January 15, 1968 to petition the new Congress to end the war. She was quoted in newspapers across the country, "Im opposed to all wars. The was method must be abolished if we are to continue as a civilization."
Mary write, "Peace Pilgrim had a profound influence on Jeanette; she got the hermit out of the house. Jeanette was surprised to find she had many friends who were still on her side in the search for peace."
One little person giving all of her time for peace makes news. Many people giving some of their time can make history.
From Massachusetts: "In my English As A Second Language class I distributed STEPS to the students and two days later I used the videos. They were well received, and one student, a 28-year-old Dominican man, told me that he believes his life has been changed as a result. He requested a copy of the Spanish translation for a friend who is rather like himself so that they can share the dream as he calls it. I plan to use the videos in my fall semester advanced ESL class."
From Idaho: "A friend loaned me PEACE PILGRIM and I have so thoroughly enjoyed it. It has come at a period in my life when so many negative things are happening to me, and reading her book has started me hopefully on an upward path. It was like God speaking to me through her writings, and the feelings it brought to me were astounding I want to share them with my family, and always have on hand her inspiring outlook on life. Maybe this is one small way to introduce those around me to their own inner peace, as well as peace in our world."
From New Hampshire: "I dont think Ive ever been as deeply touched as when I read Peace Pilgrims book and STEPS! Knowing how deeply she lived peace has touched me profoundly. What has touched me the most is that she apparently lived according to her highest understand 100% of the time. This is truly my desire too.
"Ive read and reread Peace Pilgrims book along with STEPS and I find that theyre becoming by constant companions. Im so, so grateful to you for having shared this material with me and I definitely would like to share it with my family and friends too. I feel drawn to share Peace Pilgrims message in my own quiet way Id be only too happy to contribute to peace by living my own life as wholly peacefully and lovingly as possible."
From Ann Arbor: "Thanks to your abiding effort the inspiration of Peace Pilgrim is ever present in my life and has radiated out through me to others I offer my time, effort and home if it can be of service to you in any way."
From California: "My life has become filled with the happiness of God more than ever! What Ive learned from Peace Pilgrims messages are truly a part of God, simply Love, Love and Light!!!! My inner peace seems to awaken without having to search and uncover it now. The joy I have been feeling these past few weeks is just so, so very wonderful! Everyone that I have shared Peace Pilgrims messages with, has warmed and shined it upon their daily growth I know that the smoothing out is not temporary but permanent Please let me know how I can help."
From Massachusetts: "The Peace Pilgrim book has really changed my life and has helped me cope with tragedy in a constructive way. She was such a fantastic person, showing that a single woman can accomplish and unlimited amount."
From Illinois: "I recently was hospitalized; while there, a friend sent me your STEPS booklet. It really was informative, enjoyable, but most of all, it made me realize that the simple life is the best life. I have already begun on my new life."
Someone could do the meanest thing to me and I would feel deep compassion for this out-of-harmony person, this sick person, who is capable of doing mean things. I certainly would not hurt myself by a wrong reaction of bitterness or anger."
A beautiful example of one who responded with love to a very mean act is reported in the book, LOVE IN THE MORTAR JOINTS. This book is about HABITAT FOR HUMANITY, an organization that is building houses for, and with, poor people. (Former President Carter is on the board and works as a carpenter on houses for the poor.) The following is a true story, told by the author, Millard Fuller:
Ethel Dunning, a resident of Forest Park, the second housing community built at Koinonia, shared with me a powerful story Tom and Ethel Dunning and their children had been living in a shack on a farm owned by a white lady. They came to Koinonia and arranged to have a home built in Forest Park. When their new house was just getting under construction, the white lady phoned Ethel to ask if what she had heard was truenamely, that they were having a new home built at Koinonia and that they would be leaving the farm when it was finished. "Yes, maam, its true," Ethel answered. "Well, I want to talk to you about this. Come to my house in the morning so we can discuss the matter."
Ethel went. She said the lady harangued her until mid-afternoon, shaming her for wanting to move to Koinonia. Ethel finally left in tears. When she got back home, her water had been cut off. Both houses -- their house and the ladys house were served by a well with pipes running from a single pump. Of course, the lady owned the well, the pump, the pipes, and both houses; she had the legal right to cut off the water, and she used it.
For two months the Dunning family had to haul water in Toms truck, filling buckets at a neighbors house. One day, toward the end of this time, the lady phoned Ethel. She had a little problem. "Ethel," she said, "my boy and his wife are coming to see us this weekend. Would you mind cooking us some of those special cakes you bake so well?" "Yes, maam, Id be glad to cook em but you know I aint got no water!" "Oh, Ethel, thats right. Id forgotten. Well, could you come over here to my house and bake them?"
At this point in her story, Ethel paused and looked straight at me for a long moment. "Millard, you know what I did?" "What?" I queried. "I went over there and worked all day long baking those fancy cakes. I didnt say nothin bout nothin. I just baked and baked. I was as nice as I could be. But you know what? "What, Ethel?" "To do that, youse got to be dug up!"
The message was clear. To be Gods person, we must be dug up, transformed, born again, given a new value system one that enables us to bear insults and hurts, returning love for hate and good for evil. Ethel was able to do this.
Sometime later, after Ethel and Tom had moved to their new house, the attitude of the white lady began to soften, and she has since visited in their home, expressing happiness for them.
This book and other books written by Millard Fuller are very inspiring. For copies write to Habitat for Humanity, Habitat and Church Streets, Americus, Georgia 31789.
Habitat people like our Peace Pilgrim books so much they repeatedly request boxes of books to keep in their office to give to volunteers. We are thrilled that many of those working in one of the most inspiring movements of our time are also being inspired by Peace Pilgrim.
The following is from an article by Paul Blanshard, in the February 11, 1954 Delaware Valley Advance, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, just after Peace Pilgrims first year of pilgrimage across U.S.:
A minor spiritual tornado passed through Bucks County late in January, 1954. Her name was Peace Pilgrim.
Choosing to remain anonymous, Peace Pilgrim made a flurry of speeches all over the county A speaking trait when I saw her in one of ten Bucks County appearances was the artistic use of long, slender hands, always busy in company with her words, never dropped down to her side or bunched in her pockets the way many of us do when speaking
A Bucks County observer came away from hearing her with this comment: "The story of her trip is a fascinating record of the power of humility and faith"
Another who heard my interpretation of her talk and a late person interview with her, grinned slyly at me and inquired, "Is this a new wrinkle in crackpots one who shuns publicity and apparently wants no money? "
The words that she said remain and ring of the eternal verities. Amid the formalities and conventions of my normal life, her informality and unconventionality stick in the mind.
Weighing this experience, I have wondered if we accept truth in whatever package it comes to us? Does eccentricity in appearance outweigh the power of ideas?
Pondering my friends just about crackpots, I have wondered what we would do today if eternal truths started pouring from the mouth of a humble carpenter risen in our midst.
A minor spiritual tornado has come and gone. The questions remain.
Several of us moms in Parkersburg, West Virginia are planning a trip to Nicaragua with Witness For Peace. We call it "inch by inch," because thats how we have all become involved in this. We started off on all this fairly simply reading Peace Pilgrims book. Then we formed a peace study group. Study without action seemed to be missing the point. (See page 31, STEPS booklet, about Peace Study Groups). We want to visit some of the schools, health care facilities, centers for handicapped children, help with reconstruction from Hurricane Joan, and meet with people who can give us a sense of the political and social and religious events in that country. (As well as our own!) Later we linked up with a Quest for Peace shipment to Nicaragua, sending 15 tons of stuff in a semi-tractor trailer! Wendy Rawlins Tuck (from THE PEACEMAKER, Jan. 20, 1989)
By Richard Polese
Seven years ago this past holiday season, people from all over the country gathered at my house in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to remember our friend Peace Pilgrim. Here is the story:
I read Mildred Smiths words in disbelief that warm July day in 1981 outside the Santa Fe post office. Peace Pilgrim had been killed in a car accident in Knox, Indiana, on July 7 while being driven to senior citizens center to give a talk. Ever since the Hawaii trip with Peace the previous summer, I had been looking forward to being with her at Patricia Yohns house in New Orleans over the Christmas holidays to work on notes for a childrens book about her pilgrimage. Now, that would never be. Here are excerpts from a letter I wrote to Patricia:
"Im still numb, but cycles of prayer go on in my heart, telling Peace of my appreciation for her teaching and impact on my life, wishing her well on her journey
"But I have this feeling that there is now more Peace Pilgrim in the world than before. That she is closer than Ive ever known her. For me, this is a gift the gift she has given me through her dying.
"I join with you in a circle of love with all the others who knew her and were touched by her We have work to do!"
Shortly, it occurred to me that part of that work would be for me! A few days later I sent out a letter to people, who also knew Peace, which began:
"Dear Friends of Peace Pilgrim,
"This December I am planning an open house here in Santa Fe for Peaces friends. The dates for this gathering will be December 27, 1981 through January 9, 1982. This retreat will be a time when people can share stories about Peace, remember and explore her teaching, and renew the joy she felt in living prayerfully and purposefully.
"We were all touched by a wonderful life, a person who showed us that we all have such potential for wisdom, happiness, freedom, love and inner peace. The miracle is that Peace Pilgrim, when we think of her, still glows in our hearts "
More than 40 people gathered in Santa Fe to share this memorial retreat. Many were veterans of Peaces tours through Alaska and Hawaii. They brought tapes of Peaces talks, letters and stories of her visits to their homes; and we shared communal vegetarian meals prepared in my tiny adobe kitchen. Twice a day we gathered for sharing our recollections, reading letters from and about her, and singing the songs that Peace loved.
Several were surprised to find that we had been thinking independently about a book project. Aziz and Miriam Shihab of Dallas were planning a biography. A New Jersey friend had already completed a manuscript that was a mystical interpretation of Peaces life. John and Ann came with Peace Pilgrim material collected at Swarthmore College and from Peace Pilgrims sister, Helene. There was my proposed young peoples book, HERE COMES THE PEACE PILGRIM.
Five of us at the retreat realized that it just might be our job now to put what Peace had already said (in her newsletters, from her talks, from her Steps booklet) into book form. Four stayed on at my house to work on the huge task of putting all the pieces together. Our roles in the project came to us with remarkable ease. Often I had the feeling that Peace Pilgrim was right there with us, looking over our shoulders as we worked.
We found that Peace had indeed left enough material so that every word in the book could be hers, except for a brief introduction and material about her in the appendices. We were just the compilers, and we signed ourselves "Five Friends of Peace Pilgrim" at the end of the introduction.
Others helped too. Carla Annette contributed photo portraits of Peace she had taken in Hawaii the year before; many of the questions and answers at the back of the book were from the correspondence between Peace and Dave Vener; Santa Fe writer Peggy Pond Church invited John and Ann to stay at her house to work on the final draft; the Topeka Capital-Journal contributed the picture for the cover.
Next came the question of how to publish and distribute the book. We decided that going through established publishers would take too long we would do it ourselves, and offer the book without charge, as well as making it available to bookstores. Later I was asked to take over the book store trade.
After Peace Pilgrims transition her sister received letters and gifts from around the country. These gifts were put into a fund to be used to publish a Peace Pilgrim book in her own words. We are thankful to Helene and all of you who contributed to that early fund, making it possible to get started publishing the PEACE PILGRIM book.
The manuscript was complete and ready for typesetting in the fall. The final past-up and design work was accomplished by Patricia and myself. In February, 1983, just over a year after our memorial gathering, PEACE PILGRIM: HER LIFE AND WORK IN HER OWN WORDS appeared in print for the first time.
Every year since then we have ordered a new printing at least once a year, and there is now a new compact pocket edition available. Thousands of people all over the world who never met her have now read her story and have been moved by her simple wisdom. We believe that thousands more will read and hear her message for years to come. She keeps on walking in many hearts. Truthfully, her pilgrimage is one that never ended.
Only when we realize that we do not possess people that they must live in accordance with their own inner motivations, do we stop trying to run their lives for them, and then we discover that we are able to live in harmony with them.
"The world can be mine if I do not try to own it or run it according to my ideas. When I do try to run it, then I loose it altogether."
Tao Te Ching
Prison incarceration is becoming a greater and greater desolation for those who fall into our "corrections" system across the country. As I meet and visit with many of these inmates over the past nine years, it becomes clearer to me how much in need of inspiration and upliftment they all really are.
Every letter I send out, including letters to family members, as well as my prison friends, contain a STEPS booklet. The response I began to receive from those who had read STEPS was phenomenal. The people in prisons mention the material to me so often, and they like to send copies to their loved ones.
One prisoner wrote, "I took my time and read word for word, every page in this little booklet, STEPS TOWARD INNER PEACE, and found it very interesting, to say the least. Especially, on page 10 where it stated, If youre harboring the slightest bitterness toward anyone, or any unkind thoughts of any sort whatever, you must get rid of them quickly. They arent hurting anyone but you. It is said that hate injures the hater, not the hated. Ive been out of harmony with myself, because very one here is out of harmony with themselves, but Im getting back on the positive side and not thinking any more negative thoughts."
Subsequent letters from that same young man show a real excitement about the faith he is uncovering in himself. He desires to serve others. As he lives the truth of God he is finding, he even dares to share with others around him. When I visited him shortly after receiving the above letter, he enlarged upon the impact the booklet had produced in him.
The faithfulness of Peace Pilgrim continues to bless the lives of uncounted persons!
When we lived on Shaker Road in Canterbury, New Hampshire, I took Peace Pilgrim down the road to the Shaker village to meet our dear friend, Sister Marguerite. They loved each other immediately, and it was a delight to discover that they had a favorite poem in common, Robert Brownings, "Imprisoned Splendor," which they often quoted:
Truth is within ourselves
Peace Pilgrim also put it this way: For guidance and for truth it is much better to look for the Source through your own inner teacher, than to look to people or books.
Error A Peace Pilgrim friend from Argenta, British Columbia, Canada gently pointed out that in newsletter #5 we called Pablo Casals a guitarist, when he was a cellist.
(a letter from a prisoner)
Hello, my name is ., and I am presently incarcerated in a New York State prison for a crime I did not commit. They convicted my on very shabby evidence and sentenced me from 1 to 4 years in prison. At the time of my arrest I was working hard to support my wife and four children. I have never been in any trouble with the law before this, nor did I ever intend to be.
They thought they were doing society a favor by taking me away from my wife and children. My wife also knows I am innocent, my whole family has stood by me through all this, and for that reason alone I have survived.
The reason I am telling you all this is to show you the circumstances that carried me to the brink of suicide. You see, I was so full of bitterness and hatred, not only for the people who lied about me, but for a system so plagued with injustice. So I made up my mind to end it all. I planned to end my miserable existence. On the night I was to carry out my death wish, I came across the PEACE PILGRIM book, and for some strange reason I felt compelled to read it, and I did.
To make a long story short, that book saved my life. I was inwardly able to forgive those who took me away from my family, and I experienced a deep peace (and I still do) and a great desire to overcome evil with love. Even though I cannot thank the Peace Pilgrim personally for showing me the way, I can and do want to thank all of you who made it possible for me to come across a copy of her book. And of course my thanks goes to God, who is the Source of all light and love.
My time in prison is coming to a close. I will be returning to my loved ones in March of 1989. Because of Peace Pilgrim, I have come to realize that every problem we may encounter contains within it a seed for growth or destruction, depending on how we choose to see it. I f somehow I could do something to repay all of you, I would be most grateful if you would let me know.
Open yourself to the spiritual reach out. God is right there always, constantly right there, including within you. That spark of good within you is the spark of God, a drop of God from the ocean around you.
Friends of Peace Pilgrim
43480 Cedar Avenue
Hemet, California 92544