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Today is Nagasaki Day. Last Friday was Hiroshima Day. Sixty-five years ago, the United States dropping atomic bombs on these two Japanese cities killing upwards of 245, 000 people. The tragedy of these war bombs — and of all the subsequent bombs, large or small, meticulously manufactured or funkily homemade, that have fallen on soldier and civilian alike — have damaged our human spirit. These bombs leave us feeling impotent to do anything to stop them.
But then along come some exceptional role models, amazing individuals who have actively devoted themselves to creating peace. My favorite Queen of Peace took peace making into her own hands — or in her case, her feet. The remarkable woman known as Peace Pilgrim devoted almost thirty years of her life to walking and talking for peace.
Becoming a moving force for peace.
Born Mildred Norman in 1908, she was in her early forties at the height of the Korean War, the McCarthy Era, and the wholesale international nuclear proliferation with its attendant Ban the Bomb movement.
The turmoil of the world around her, coupled with her own menopausal changes prompted her to spend a period of concentrated inner questioning about the purpose and direction of her life. Specifically, she wondered what she, just one person, could do in the cause of peace.
This midlife meditation culminated in her experiencing an intense spiritual awakening, an undeniable epiphany. She came to understand that it was her destiny to become a pilgrim, walking her talk for peace. She pledged to become “a wanderer until mankind has learned the ways of peace.”
At the age of forty-five, she gave up all of her possessions — including her name and age — and prepared to embark upon the amazing pilgrimage that would consume the rest of her life.
On the morning of January 1, 1953, Peace Pilgrim, as she now called herself, set off alone, penniless, without any organized support system, to walk 10,000 miles for peace. She carried her few belongings — a comb, a toothbrush, a pen, and some postal stamps — in the pockets of her tunic. When she left, she made a private vow that she never violated, “I shall remain a wanderer until mankind learns the way of peace, walking until I am given shelter and fasting until I am given food.”
She gave everyone she met along her way a printed explanation of her mission that bore the simple message:
This is the way to peace — overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.
During her nearly three decades on the road, she far exceeded her original goal (when she passed the 25,000-mile mark in 1964, she stopped counting). By the time of her death in 1981, Peace Pilgrim had walked across the United States seven times, and had visited ten Canadian provinces and parts of Mexico, spreading her hopeful message of peace and inspiration to the countless thousands of folks who crossed her extraordinary path.
Her gentle warrior spirit of wisdom still touches people all over the world through the book of her writings, Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words that has been translated into twenty-five languages.
I can only pray for the wisdom and determination to follow in her footsteps.
To attain inner peace you must actually give your life, not just your possessions. When you at last give your life,” she wrote, “bringing into alignment your beliefs and the way you live — then, and only then, can you begin to find inner peace.
- Peace Pilgrim
For more information about Peace Pilgrim and to order books contact:
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.