“We don’t see things as they are — we see things as we are.” ~Anais Nin
Three years ago, I encouraged you to come to our first Un-conference and I told you that it was a dream realized for us to bring this opportunity to our community. We started in 2015 with an exploration about how we build community out of chaos. And then in our second year we looked at how we find our strengths and build each other up. Last year we started the conversation about how our community is divided into “us” and “them”. Today, I invite you to continue this dialog with us on June 9 at the UCC church as we look at the ways we all see the same world through different perspectives. Just as several blind men felt a different part of an elephant and made assumptions about it from their one piece, we also color the world from the parts of it we see and believe to be true. And there are “elephants in the room” that we refuse to see and acknowledge. Let us ask how we can discover our individual blindfolds and choose to see beyond them to move further into community with those around us.
“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country….” -from an order from the Grand Army of the Republic
150 Memorial Days later, where are we? Today, we spend more on military around the world than all the other nations combined. Despite our demands to other nations, we continue to amass and test nuclear weapons capable of destroying the world as we know it. We choose to police, occupy and wage war in many nations while we neglect the critical human needs in our country. There is an effort currently underway to re-imagine the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr imagined just before his death to highlight the plight of this nation’s poor. In 1968, Dr. King argued that we would “never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube”. And yet here we are, still not able to learn that lesson. Today it is not Vietnam — it is Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan, Korea and so many other places where we spend money that could be better spent solving human crises at home. Instead, families in this country and around the world mourn loved ones and young people face life wounded and challenged. 150 years ago, the people who set about to decorate graves of soldiers did so to heal the wounds of war. Today, it is becoming a way to celebrate war and wave the flags of nationalism.
May 17, 2018
“We use the word terrorism to silence others.” ~Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jew
Responding to the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the protests and massacre following it in Palestine, I have seen articles petitions and opinion pieces full of rage, sadness, shame and despair. I have also seen reports claiming that some of the stories are contrived to skew the truth. I guess it is human nature for all of us no matter what side we are on, to see any situation from our own perspective and try to convince others that our version of the truth is the right one. Hence the title for our 4th Un-conference (on June 9). Hopefully it will be an opportunity for us to open our minds and see beyond ourselves.
Meanwhile, no one can skew the fact that over 60 Palestinians are dead and close to 2700 injured while protesting for their freedom in what was only the latest in a series of deadly clashes. The one place on earth that should stand most firmly for love and justice is instead a breeding ground for violence and deception. Rami Elhanan in Israel and Bassam Aramin in Palestine who both lost children in the conflict ask ‘why are men so angry that they kill children to get what they want?’…a question well-worth pondering. Our hope lies in alliances such as this one where both sides are willing to open up and really hear the others’ stories. And in the midst of our own rage, sadness, shame and despair, we ask, ‘what can we do?’
Join JRPC and others interested for a discussion on how to answer that question at . Bring friends, ideas and an open mind…Betsy
“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story.
Change the story, change the world.” ~Terry Pratchett
May 10, 2018
Today, I would like to introduce you to several young people who are changing the world. They are living stories of courage, compassion and justice that will inspire us all with hope. These are the nominees for our new Fr. Jim Hogan Search For Peace Award.
Allison Moran, a 5-year-old kindergartner at Cold Springs Elementary who epitomizes kindness and caring by volunteering in the community, looking at the positive in every situation, going out of her way to help others and pay it forward and spreading love everywhere she goes.
Marita Growing Thunder who stepped up in a very visible way to respect her heritage, raise awareness and express solidarity for a very under represented voice in her community — the plight of the many missing and murdered indigenous women in our community.
The SOAP Girls (that stands for Save Our Amazing Planet) a group of 4 girls who have been working on social justice issues for 8 years — since they were ages 9-10. They focus on positive ways to make a difference, from the useful tips on their website for conserving natural resources, to the many causes their fundraising has supported both locally and globally, including a summer camp for kids ages 4-8 and a two day overnight camp for older kids (ages 7-11).
The Group that Organized the Hellgate HS Walkout on 2/21/18 — They mobilized a lot of kids quickly and effectively into a nonviolent civil disobedience action to move things forward around the topic of public safety and guns.
The long list of students from across town and across schools — from 3rd grade through High school, ages 6-18 who organized Walk Outs at all schools on March 14, then went on to organize, lead and speak out at the community rally March For Our Lives on March 24 with 1,000 people in attendance.
These are the faces and voices of the future stewards of our world — the authors of the stories that will change our world. A group of their peers has selected one of these individuals or groups to receive a cash award for their contribution to the search for peace. But we want to honor and appreciate all of them for giving us hope for the future.
On Sunday, May 20 at UCC Church from 2 to 3:30 pm, at our annual Peacemaker Celebration we will honor and thank all these young people and announce the winner of the Fr. Jim Hogan award just prior to celebrating our 2018 Peacemaker, Steve McArthur.
If you are at all discouraged by the world around you, these inspiring young people along with our very own Peacemaker Steve will renew your hope for the world and make you proud to be part of this community. This is a celebration you won’t want to miss and there will be a reception to follow so you can meet and mingle with all the movers and shakers of peace in Missoula!
May 3, 2018
There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.
Steve McArthur – Peacemaker of the Year
One of my favorite letters to write — introducing you to the Peacemaker we have chosen. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a man of great hope and compassion, though to most of you he will need no introduction. Steve McArthur walks the walk like few others! Every day, he draws from the values of respect, cooperation and openness to reach out and connect with everyone he meets. And he does it with the biggest smile, the warmest hug and the most contagious laugh. The fun he has in life rubs off on us and the feelings of being valued and respected that he gives everyone he meets is a basic foundation to the work we all need to do to build peace.
Steve is above all, a good citizen and a great steward of our earth and he believes we all have a responsibility to care about our planet,and each other and as his life is a testament to the actions inherent in living up to that responsibility. To Steve, peace means respecting others, listening deeply to other points of view and working to build consensus. His commitment to peace extends to his own willingness to walk lightly on the earth, composting and recycling, working the earth to grow food to share with others and volunteering for so many Missoula organizations it would be difficult to list them all. Join me in thanking Steve for teaching us to treasure and protect our planet, to truly enjoy life and bring hope to others, to value above all the connections and conversations we have with each other and to truly look below the surface with compassion and love at the value of each person we meet. Thank you Steve for lifting us up in the name of peace…Betsy