Peace Pilgrim in the News
Peace Pilgrim enjoyed her frequent encounters with newspaper reporters and radio and TV people. She felt the media was a practical and useful way to get her message out to the people of a community. Usually, after the initial professional skepticism, journalists responded positively to her wit, sincerity and willingness to answer their questions thoughtfully.
A Sampling of Headlines:
Peace Pilgrim, as she wants to be known until she has completed her mission, plans to leave Los Angeles tomorrow morning on a cross-country hike in the interest of world peace.
"The world situation is grave," she said. "Unless we awake firmly from our lethargy and push firmly and quickly away from chaos, all that we cherish will be destroyed in the holocaust which will descend."
More or less in preparation for her long hike, she walked about 2500 miles last summer, covering the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia and other routes. She learned, she said, how to live outdoors and expects to sleep out most of the time on her trip.
She believes that the way to peace will be found through overcoming evil with good, falsehood with truth and hatred with love. The Golden Rule, she said, would do as well.
Sharing this space with us today is the likeness of a God-touched waif who earned the palm by remaining serene and cheerfully buoyant, in perfect stride, while hurdling all the wiles of dubious news hound barking on the trail of truth. She licked us - and she left behind some tantalizing thoughts.
She tripped in here, garbed as pictured, and approached the high counter, her face abeam. The first impression was that she was a grease monkey from a service station. But a second glance revealed that the sign emblazoned across her chest, if that's the word, was not the name of an oil company. It was "Peace Pilgrim."
If we would be interested in her mission and her message - here's the story - extending a sheaf of paper, the pages neatly typed. After hasty look-see, one important item seemed to be missing - perhaps an oversight.
"Your name?" with pencil poised.
And that's where the battle of wits began.
"My name is of no consequence," she declared. "I am nothing. My cause is everything. I am not seeking publicity for myself. So far as you are concerned - you and the whole world besides - my name shall remain Peace Pilgrim."
Now there is an old-fashioned idea in newspaper circles that names are news. When you deliberately withhold your name from a news racketeer while seeking publicity in the medium - well, you are doing it the hard way, to say the least. The news sleuth is apt to class you in the same category with the ping who drags in the Fifth Amendment when asked if and when he was born.
"That's a hell of a note," we remarked, stepping into our best religious pose. "Suppose the Christ had assumed your attitude - withheld His name - you never would have heard of Him. Names are tags with which we identify persons and causes and a lot of other things. So kick in if you want any consideration from me - I'm a tough guy, see."
She smiled - and it was not a come-on grin. It was a radiant emanation, natural and serene. With just a touch of imagination, you could see a halo there.
"I'm not afraid," she was saying - not boastingly, but simply, earnestly. "I have the best of protection."
"You mean you carry a thumb-buster - like Calamity Jane," we asked sweetly, "Let's see it."
"God is my shield," she said.
On the Arizona desert one night - she is hot-footing it from Los Angeles to the Atlantic coast, 5,000 weary miles of it, to promote the cause of peace - she saw a car parked beside the way, and a big burly bruiser invited her to climb in and get out of the cold. She did. And it was warm. She curled up in the rear seat and slept the dreamless sleep of the unoffending just. When she awoke, the gorilla told her that there was something about it he couldn't understand. He had taken hold of her twice, with evil intent, but he couldn't go through with it.
"What the hell," he wanted to know.
"God," she told him, and she resumed her walk toward the far Atlantic.
Still mystified, we switched to a brand of strategy that originated in the Garden of Eden, quite a few years ago.
"Let's have your hand," we implored, and she extended her right mitt without the least bit of hesitation. It was a small, firm hand but there was no responding pulsation as we fondled it in the old, old way.
`You have electricity, gal,$$$'' we lied, in a tone that seldom fails. "Tell me, are you Salome - the dame who danced for the head of John the Baptist, then joined the worshipping throng that followed Jesus to the Cross? Or are you Mary Magdalene?"
But it was no dice - she wouldn't fall for it.
"I'm Peace Pilgrim," she declared.
"Yeah, you're an evil temptress, out to seduce the weak and ruin the world," we informed her, hoping to stir up a spark of anger. "You belong in the hoosegow, and we have a good one here in Newton."
She smiled, and it was not a grin, the kind that shows the teeth rather than reveals the soul.
"I've been in jail," she said. "On vagrancy charges. But they always release me, once they understand."
Now what is one to do with a person like that?
"Have a cigarette?" we invited, extending a beautifully lithographed package. "What kind of whiskey do you prefer - name it and it's yours."
She didn't say "Get behind me, Satan." She said "There's good in you. I really wish I could tell you my name. But it would be unfair to all the other newsmen, radio and television people between here and Los Angeles. You wouldn't want me to do that, would you?"
"Yes," we told her. "Give me your first name, just for a starter - I'll get the rest of it later on. You've challenged my integrity as a reporter. It simply can't be done."
And do you know, she hesitated, just for a flickering moment. And then she shook her head.
"It wouldn't be fair to the others." And that was that.
We could have told her, of course, that we didn't care two hoots about her name, or the names of all her generations. That we were merely using the tools at hand to sound the depths of her own soul - to see if she was the genuine article or just another phony.
Examining the batch of propaganda, after her departure, we found this written there: "Who am I? Just call me Peace Pilgrim. In undertaking this peace pilgrimage I do not think of myself as an individual, but rather as an embodiment of all human hearts that are pleading for peace."
Well, brethren, sisters, there it is. That's all there is. But somewhere, somewhere, it is recorded that someone, sometime, entertained an angel unaware - and not an angel's underwear, as the little boy read it. Maybe we've had that kind of company. Who knows?
Excerpts from Newspaper Stories:
"The group couldn't have been more inspired, stimulated and entertained if the Boston Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had shown up in her stead. One might expect an elderly woman clad in navy blue slacks and shirt with matching tunic bearing the words Peace Pilgrim on the front and 25,000 Miles on Foot for Peace on the back to be no more than a quaint, well-meaning eccentric. Nothing could be further from the truth. Plenty of wit, but no nonsense comes from this woman who declines to give her true name, birthplace or date simply because she feels such information `puts too much emphasis on the person.'
"...She mounted the speaker's platform with the briskness of a youthful jogger. With one foot planted firmly on the floor and the other bent forward as if she were about to break into a trot, she spoke for more than an hour, her voice, rich and unfaltering, mass-producing profundities in the simplest and yet most meaningful of terms." (A California newspaperman)
"...Amidst all technological advancements...worries of a nuclear war...the USA has today at least one person who sees that the way that pleases the senses, and gratifies worldly desires, does not lead to inward peace. There is a path which requires purification and relinquishment, but results in untold spiritual blessings...Peace can be secured only when there is willingness to pay the price. When she explains, it is as though the voice of Gandhi is speaking through her. `The price of peace is obedience to higher laws...'" (A journalist in India)
"Her care and guidance comes from Christ - you almost see him by her side. No woman could safely travel alone without a Divine Companion..." (`The Wandering Reporter' from Pittsburgh)
"She had found nothing but interest, assistance and encouragement from the people she has met, and she is convinced that nations, like people, can exist `on a spiritual level' and that only in that way can real peace come." (Religion editor, Los Angeles Times)
"...To those of us who sometimes feel the world is slipping into a mire of greed and corruption...a visit with this remarkable woman does much to alter the cynic's bitter viewpoint."
"The world has always had soothsayers, seers, self-styled prophets and harbingers of doom, but Peace Pilgrim is different from these because her rhetorical lure, at least, is common sense."
"An Englishman once said to Gandhi, 'Sir, you are so simple you baffle us, so sincere you embarrass us.' I would respectfully submit that this statement could also be attributed to a small, aged, yet very vital woman known as Peace Pilgrim."
"...A peace phenomenon has been born in the United States and we are blessed for it. A nation that has a war culture and a war economy, that dared to drop the first atomic bomb and has been known to threaten to drop a hydrogen bomb, has produced a lone, silver-haired woman who by her life of walking is saying step after step that there is a better way to live and to solve conflicts...By transcending her spiritual humps Peace Pilgrim clarified her mission. She prayed for her pilgrimage and discovered that her pilgrimage was a prayer in itself."
"Meeting a 'Holy Man' is said to be an hourly occurrence in India, and other Oriental countries--but to meet a person in America who is traveling about the land strictly without money in this nation where money is worshipped as it is in no other land, is positively staggering. Yet such a person is now traveling about the state lecturing on world peace--the woman who calls herself Peace Pilgrim...she has no fear of anything and has a sunny disposition and is happy to a greater degree than any other person we've met. No mere moneymaker ever attained such peace of mind as is hers."
"Peace Pilgrim...was a women with a job that extended beyond the realm of what most people could imagine. She was a pilgrim in the truest sense of the word. She touched me in a way that I really didn't understand. She stood very much at ease before a college journalism class in Kansas City, oblivious to the fact that she was being filmed by the P.M. Magazine crew. As she began her outspoken method of delivering her message, I wondered at first if she was crazy, or just trying to get publicity for a book that I felt she would surely write about her travels. But as she spoke, something happened to me. She was very sincere with her message. She looked at each student, and made each feel that she was talking to him or her only. Her eyes reached out to each person in the room projecting the love and peace she spoke of...There was a strange irony with her being in that classroom. Peace Pilgrim's teachings seemed almost to be out of place in the college environment. After all, college is the stepping stone for America's businessmen and capitalists of the future. Most, if not all, students were present in the school in hopes of getting a good job after graduation, in hopes of making good money. But here was a lady that threw her worldly possessions to the wind, in order to live her life as she saw fit. Why on earth would someone do this? The only answer I came up with is that she truly wanted to do her part in bringing peace to a troubled world. She felt peace had to start with the individual. She kept this philosophy until the day she died.
"The classroom full of college students sat mesmerized in their seats, nearly in disbelief that such a person could survive not only bitter cold nights, but also journeys that took her into some of the roughest neighborhoods in the U.S. To this day it's hard to understand how this 'grandmotherly' type lady could separate herself from a materialistic world, and travel to talk about love and peace." (a reporter from Kansas)
Pilgrim Makes Visit to Santa Fe
She walks alone the breadth and width of America carrying a simple message of peace--peace between men and peace with oneself. She carries with her all she actually owns, she does not accept cash donations and seldom accepts a ride. She will talk anywhere, anytime with anyone who is seriously interested in her pilgrimage. She has been walking and talking in this fashion for more than 13 years.
Last week Peace Pilgrim visited Santa Fe and spoke at a public gathering at La Posada, the College of Santa Fe and St. John's College.
Peace Pilgrim is the only name she now carries. And although her hair is now silver and her face appears scored with the miles of her walk, she speaks brightly, with drama and intelligence and conviction. Her physical fitness is astonishing. She wears a navy blue tunic, with "Peace Pilgrim" lettered on the front, and "25,000 Miles for Peace" on the back (even though she passed the 25000 mile goal years ago and has since stopped counting the miles).
Why does she call it a pilgrimage? "A pilgrimage involves example and prayer. It can't be called a crusade, which uses at least psychological force." What results does she hope for? "My pilgrimage may at least make people think--to have them question themselves. I leave the results in God's hands."
In her public presentation she talks of the things which are preventing peace; of how a person gains peace within himself, and of her pilgrimage.
Why is there war? "The real problem is immaturity. With real maturity war would be impossible. It would never be considered as a solution of problems between men."
Finding peace within oneself, Peace Pilgrim says, involves a change in attitude toward life. "It meant living all the good things I believed. It took the living quite a while to catch up the believing, but it did.
"Simplify your life. There is a great freedom in simplicity--more possessions than you actually need burden you...our possessions possess us when we keep them after they are no longer of use to us."
"Purify your thoughts and desires and motives. Hate injures the hater, not the hated. Have a true oneness of desire--just to want to do God's will for you."
"Whether you call it good religious teaching, or sound psychological practices, these things are not new--they are universally valid."
Peace and getting along with others can be made a simple task. "The key is approaching with love and openness, rather than hatred and mistrust--that's what I mean by maturity." Immature people, she says, have negative mind sets, such as a military mind set which sees only military answers.
A religious person, yet not an orthodox Christian, Peace Pilgrim uses a "receptive silence" approach to prayer.
"I'm an optimist because I believe that the laws of the universe work for good--if we obey them. But the choice is ours..." Evidence of her optimism is her expectation that there will be disarmament in her own lifetime.
Peace Pilgrim related that the new orientation in her life began 28 years ago, with l5 years of "spiritual and psychological preparation" before the pilgrimage began. With no organizational backing, she can be reached only through general delivery in Cologne, N.J.--where a friend forwards her mail to wherever she happens to be at the moment.
When does the pilgrimage end? "The pilgrimage will be over when all nations are like the United States and Canada--where there are still disagreements, but they would never dream of killing each other."
Until that time, Peace Pilgrim will keep walking. She walked down to Albuquerque Saturday following her stay here. And she plans to be back in Santa Fe in l970. You may see her walking, dressed in her blue lettered tunic, along a highway anywhere in the country. We saw her walking, as a matter of fact, a few years ago somewhere in the Midwest.
To hear the Peace Pilgrim tell it, walking all over the United States for almost 30 years in order to spread her gospel of religious faith and personal fidelity is one of the most natural things a person can do.
Wearing a lettered tunic describing her religious odyssey, the self-proclaimed "woman with a mission" continued on her seventh pilgrimage across the country when she passed through Topeka this week.
"I just go wherever I'm invited," said the Peace Pilgrim--her professional name--about her local visits to speak with congregations at the Unity Church of Christianity and the Church of the Brethren. During her week's stay in Topeka, the elderly woman also addressed sociology and psychology classes at Washburn University, and handed out copies of her pamphlets with her "magic formula" for resolving conflicts of all kinds: Have as you objective the resolving of the conflict--not the gaining of advantage.
"Every person is born for a purpose," she said, and added that she gave no mind to being thought "crazy" or "eccentric" by some. Although the Peace Pilgrim was deliberately vague on biographical data, her message shone through her vivid blue eyes.
"You must be living to give instead of to get," she said, "and to promote the causes of peace. Real peace is more than the absence of war; it is an absence of the causes of war."
Beginning her journeys back in l953, the 70-plus year-old woman has traveled more than 25,000 miles on foot in her east-west, north-south excursions from her home base in Cologne, N.J. Her only accoutrements on her travels, besides the clothes she wears, consist of a comb, toothbrush and a writing pen.
The Peace Pilgrim described her message as one based on God's laws--as outlined in the Bible--and a humanistic mixture of positive thinking and the wealth of human potential.
"All people have potential, but the choice is yours whether you'll finish the physical and mental growth to be able to live up to it," she said. The well-traveled woman added one other aid to reaching one's full potential: spiritual growth.
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," she said, quoting one of many Bible verses which crop up in her public conversations. The Peace Pilgrim has taken her peace-promoting message to schools such as Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and University of California-Berkeley, and is on her way to Dallas to lecture at a Catholic convent.
"My seventh peace pilgrimage route will take me through the 48 states in about six years," she said, adding that all of her stops are planned from invitations she has received.
After first undertaking the cross-country travels on her own, the Peace Pilgrim now receives funding for a newsletter from anonymous donors, but she is not affiliated with any organization or denomination. All of her mail is forwarded from her mailing address in New Jersey.
"I seem like I have lived three lives," she said, in describing how she started her "gentle crusade." After living what she termed "an empty life of money and things" as a young woman, she said she began living a more austere life in the late l930s, when she began working among the elderly, pared her lifestyle down to a "need level," subsisting on about $l0 weekly.
It was then that she took her own intimate vow: "I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until I am given shelter and fasting until I am given food." She never carries any money. "I fear nothing and expect good, so good things come to me."
She cuts an eccentrically charming figure--the sneakers, the ponytail, the blue walking suit, each piece a gift from a different friend in a different part of the country.
In the expansive pouch pocket around her middle she has stowed all her possessions--a plastic comb missing a tooth, a collapsible toothbrush, a pen, slips of blue paper that bear her message of world peace, and a bundle of letters from friends all over the country.
"I always wear everything I own," she says, reaching into the pouch and digging around for the letters which she has tucked at the back. On cold nights when she's had to curl up on the edge of a highway somewhere and sleep under the stars--her favorite way to sleep she says, sans sleeping bag--she'll tuck her mail under her blouse to keep her back warm.
For the past 27 1/2 years this woman who calls herself Peace Pilgrim has been criss-crossing America mostly on foot, spreading the message of peace. For the first l0 years she counted miles, she says, and by l964 had covered 25,000 on foot. She finally couldn't stand counting anymore but kept walking, turning her major attention to informal speaking engagements--at colleges, at truck stops, in churches.
For all of those years she's had no money, won't accept any and hasn't bought a thing--nothing--since she became a wandering pilgrim.
"I was investigated during the McCarthy era to see if I was a vagrant or a religious pilgrim." McCarthy decided she was the latter and let her go. "I'm a deeply religious woman," says Pilgrim. "I'm just not denominational."
In all of that time no one has harmed her. "Of course not," she says, amused by the question. "I live completely on faith." It's never let her down. The longest she's gone without a gift of food is three days.
She hasn't had a doctor's check-up, doesn't worry about getting sick and says she hasn't had an ache or a pain or a headache or a cold in all the years she's been on the road even though she's been trapped in snowstorms and occasionally has slept in empty packing crates, in parked cars, empty jail cells, on conference tables, and once on the front seat of a fire engine in Tombstone, Ariz.
She won't tell you what her original name was. And she won't tell you how old she is, partially because she's forgotten (although she admits she could figure it out if she really wanted to which she doesn't) and partially because she doesn't relate to things like birthdays and mortgages.
But she's got to be 80, says her good friend, the Rev. William Kautz, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in Honolulu. At least.
At 9:30 Sunday morning Pilgrim will speak at a discussion group at the Church of the Crossroads at l2l2 University Ave. An hour and l5 minutes later she'll speak at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 638 N. Kuakini St. She'll talk about the same thing she talks about wherever she goes--the golden rule.
Does she love everyone she meets? Again the amusement. "Of Course," she says, "How could I fail to? Within everyone is a spark of God. People look to me like shining lights..."
Pilgrim says she's seen some progress toward peace in her almost three decades of criss-crossing her mission, America. "A pilgrim's job is to rouse people from their apathy and make them think." The grey ponytail vibrates as she talks. She cuts it herself, by holding it up and hacking off the end. Keeps it neat, she says.
"There was great apathy when I started my pilgrimage. It was at the height of the Korean War and the McCarthy era...Just the time for a pilgrim to step forth...in the beginning people thought war was a necessary part of life, with no alternative. Now they believe there are alternatives possible and they're looking for them.
"When I started," she continued, "there was no interest in the inner search." Now, she says, "the crisis of the time has pushed us into inner search...I'm still trying to make people think about their own potential and live according to that potential."
Pilgrim says it took her l5 years to take the first step, to come to a gradual realization that she needed to give away everything and become a wanderer. She'd been successful financially, she says, and lived in Los Angeles in fine apartments, with fine clothes. But 42 1/2 years ago it started seeming empty, and her friendships started feeling hollow, and she realized there was something else she had to do with her life.
"I never started on my pilgrimage until I found inner peace."
As she says this the weathered brown hands shoot up, fingers pointing skyward. Her wide watery blue eyes sweep to the ceiling and back again. It was then, she says, that she got "plugged into the source of universal energy...universal supply...and universal truth..."
When she needs new clothes someone always offers them. When she needs food, it is freely given. When she lost a filling once, even that was forthcoming.
Pilgrim does not snow her audience with rhetoric, does not spout book learning in fancy words. Far from it. Her message is simple and contained on slips of blue paper she hands out to all as a kind of quick introduction. Part of it says "Peace Pilgrim's Magic Formula:
"There is a magic formula for resolving conflicts," it reads. "It is this: Have as your objective the resolving of the conflict--not the gaining of advantage..." And this: "Be concerned that you do not offend - not that you are not offended."
All of this certainly does not mean Pilgrim is without problems. Far from it. She just looks at them differently. "Problems are opportunities for spiritual growth."
One could say her unorthodox lifestyle probably ensures a full advantage for such growth. Consider this, her second trip to Hawaii. She led an independent educational tour of 15 people on what she calls a two week "camping trip" to the Islands. The airlines don't really like such tours, but they're allowed under Federal Aviation Administration rules and enable her to get a free ticket as tour guide, she says.
"They first tried to tell me to go to a travel agent," she says, smiling a toothy grin. "Well you see," she told them "I can't do that because I'm a wanderer, a pilgrim."
"You're a WHAT?" said the agent.
Pilgrim smiles, "I finally said 'Think of me as a traveling speaker.' They could relate to that."
Pilgrim's little group spent two weeks traveling the islands, sleeping on beaches in parks and cooking over campfires. She ran the tour like she runs her life.
Pilgrim leaves Monday, flying back to Los Angeles and then Bismarck, North Dakota on gift tickets to pick up her pilgrimage course. She alternates between zigzags and loops back and forth across the country, trying to loop through Cologne, N.J. every so often to visit the friend who forwards all her mail. (Her address is Peace Pilgrim, Cologne, N.J. 08213.)
She often gets letters from people who say things like: "'Since talking with you I think I should do something for peace too.' They write their congressman or make peace with a friend...It all adds up," she says.
Pilgrim corresponds regularly with l0,000 people she's met, sending them irregular newsletters and letting them know when she'll be by. Invariably she's swamped with invitations to spend a night.
"If you fear nothing and expect good, good comes." she says, moving outside to pose for the newspaper photographer. She lies back on the grass, hands tucked under her head in her traditional under-the-stars-warm-nights sleeping pose.
Then she curls forward, arms crossed, hands tucked in armpits, to show how she sleeps on cold nights, explaining "One foot sometimes gets cold if I don't have a map over it."
Finished, she bounces up off the grass and shakes hands. "Money," she says, "I do not accept. I deal with spiritual truth which should never be sold and need never be bought. When you are ready it will be given."
Does she expect others to do what she's done? "Oh no," she says. "This has never inspired anyone else to walk a pilgrimage."
She admits that she has something in common with St. Francis in her crusade for peace.
Wherever she speaks, at universities and colleges, in churches, in high schools or on street corners, she gives the impression of having a kind of "inner light" to which young people especially are drawn. Some of them have even asked to become her disciples.
The remarkable thing in an age of gimmicks and cynicism is that nobody seems to take her for a fraud or a charlatan.
Not even for a self-deluded fanatic.
Instead, the silver-haired lady with the startlingly clear-blue and yet serious eyes is taken as just what she is: The Peace Pilgrim.
She was in Colorado Springs for a week. She spoke at a dozen meetings, to as few as five to as many as 500 persons. Then, the early part of this week she took off for Denver to continue her one-woman crusade.
It is her seventh pilgrimage, her seventh crossing of the country.
Before leaving town, she came to talk to the newspaper.
She won't tell her real name, or the years that she has spent in this world, but her appearance is youthfully ageless, her gestures spontaneous with self-evident conviction, her gaze utterly frank. There is vibrancy in her eyes and in her words. She admits to having "tremendous energy." She credits it to her "inner peace."
She was asked: "Haven't things become worse in the world?"
"Oh no," she exclaimed, "just think back a few years ago, to how things were during the Korean War. At that time, war was still the accepted method of dealing with international conflicts. Look at today. Today everybody talks about the necessity for peace. Today war is not acceptable anymore."
The sincerity of her conviction was in her eyes.
But she does not depend on mere enthusiasm.
Even the worst cynic might say: If I don't agree with her about the hope for the future, I can't but agree that she has a logical argument.
She defines the true human being as "God-centered." In this, her conviction is like a rock.
She says she was not raised in any particular denomination, which makes it easy for her to move among all of them. Her record is of delivering seven sermons on one Sunday.
She usually talks in every day words. But the "religious attitude" does permeate her thinking. It is her firm belief that an individual needs first of all a religious attitude toward God, a religious attitude toward people, and a religious attitude toward oneself.
If she is asked why there is evil in the world, she exclaims "Oh, but that is merely immaturity."
That may not be religious talk, but it is what the psychologists, too, are saying.
How can an individual improve the world?
She says he must find inner peace.
She explains: "Each of us has free will which we can exercise to become mature. I must realize that I am completely responsible for my life. There is no other way."
And that is the reason she refuses to accept "disciples."
"Only God takes disciples," she says. It is not healthy to follow another human being, only a sign of immaturity. Every person must find his or her own maturity. But it takes time. It took me l5 years to find my own. But the growth period is different for each individual."
"Oh," she exclaims (it seems to be her favorite word, and she says it with that bright cheerfulness that is totally disarming), "I am just trying to inspire people to find what their purpose of life is. No two people are alike. Therefore, no two people have the same job. Each person must find out what his or her job in life is. Then the job becomes easy and joyous."
She says some people have urged her to establish some kind of peace organization of her own, but she has refused.
"I talk to many people in colleges, universities, high schools, in churches," she says. "There is no need of still another organization."
But she regards institutions as essential in achieving world peace.
She explained, "When enough of us mature enough so that we can affect the existing institutions, then things will rapidly change towards peace.
"I accept every human being I meet," she says with disarming simplicity. "I believe that all human beings want to do the right thing, but they don't always know what the right thing is."
As for condemnation or hatreds, she says, "I don't hurt anyone except myself by a negative reaction."
In addition, she receives mail from throughout the country. The Peace Pilgrim's address is simply: Peace Pilgrim, Cologne, N.J. 08213.
"It's just a little farm town," she explained. "A friend of mine agreed to act as a kind of post office box for me. She forwards the mail to me, and I work on the mail between my talks."
Her project of walking 25,000 miles for peace was achieved in l964, but she has continued walking for peace as before, with the legend "Peace Pilgrim" stitched on her jacket.
As St. Francis, she is unencumbered by material goods. She is often put up by friends she has won in many parts of the country, she does not accept donations of money.
At first she was a lone pilgrim. Now she is no longer an isolated figure on an American road. She has speaking engagements booked all the way to the beginning of l984.
Her pilgrimage is being chronicled by Swarthmore College.
Ted Hayes: Peace, let's talk a little bit about this wandering that you have done for peace. How did it all come about?
Peace Pilgrim: Well, it started January 1, l953 from Los Angeles, California. That year I set out to walk across the country, which I did: zig-zag across 5,000 continuous miles. And then I just continued. I'm on my seventh pilgrimage route now which is my seventh crossing of the country. I have covered the fifty states, the ten Canadian provinces, parts of Mexico. It's an effort to do everything one little person can do for peace.
I walk prayerfully, and as an opportunity to talk with many people and perhaps inspire them to do something for peace also, in their own way.
TH: Peace, what brings you to Knox, specifically?
PP: I was invited to come to Knox by an old friend of mine, Gertrude Ward. I met her elsewhere, so this is my first visit to Knox. And, of course, I do this all the time. It's part of my regular pilgrimage for peace. I have no money. I don't accept any money. I belong to no organization, so there is no organizational backing behind me. And I own only what I wear and carry. I just walk until given shelter, fast until given food. I don't even ask, it's given without asking. I tell you, people are good. There's a spark of good in everybody, no matter how deeply buried.
Now it used to be that my invitations were just on the spur of the moment. From total strangers I was offered a bed about three-quarters of the time. And I seldom skipped more than three or four meals in a row, but now my invitations often come in advance. And of course that was the case with my invitation to Knox.
TH: Peace, let me ask you this: Was it always Peace Pilgrim, or did you have a name as a little girl?
PP: Oh, it isn't my old name, but if you should address a letter to my old name, I would not even receive the letter. I'm very much Peace Pilgrim now. I am told that it's a professional name, consistently used, you see. It has been my legal name now for some ten or twelve years because, of course, it was taken way back in l953 when I first started on my pilgrimage.
Things have changed a good deal since then, but I will say one thing has not changed and that is my peace message. It still remains: This is the way of peace--overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. That's still the message that I'm carrying after all these years. Well, you see, we haven't learned to live it yet. The key word for our times is really practice. It isn't more light we need, it's putting into practice what light we already have. When we do that, wonderful things will happen within our lives and within our world.
TH: Peace Pilgrim, you know there are a certain number of people who would not even think of doing this, that would probably think of somebody like yourself as a kook or a nut. Do you have a problem overcoming this barrier with some people?
PP: Well, I'm quite sure that some of those who have just heard of me must think I'm completely off the beam. After all, I am doing something different. And pioneers have always been looked upon as being a bit strange. But you see, I love people, and I see the good in them. And you're apt to reach what you see. The world is like a mirror: if you smile at it, it smiles at you. I love to smile, and so in general, I definitely receive smiles in return. I have been supplied with everything I needed on my pilgrimage without even asking for it.
TH: You walk this country of ours without so much as a penny in your pocket. You just walk on faith alone, faith that somebody will take care of you, and it always seems to happen. You must have some intuition as to whom to approach, whom to smile to, and who is going to be good to you though, don't you?
PP: I smile to everyone. I never approach anyone. I'm wearing my short tunic with Peace Pilgrim on the front and 25,000 Miles On Foot For Peace on the back so folks will stop and talk, and lots of them do. It makes all my contacts for me, in the kindest way. And those who come are very special. They're either genuinely interested in peace or have a good, lively curiosity. You see, there's a good deal of interest in peace now. When I started out people accepted war as a necessary part of life. And now, of course, we're looking for alternatives to war. It's a gain actually--it's better than it was. When I first started out there was very little interest in the inner search. Now there's almost a universal interest in the inner search, which to me is the greatest gain of all. And, of course, since I mostly talk about peace within ourselves as a step toward peace in our world, there is an increasing interest in my subject.
TH: Peace, the bible tells us that wars will always be with us. What do you say to people who say that? Do you think that this one little effort can make a difference?
PP: It actually says that there will be `wars and rumors of wars.' But that prophecy has been fulfilled amply through the centuries. I don 't see why we should want any more fulfillment of that prophecy. It also says, `they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.' Perhaps the time has come for the fulfillment of that prophecy. I believe it has.
I think this, of course, is what all of us really desire. And yet, there is so much pessimism. I was talking to a lady who said, "I'm praying with you for peace but of course I don't believe it's possible." I said, "Don't you think peace is in accordance with God's will?" "Oh yes," she said, "I know it is." I said, "Well how can you tell me that which is in accordance with God's will is not possible?" It's not only possible, it's inevitable. Only how soon is up to us.
Now, I know that all good effort bears good fruit, and so I keep on making what good effort I can. I leave results in God's hands. They may not be manifested in my lifetime but eventually they will be manifested.
TH: Peace, it's not good to, in a regular sense, walk up to a woman you've just met and say "how old are you?" But, I'm going to chance it today. I'm going to ask you how old you are.
PP: I can only tell you that I do not know, and this is deliberate on my part. We create constantly through thought, including we create our age. I had created sufficient age when I started out January 1, l953, and I said, "that's enough." From that time on I thought of myself as being ageless and in radiant health, and I am. I haven't gotten younger, but I see no point in getting younger. I can get along just fine as I am, and if you have learned the lessons of the seasons of life before, you really have no wish to return to a prior season of life.
TH: Peace Pilgrim has been my guest today. In her literature she says: `Peace Pilgrim is on my back, 25,000 miles on foot for peace.' And she has finished walking those miles but she continues to walk for her vow is: `I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until I am given shelter and fasting until I am given food.' She appears to be a most happy woman.
PP: I certainly am a happy person. Who could know God and not be joyous? I want to wish you all peace.