When I was a child in the ’50s, we used to pray the family rosary. All eight of us kids kneeling in the living room with the parents, each one in turn sonorously reciting, fingering our beads, counting Hail Marys until done. That 20 minutes felt excruciating, with Dad’s eagle eye alert to anyone leaning on couches or chairs . . . “knee up straight!” he’d command. “Pay attention.”
Meanwhile, the phone would be ringing off the hook. Most likely it was for my sister Marnie, second in line after me, one of her many boy friends. But it might be Dick, my boyfriend. Oh no! Quick, get this rosary done! Dad: “Slow down, Ann! Really mean what you say!” But how could I mean it when I was just repeating endlessly a sequence of words that hardly had any meaning for me in the first place?
Oops! Oh no, get back in there, mind-of-my-own. Don’t surface, lest you be found out.
So it went, over a half century ago, when Pray for Peace was a slogan, and we did. And of course, “The family that prays together stays together.” Well, maybe. When I grew up I realized that nuclear families — explode! Not the one I was born into, but the one I created.
We thought we were praying for peace during those uptight, rigidly controlled, disciplined sessions in the living room after dinner whenever we could all be corralled and Dad wasn’t at the hospital or off on a house call. In reality, at least I, for one, was gritting my teeth, suffering through an interminable period when I had to kneel, and still my wild heart.
How different, the idea, “Play for Peace!” Turns what we did back then, and what much of the culture was and still is doing, getting more and more controlled, cramming more and more into less time, in order to . . . to what? Is this the road to peace? This need to drive ourselves into robotic lockstep busyness while damping down the sheer expressive exuberance that, when left untrampled, powers the universe and runs joyfully through us all?
Let’s let the good times roll. Let’s play for peace. Thanks to care2.com.
August 30, 2011
This post comes from Sarah Gough, Executive Director of Play for Peace.
I had this great idea that if I tended a garden of fresh herbs, I would miraculously become an amazing cook. Does Jamie Oliver not prepare fabulous meals in 30 minutes or less by twisting of sprigs of mint, cilantro and other green perfections in a pot? Why my planted herbs did not quite have the right shape and definitely not result in culinary talent, I did not give up. Visions of heavy Spanish tile and dried hanging mysteries led me to my next experiment of drying my less than perfect herbs.
That’s when it happened.
Basil, a hardy Central American species, cut and hanging on my wall, would not dry. It would not die, to be more specific. With no water or soil in sight, four months no and counting, this plant has not only survived but sprouted new stems and baby leaves. I am sure there is a banal scientific explanation. Perhaps it is a common occurrence.
However, every morning as I pour my coffee, I choose to see this plant as my touchstone that anything is possible. Even a lofty goal such as world peace is possible. As director of Play for Peace, my mission is to bring together children, youth and organizations from communities in conflict using cooperative play to create laughter, compassion and peace. We are a network of hundreds of volunteers, children, you and the young-at-heart, united by this common goal. We educate children, change young lives and transform neighborhoods.
The result? On the playground, children have stopped using racial slurs. Youth have chosen volunteerism and high school graduation over gangs. Adults have followed the lead of young adults looking for local solutions to their challenges. Because we work primarily with youth at-risk in the U.S. and in communities faced with poverty and conflict abroad, their challenges can be daunting. A few years ago, the mother of Maria, one of our young university leaders, was shot and killed in their home while Maria was attending church. She moved away after the tragedy and when I met up with her again about a month ago I found her running an inspiring grassroots violence-prevention project in her new neighborhood and with the desire to re-join the Play for Peace Community.
The beauty, the strength and the courage that is flourishing in this world is humbling. When we only read about war, hate crimes and violence, sometimes we just need a reminder that good is also part of our reality. I believe resilience to be the very essence of nature. In the morning, it is nature, in the form of a stubborn aromatic weed, that is my reminder. During the day, the Play for Peace youth and children who demand that we learn to play together, work together and live together, regardless of background of circumstances — they are my teachers.
I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never be a good cook. My place is with the kids. I invite you to learn more about the youth of Play for Peace by visiting our website and joining our World Peace Day Celebration where we will stand up and honor our global youth peace-builders. Let the Play for Peace community be your touchstone to the beauty and resilience of the world.
photo via Play for Peace