Sunday, May 10, 2009

I stood for peace--II

Mother's Day bouquetToday is the second Mother's Day I stood for peace on a San Francisco hill, looking across a sunny expanse of grass and city scape to a nearly cloudless sky so blue it made my heart hurt. You know that feeling? Goodness.

The chain link fence surrounding the park reminded me of all the prisoners locked behind fences and doors around the world. It would be easy to collapse in hopelessness at the thought of the heavy hands and sadistic hearts that brutalize children, women and anyone who has something someone else wants, or whose beliefs differ from those of the person with the whip.

What came back to me, again and again as the wind brought fresh air to my lungs and cooled my face, was the image of Sharon Mehdi's grandmothers standing silently all day long, saying not a word, moving not an inch. (How did those menopausal bladders hold up all those hours?) Thousands of women and men joining them all over the world. Children everywhere, of every age putting down their rifles, their bayonets, their bazookas and, perhaps, their bomb-laden backpacks and saying no to violence.

Yes we can. Yes we can stop the violence. Oh sure, you're thinking five minutes on a windy hill all by myself once a year does nothing, right? Yup, standing last year, I wondered the same thing. But it's still true: Peace begins at home.

Be kind signThroughout the year, whenever I have responded with anger to a situation--and there have been many times--I remembered my tiny five-minute Mother's Day stand for peace. I remembered how hopeless I felt at the rage, power and greed that human beings indulge in the service of harming others. I knew that if I expected those people somehow to make peace in their hearts and lives, I first must make it in mine in this moment at this time. Could it be as simple as exchanging a momentary irritation for kindness?

Have I succeeded? Not immediately, not every time. Making peace is a work in progress. Right now, I am in a state of discord with a family member. Each day, I spend too much energy working through negative feelings, seeking compassion and understanding. Yet I remain judgmental, resisting. Repeatedly, I must sit with my feelings, acknowledge them, process the difference between my responses and my intent to make peace. I am old enough to know that I am not alone in experiencing this. Perhaps you experience this. Millions of us across the globe want to make peace in our families, our work places, and the world at large.

So as I stood on that hill today, I knew that I do not want to be standing alone next year. On Mother's Day 2010, I want some of you who dream of peace standing there with me. Oh, and I want so much more. I want to stand in a park filled with people--hundreds, perhaps thousands of people standing silently for peace for five minutes. No speeches, no bands, no placards, no hoopla. Just people walking one by one, in twos and threes, whole families, to their neighborhood parks and standing silently for five minutes of peace, mingling afterward to share their feelings about standing in community with this one common goal: Making peace.

I want to stand in a park filled with people--hundreds, perhaps thousands of people standing silently for peace for five minutes.

Imagine millions of people, all over the earth, remembering all year long how it felt to stand for five minutes, breathing peace. Imagine them changing their lives at home, at work, at school, in committee, waiting in line, driving down the freeway. Imagine choosing peace instead of anger. Choosing common ground instead of discord. Choosing a smile instead of a finger. (You know what I mean.) Imagine how that daily consciousness might spread.

Signs to here and thereHow to get from here to there?

I will start. For the next year, I will stand for peace five minutes of every day. Wherever I am at 6:00 p.m. each evening, I will stand for peace. If I am with people, I will excuse myself, leave the room and stand for peace. If I am riding the bus, I will leave my seat (increasingly, as I age, I am lucky enough to have one), grab a pole and stand for peace. If I am caring for my granddaughter, I will do everything possible in that moment to stand for peace. If it is not possible, I will tell her about peace and why it is so important to devote that five minutes to peace. She may not understand, but I will share it all the same.

It's a little scary making this commitment. I've rarely been on time in my life. I've kept few rituals and never at the same time every single day for a whole year, so I'm asking for your support. I need your encouragement. As often as I can, I'll write a little blurb about the day's stand right here. I hope anyone reading this will post comments frequently. Your comments fuel me. Should you feel like taking a five minute stand for peace yourself now and then, I hope you'll tell me about it and how you felt about it. If you're a blogger or a Tweeter, I hope you'll start a conversation about standing for peace. On our tweets, we can use the hashtag #5minutes. Together, we can make a difference in the world, one moment of kindness, one smile, one prayer, and five minutes a time.

Will I see you in my neighborhood next year? Or read about you standing in yours?

Separator Curlicue
The images in this post were taken on the way to and from the park today. The signs, new in this children's garden, were serendipitously on point, don't you think?


  1. I like the idea of standing for what you are for, rather than pushing against what you are not.

  2. Mother's Day, 2008 I went to the park in Lakeport and "Stood for Peace." I expected to be standing with women tall, short, old, young. I stood alone. I thought, "I must be early," and then I was sure I'd come too late and missed it. I stood. Maybe I was at the wrong park? I stood. Boats pulled up to the docks. Families picnicked. Children ran in the grass. Some people threw a frisbee and when it came uncomfortably close to me they looked embarassed and I could see them wondering, "What is wrong with that woman?" I stood and I stood. I breathed and I cried and I stood. When I returned home Bill asked, "Wow, you were gone a long time. You had a big turn out? It was good?" I replied, "It was good. I stood for peace."

  3. Michelle, thank you. We go farther, faster when the wind is in our sails than when we're trying to row against it, don't we?

    Pamela, I am deeply touched by the story of your stand for peace and curious whether it changed you in any way. I am determined not to stand alone next year. How about you?

  4. Anonymous9:53 PM

    Hi Ma, I stood for peace too! I stood on our deck in the sun facing east feeling peace I thought of you...standing too...and so you weren't alone. And now I'm finally writing about it, a little late, and catching up on your postings since. I'm glad I know now what Mother's Day is really for. I feel empowered to speak of mothers and for mothers. And to stand up for peace.

    'Mountains will move, wars will cease when women wake up' ---Ancient Chinese Proverb

    I love you. V


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