The Queen of My Self

by Sister Joan Chittister

For a period of time, I drove from Cleveland to Erie on a fairly regular basis, a distance of about 100 miles. Time after time, I put the car on automatic pilot and headed for home, nothing but straight road between me and the priory.

Except for one thing. Every time I made the trip, I began to notice, there was one solitary man standing back off the roadside at the edge of a ragged corn field, a flag in his hand, a sign by his side, one small camp chair open and planted behind him. Trip after trip. Week after week. In cold rain and sleet, in hot sun and wind, there he stood, alone and totally silent. Keeping watch, eloquently silent.

One day, I simply turned the car around and went back, drove down the berm slowly, and stopped. He wore army fatigues, and, on the broomstick standard that he held in one hand while he waved with the other, he flew a homemade flag with a peace sign on it. “Give peace a chance,” the sandwich board sign propped up by the chair read. He himself, I realized as I got closer, had braces on his legs.

He was just one man with one small peace sign standing on an empty road waving a homemade flagpole back and forth at every car that passed.

In my mind, that single man, a veteran I presume, goes on waving every day of my life. It was his persistence, his dogged refusal to give up waving, his single-minded commitment to changing my mind that got me.

When all is said and done, “persistence” is the antidote to powerlessness. When I refuse to go on waving, when I pick myself up and leave the field, I have given in. I have surrendered my soul to forces whose only argument is that doing what is wrong is better than doing something else. But it is not the glory of the Chinese government and its use of repression to maintain order that the world remembers —and applauds— after the rout at Tiananmen Square. It is the sight of one young man standing in front of a tank.

To be the last person on earth opposed to the dropping of a nuclear bomb on innocent people is to preserve more of what it means to be human than can possibly be preserved by using the bomb. It may be the last sign, the most powerful sign, the only regenerating sign the world ever sees, of the valor, the rationality, of which a human being is capable.

In the end, the sight of goodness undeterred has more power than all the forces on earth arrayed against it.


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to





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