The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of
people when they realize their relationship,
their oneness, with the universe and all its
powers, and when they realize at the center
of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and
that this center is really everywhere, it is
within each of us.
At the heart of the month of May is Mother’s Day - a day we may love or dread depending on the sometimes complicated and often beautiful relationships we have with our mothers. This year I travel to Sebastopol, CA to celebrate the day with my son Ryan and daughter, Cassandra –herself a mother of two.
Now in my 60th year, I love my children and grandchildren more than I could ever have imagined loving anyone and I ponder the world they will inhabit years after I am gone. This inspires me to consider and share with you the possibility of a different and deeper experience of Mother’s Day this year - returning to its original intention and meaning.
In 1870, in response to the ravages of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation”, a passionate call to all women, regardless of nationality, to come together and become a united voice for peace. As a peace activist she challenged women to unite and call men and the world to the necessity for living in peace.
A woman of deep conviction and vision, Julia believed that women had a responsibility to shape the societies in which they lived and began holding peace conferences in the United States and Britain. By 1872 she proclaimed that June 2 of every year would be a “Mothers Day for Peace” and forty years later, in 1912, congress made it officially “Mother’s Day”.
Julia Ward Howe is not most famous however, for Mother’s Day, but for writing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” eight years earlier, a gripping call to arms and the end of slavery. In response to the devastation she witnessed of individuals, families and the earth in its aftermath, she was led to begin thinking about what might be possible instead of war. She decided to take action and that became the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” found below.
I feel tired when I think of the many wars and lives lost since the proclamation was written over one hundred years ago. Yet, it is clear that Howe’s message of peace and personal responsibility must go “marching on” to create a better world for the generations to come.
Thinking about women and peace, I come to the Buddhist goddess, Kwan Yin, the mother of compassion. She represents a desire within many of us to move beyond aggression and fear and to live in harmony with one another and ourselves. Kwan Yin is not a real person in history, but a model of the compassion that is possible in each of us.
Black Elk, a Native American visionary was 7 years old when Howe wrote the Mothers Day Proclamation. In his lifetime he would live to see some of the worst that humankind is capable of, yet wrote so eloquently about the nature of compassion.
“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” If we were to realize our oneness, our relationship with each other and ourselves we could only help and not harm one another. We would see that when we hurt another, we injure our self. Peace is an inside job. We can only really change ourselves and then live peacefully in our world.
A very real mother of compassion, Mother Theresa, said “I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual….The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put that drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in the community where you live. Just begin…one, one, one.
The seeds of peace we plant today through our thoughts, words and actions will grow the fruit that will harvest the future for our children and grandchildren. It is through our contact with everyday life, family, friends, nature, that we may find the sacred and therefore peace.
In this spirit I proclaim Mother’s Day 2010 a Mother’s Day for Peace. I claim for myself, my children, grandchildren and anyone willing to join me, an end to war not just in foreign lands, but an end to war within our own country, communities and families. I invite you to be a peace activist in every moment. It is only by taking individual responsibility for our attitudes and actions that peace will ever be possible.
Daughter Cassandra, Me, Granddaughter River 2/15/2010
Mothers Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm Disarm The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Pre-registration required/class size limited.
For information and to register: 772-0306