First things first, I have never been to war. I don’t know what being in a war is like. I have never killed anyone or had anyone try to kill me. I have not seen a mangled body of my best friend and lived to tell about. There are many things about war, I will never know or comprehend. I am not a warrior. I get that. I am okay with that. I do know this. In living with and amongst warriors, I have learned there is a sacredness of war and battle, there is a freedom and there is a peace of having experienced war.
This is our common ground I know a lot about freedom and peace. I suggest we meet there.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field. I‘ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
Doesn’t make any sense.
Years ago, while sitting in Wendy’s eating hamburgers with my future husband, Alan, he was talking about the noble principles that made him become a United States Marine. I loved him for making a commitment to those noble principles. Alan and I would often disagree on my personal beliefs and usually towards the end of our conversations, just like my father, he would say “I may not agree with you, but I will defend your right to have your views.” I grew to respect Alan and my father’s convictions and honor their willingness to defend my peace activism. That they would put their lives on the line for my life and beliefs.
Peace has been my life’s passion. Most of my life, I have been an advocate against war, violence and crime. I have studied the teachings of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and have participated in peace walks and peace gardens.
Yesterday morning, I woke up and realized I was tired of advocating against war, violence and crime. For a very long time, I have resisted war, I hated war, and I censored war from my home and television. Nothing has worked; no matter what I do all three are still very much a part of my life, on the radio, in conversations and on billboards. There is no escaping war, violence and crime
I have surrendered to the fact that humanity has been at war for centuries and generations. Who am I to stop it? My peace-loving self has been very conflicted for many years. The fatigue of advocating for peace has worn me out.
“Nothing can bring you peace, but yourself. “ Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I surrendered to the present moment and truth that our world has a lot of violence in it, the burden of trying to change the violence that exists in the world and bring peace to it began to melt away.
There is war, there is violence and there is crime. I can only change the amount of war, violence and crime in my life. That is the only change I have control over.
In this surrendering of my advocacy for world peace, I began to search for the gifts of war. There had to be some good that came from war. I allowed myself to think, allowed all kinds of ideas to enter my mind. If war, violence and crime are so prevalent, there has to be a reason. I began searching. I focused on just war.
What could possibly be the gifts of having gone to war?
I thought about my Father. My father is a Vietnam vet of three tours, surveyed the Mekong Delta and the coastal waters and participated in the evacuation of Vietnam. He served in the United States Navy for 19 years and retired a Master Chief. He does not speak much about the war. He brought home pictures of how horrific war can be. My father was never one to sugarcoat the realities of war. I began looking at his life and the man he is today. My Mother said when my Dad returned from Vietnam, he was not the man she married. War changes people.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God. “
My father is the most peaceful man I know. I remember wanting him to take sides on my divorce and he refused. He has learned the ability to see both sides clearly and fairly. My ex-husband still comes to visit my family for the holidays. He has a strong belief in family.
My father is wise; he knows there is nothing more important than being alive. As kids, he would tell us as long as you wake up in the morning, every problem has a solution. Every problem seems minor to him as long as my mother, his children and grandchildren are okay. Bills, car repairs and layoffs have lesser priority than his family’s wellness. He has discernment not to stress the minor stuff. He has a clear understanding of life and death.
My Dad is content. I have heard him say over and over, “I can live in a tent with my family, grandkids and be just fine.” My mother is not too crazy about him saying this, but he means it. My Dad is not a material kind of man. Material things of this world were no longer important to him. Just waking up each day is enough. He has a true understanding of what is important in life.
My father is loyal. He has been a coach ever since he retired from the Navy and he has often given his last cent to one of his players and always made sure they got home safely. He is always there for our family. He understands and respects the bond that would allow a man to give his life for another and keep a promise to fallen brother’s family member.
My father takes lots of difficult calls from friends and neighbors. His words are calming and healing. He is always there for people, even strangers. He knows how to be there for another human being.
My father is intuitive and lives by his instincts, which he has shared them with me and saved me from lots of problems. He learned to survive and live by his instincts in Vietnam.
My father has a deep sense of the sacredness of life. He treats everyone with dignity and makes sure no one is hungry. He is generous almost to a fault. He loves and cares my mother unconditionally and does not leave her side when she is in pain or sick. He values life.
I experience my father’s gifts every day of my life — the gifts he has acquired from war: Love, Peace, Joy, Presence and Faith.
The gifts are easy to see because he lives them and I watch the value him places on his gifts. My father came back alive, although his brother, my uncle Baron, was killed in the Korean War. Our family learned early in life that life, freedom and peace are sacred.
My father came back from the war alive, a wise and peaceful warrior, who knows and values the sacredness of life and the value of peace. And he has instilled in me the desire to live a sacred and peaceful life.
“Now there are different gifts, but the same spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything.”