“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope.”
~ Prayer of St. Francis
I was at the Vietnam Wall in our nation’s capital for a lighted monument tour not long ago. Experiencing the memorial at night is even more somber than during the day.
The monument was dimly lit to maintain its dignity and in an effort to project the mission of remembrance. Whenever I visit this place I make it a point to stand and reflect beneath the name of Ron Hoffman, my Danville, Illinois childhood friend who was killed in the conflict at age twenty. My sixty-plus-year-old eyes were not doing so well locating his name and place on the wall and I was struggling. Suddenly I was surrounded by a small group of eighth-grade kids who were from Ohio on a school field trip.
They asked what I was doing. The vision of my old bent over body with squinting eyes (using an i-phone flashlight for guidance) must have inspired some concern. These good and selfless youngsters spent quite a bit of time helping me look for Ron’s name. They touched my shoulder, asked for my story and listened intently. A boy found him for me and began to shout; “Here he is. I found Specialist Hoffman!”
One of them hugged me. Tears were rolling down my cheeks in gratitude and love. They became peacemakers at a war memorial and restored my faith in their generation. They inspired me to set aside my anger and resentment about the conflict which took (and continues to take) so many from my own generation. They helped me escape my fifty-year ‘kingdom of the night’ in about twenty minutes.
“No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of the night.” ~ Elie Wiesel
Now come the children of Parkland, Florida who are emerging from their own kingdom of the night. Rather than living in resentment while tending their wounds, these young people have raised their voices in protest. They will not tolerate any more cruelty and violence. They are taking action and challenging the adults who make rules and laws. They have an incredible amount of hope and faith. They seem to fully comprehend that becoming instruments of peace can change everything.
What does it mean to be an instrument of peace? The challenge and petition of St. Francis is compelling. It is not a sweet sentiment but rather a course setting directive. It is action oriented. If I am to become an instrument of peace, I must be willing to set aside prejudice, judgment, misgivings and long-held beliefs that my way is the right way. I have to become open to conversation and dialogue in uncomfortable situations. I offer myself as a listener and a co-operator. I will refuse to compromise what is right, good and just for what is popular, accepted or convenient. I will stand my ground with compassionate caring rather than with aggressive threats.
Today, like these young people, I will have the courage be a peacemaker.
Note: Ron’s name appears near the top of the picture in this post. He is buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Danville.