Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Beloved Community: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

by Connie Goodbread, UU Southern Region Congregational Life Staff

I bought my husband, Bob, a t-shirt at General Assembly which has printed on it, “God bless the whole world, no exceptions.” He got it for Christmas two years ago.

At this time of year, I am reminded of what could be. Even in the shadow of tragedy, there is a promise of hope and goodwill. On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce. The troops sang Christmas Carols together. They left their trenches and crossed no-man’s-land to offer up a Merry Christmas and Fröhliche Weihnachten. Afterward, many soldiers wondered it they could go back to killing. Might they go against orders and spare one another, lay down their weapons, and wage peace? It was not meant to be - officers’ threats of disciplinary action brought the idea to an end. Even so, this event serves as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

It is so much easier to wage war than it is to wage peace. Waging peace means we must look at our role in the reality of what is going on around us. Waging peace means that we must take responsibility for the things of which we are not proud. We must try to make amends. Admit we've done wrong. This is true as individual human beings and as nations. What is our responsibility? What have I done and what have we done that has been less than helpful to a hungry, parched, weary, and hopeless world?

I have suggested on more than one occasion that we go forth and wage peace. I have had pushback on this suggestion. Mostly from folks who do not like the language of war. “Could you say that in a different way?” or “I wish you would suggest that we go forth and create peace or go forth and be the peace we wish to see in the world.” I understand that feeling and the desire to take the language of war out of the way we speak, yet other ways of saying this don’t convey the message I wish. I mean - go forth and wage peace with the same ease, commitment and passion that you would use to wage war. What would that look like?

My husband Bob and I live less than 2 hours from Disney World. For Christmas last year, we bought annual passes. We have never done it before, and probably won’t do it again for a long while, but it was fun for this one year. We have run over there for parts of days. When we drive by we just stop in and eat or watch the castle show in the Magic Kingdom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlRJxHwPnEY This YouTube video gives you an idea of what the show is like.

Because we can just walk in whenever we want, we have done several things that we would never have thought to do prior to this year. One example: we love the castle show so much, we just stop, camp out under the Walt and Mickey statue, and wait for the show to begin. 

Every time we have done this in the past year, a community of people gathers. It is a real community. We feed each other, watch over one another, make sure that the children can see, share wisdom and space. We sing all the Disney songs in English - even when our natural language is Portuguese, Japanese or Hungarian. We laugh, we dash away tears, we are amazed, transformed, as if by magic. In the end, it is always difficult to say good-bye. There is a longing to make it last. We want to hang on to the peaceful, caring community that has formed. We touch, we smile at one another, we are grateful for this brief time we had together. It is, for the briefest moment, perfect. It is beloved. It is community. It forms spontaneously and with purpose. It lasts for two hours at the most. It is touching and real and full of possibility.
A few weeks ago, the last time we did this, Yumiko, a young woman from Japan, made Bob and me an origami Duffy (a Disney bear). As the fireworks ended and the music faded, we all looked at one another with that longing of not really wanting to let go and yet knowing it was time. Yumiko smiled and bowed and pressed the bear into my hand. I looked down and smiled. I thanked her. I was touched. I didn’t think to open it until the next day. It is a thank you note. It says, “Thank you for your kindness. I spent special time!! From Yumiko (Japan)” It sits on my desk and looks at me. It will always sit on my desk. We waged peace with the same ease, commitment, and passion that we would use to wage war. We all did it together, everyone that was in our small community under the Walt and Mickey statue.

At this time of year, when we often take the time to reflect on what we have accomplished or failed at, when we just might open our hearts to people and possibilities, I wish that we would find some time to wage a little peace. “God bless the whole world, no exceptions.” Peace on Earth and goodwill to all - all the people - all the Earth. “God bless us, every one!”