Friends of
Peace Pilgrim

A Non-Profit, Tax-Exempt, All Volunteer Organization
PO Box 2207, Shelton, CT 06484
  tel. (203) 926-1581

Online Newsletter

Summer/Fall 2006
Number 48

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"Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, hatred with love" -- Peace Pilgrim

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A Letter from Hagit Raanan - Gandhi's Pencil
Living with Peace - A Note from the Rushes

A letter from Hagit Raanan in Israel

Hagit Raanan, an Israeli woman with a deep dedication to peace, has worked with children and adults with the aim of breaking the cycle of mistrust and hatred and fostering the way of peace. We have supplied Hagit with “Steps” booklets in both Hebrew and Arabic to make Peace’s message available to those she works with in the Middle East. Here is an excerpt from a recent letter:

Massive destruction in Lebanon cannot diminish the pain of the destruction in Israel, children getting killed on both sides – is forbidden to be the answer! It is not the solution! Wars are not the way out as history taught us already - no one ever won a war, not even when it is justified, if any violence can ever be justified… When will they ever learn?

People cry for help; Lebanese, Palestinians, and Israelis mourning, wounded, refugees, left with nothing… Children – the same children I believed would not have to suffer again trauma of war. I was praying for this generation to be saved from the older generations’ experience of useless hostility. When will they ever learn?

In such times I spend more and more of my time with the children who are sitting nonstop for the forth week in smothery shelters. I never know if I help them or they help me. It must be both! That is my share; that is my self-healing. So little in such huge ocean of pain! If only I could go also visit the children in the Gaza Strip and those in Lebanon… children are children are children!

Meanwhile I can spend time only with Israeli children in the north part of Israel - Jews, Muslims, Druze, Christians… The “Almighty” is not discriminating. All share this insane scenario. They are the light! I wish you could join me during the time when I tell the kids the story about Sadako Sasaki, the Japanese girl who was born in Hiroshima during WWII. At the age of 12 she was diagnosed with leukemia - a result of her exposure to atomic radiation. Shortly before her death she committed herself to folding 1000 paper cranes. According to an ancient Japanese tradition, doing so will grant a wish.

When I share this story with children, I tell them that this was Sadako’s wish for them also. She asked very clearly for ALL the children of the world, ALL OF THEM, never to be part of the adults’ conflicts, always to be left out! Then when I tell them that she was too sick to complete her cranes, and that they can help by folding 1000 paper cranes, you should see the sparkle in their eyes – yes! Enthusiastically instantly they cry: “We are committed to fold 1000 paper cranes! We are ready to make it happens! For ALL the children of the world!” Those little fingers folding small colored papers into the shape of cranes, than closing their eyes, praying silently together for Peace on earth, blowing the spirit of the prayer into the paper bird, wishing it to spread the message all over mother earth, for all her children! What a sight!

Learn more about Hagit and her work at:
www.bridgesofpeace.org

*****

“The love of a single heart can make a world of difference.”

Immaculée Ilibagiza
Rwanda Genocide Survivor


Gandhi's Pencil         (top)

When Peace Pilgrim was awarded the Courage of Conscience award by the Peace Abbey of Sherborn, Massachusetts in 1992, another of that year’s recipients was Arun Gandhi, the grandson of the great Indian peacemaker Mohandas Gandhi. Arun has been a champion of peace in his own right. Founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, he travels and speaks about peace, drawing on the principles developed by his grandfather and addressing the subjects of conflict prevention, anger management, diversity training, and relationship and community-building. He often shares a story that highlights the impact his grandfather had on his growing up and offers insight into the depths of commitment that the senior Gandhi lived.

When Arun was about 12 years old, he lived for a time with his grandfather in India. He was attending a nearby school and the Mahatma had given him a notebook and pencil for use in his studies. One afternoon, on his way home from class, Arun decided that the pencil, now a sparse three inches, was no longer very useful and that he deserved a better one. He casually threw it into the bushes that lined the path and continued on his way home.

Later in the evening he went to his grandfather and asked if he could have another pencil. But instead of a pencil he received a barrage of questions from Gandhi. What had become of the pencil? How had it become so small? Where had the pencil been discarded?

After this period of questioning, the senior Gandhi told Arun that he should go out and retrieve the pencil. Since it was almost dark, he handed the boy a flashlight and sent him out into the night.

For several hours Arun struggled in the bushes but finally retrieved the discarded pencil and returned home to his grandfather. Gandhi then shared two lessons that stayed with Arun for the rest of his life.

The first lesson was that even the making of something as simple as a pencil uses the world’s resources. To throw it away is to throw away the world’s resources and that is violence against nature.

The second lesson was that because we can afford to buy many things in bulk we use them indiscriminately and thus, over-consume the resources of the world. When we over-consume we are denying these resources to people elsewhere who live in poverty and this is violence against humanity.

Gandhi taught that the little things we do everyday can be acts of violence and that only by taking care of these little things can we begin to take care of the big issues of violence.

*****

" Just after I dedicated my life to service, I felt that I could no longer accept more than I needed while others in the world have less than they need. This moved me to bring my life down to need-level. I thought it would be difficult. I thought it would entail a great many hardships, but I was quite wrong... I don't feel deprived of anything. For me, what I want and what I need are exactly the same, and you couldn't give me anything I don't need.

Peace Pilgrim    


Living with Peace         (top)
by Marjorie Agoston

Our European friend Marjorie Agoston currently lives in Spain. She previously lived in France where, for a time, she helped distribute the French version of the Peace Pilgrim book. Marjorie has recently written her own book. One chapter entitled "Living with Peace" describes her experience of distributing the Peace Pilgrim book in France after the French edition went into liquidation and she became its agent. Marjorie’s book has not been published but you can receive a copy via email by contacting her at: marjorieagoston@hotmail.com.

Have you already made friends with a person who is dead? I’m about to write about such a friendship.

Once, years ago, attending a Quaker program in Holland, we were told about a book we should all read. The book concerned an American woman, who came to be known as Peace Pilgrim and who had spent the last 28 years of her life crossing and re-crossing the United States of America on her mission for peace. On foot, she had only the clothes she wore and carried nothing besides a comb, a toothbrush, and some copies of her peace pamphlet: “Steps Towards Inner Peace”. She carried no food, no water or anything else to drink, and no money... The book was called Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, and was compiled from her writings, talks and broadcasts by a group of her friends following her death.

In those days, before the availability of information via the Internet, it took me a few years to track down the book. When finally I did, I was thrilled by her adventure. Basically, it is the story of one woman who answers her call and was granted the strength and means to do so, as one always is, in the case of a real call. I wanted to share the book with my friends, so I wrote away to ask about the possible existence of a French translation. I received an immediate reply. The organization in the U.S. urgently required a person or group to distribute the French translation, the stock being about to be liquidated. (The book had not corresponded to the image of that particular publishing house.)

I thought of the Quakers and, as the Annual General Assembly was about to take place, I put it before them. Due certainly to their already heavy schedule, the matter was never taken up. I felt then that this particular call was for me alone and I, myself, volunteered.

The stock consisted of 37 cartons each carrying 48 books. These were duly delivered to the ground floor of our apartment building, and two of us carried the cartons up the five flights of stairs to our flat. The problem, however, did not end there. Where were we to put them?

George and I and our two children were living in a space totaling 500 square feet, including a balcony. The flat comprised the living room with our foldaway bed, one bedroom, a box room converted into a tiny bedroom, a kitchen and minute hallway. There wasn’t a bathroom. Off the hallway were what amounted to three cupboards. One cupboard contained a Turkish style (hole in the ground) toilet, fitted with a shower. Next to this was our “toilet cupboard” with a small basin and shelves for toilet accessories. Lastly, there was a shallow storage cupboard which held mainly tools and files. Next to this, on the floor were the telephone and a pile of telephone books on which to sit while telephoning.

Finally, we lined the far wall, the longest wall of the living-room/bedroom with cartons, stacked four and five high. From then on, they were clearly visible in all our photos. As well as this, we made two arrangements which, covered with rugs, served as seating.

Next, I had to form a non-profit making association with a bank account in order to sell the books at cost price and to gradually repay the American organization, which had bought the stock. The cost of the book was modest: 30 French francs per book (253 pages plus photos). The New Age style cover was misleading, however. Forming the association was greatly helped by the knowledge and experience of my friend Sarr Ousmane. He told me exactly what to do and expect and gave me a model of the statutes of such an association. So that part went fairly smoothly, though apart from the immediate family members who formed the skeleton, i.e. the minimum administrative committee required by law, I had next to no success in attracting other members. The 50 French francs annual membership fee would have helped to cover such costs as publicity and the granting of free copies which in fact, I financed alone.

Almost all the selling of the book came down to me personally. I did this mostly after Quaker meetings for worship on Sundays, when there were often visitors including people who had had a personal encounter with Peace Pilgrim. I also sold it through my work. The book drew mixed response. To say the least, its readers didn’t seem to take up the habit of discussing or recommending the book, and this surprised me a lot. The book also caused some angry responses from people I would not have expected it of. One friend accosted me in the street. “I wouldn’t dream of reading a book by an unnamed author!” (Presumably that eliminated most of the Bible from her reading list...) A copy I gave to a library never appeared on its shelves. Some people dismissed the book as being entirely too utopian... Distributing the book was in no way an easy task.

This, however, is how Peace Pilgrim (Mildred Norman until she adopted the more anonymous name to guard against obscuring her message), became my friend and mentor.

Some years later, when our daughter required finance for long studies, we decided to sell up everything, apart from our small holiday flat in Spain, so as to make an equal division between the two children. The division was based on the money needed for our son to buy a place to live, and where we would live with him. So we left our home of twenty-four years and moved to an even more modest flat, though still in central Paris. By that time, about half the stock of Peace Pilgrim books had been distributed. The remaining stock went with us and as we had almost no furniture to take, most having been built in to make the best availability of the space in the old flat, we made a platform of the remaining cartons. With a mattress on top, this became our bed, a “peace” bed!

Naturally, the platform got smaller and smaller, but right to the end, when George and I left to come and live in Spain for reasons of George’s health, there were enough cartons to support our mattress. Those remaining cartons went to various people working for peace and who would distribute the books free of charge, as suggested by the American association. All this happened during the immediate upheaval of moving, and I haven’t kept in contact with these people to know how they got on. My part of the mission was over and the association was closed down. My next mission was to be of a completely different nature.

Peace Pilgrim, who had worked closely with Quakers, never claimed membership of any church or body, and this for the sake of her mission. Her life did, however, embody two very important Quaker principles:

Live adventurously!

Walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one! (George Fox, 1656)

There comes to mind also the story of two Friends talking together about a particular event. “Well, I won’t be coming next year,” one said to the other. And the other answered, “How do you know what God will require of you, a year from now?”

How indeed! Hence the need for us, however much work may face us, not to become so committed that we are no longer free to answer a call. We must remain available and open to the prompting of God within.


A note from John and Ann Rush

Thank you so much for all the cards and letters we have received since moving from the Peace Pilgrim Center. How wonderful it is to hear your many kind words, which make us feel so appreciated and loved! We enjoy hearing from our friends from the past but it is difficult for us to write back to everyone separately.

We are now living at the Sullivan County Health Care Home in Unity, New Hampshire which is about 5 miles from our daughter, Erica. It is nice living so close to our daughter but we do miss our many far away friends and the Peace Pilgrim Center. We are glad the Peace Pilgrim Center continues to have devoted volunteers who are filling requests for materials, inspiring people around the world.

Peace and Love,
John and Ann

You can write to John and Ann at:
John and Ann Rush
Sullivan County Health Care
5 Nursing Home Drive
Unity, NH 03743



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Friends of Peace Pilgrim
PO Box 2207
Shelton, Connecticut 06484

tel. (203) 926-1581

revised August 18, 2006