The Capacity for Peace

We—my husband, children and I—spent Thanksgiving in New York City, with my husband’s family. This is the second time we converged on the big city for the holiday weekend. It’s a convenient (and fun) gathering spot for the family, coming from the north and the south, and the east (not so much the west).

On Thanksgiving Day, between the Macy’s parade and our late afternoon restaurant reservation, my husband and I walked the entire length of Central Park, from where we were staying on Central Park South to just north of the Park, to visit some friends who recently moved into a new apartment.

It was a beautiful day in New York City, warm with the sun shining. No surprise then, that Central Park was full of people enjoying a bonus early fall day just before winter is about to set in. Forget the Macy’s parade, the more impressive parade was in the Park.

As we moved briskly through Central Park (trying to work off the feast before we ate it), it was impossible not to notice the remarkable array of humanity also enjoying the unseasonably warm day—the young, old and in between; the well-dressed and the not so well-dressed; seemingly all of the hues of skin color; and an extraordinary variety of spoken language.

Such an amazing display of human beings, all sharing space in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities. We were not necessarily interacting with each other, but yet there was a sense of peace, of safety, of the enjoyment of a beautiful day with family and friends.

In a world that seems all too often to be teetering on the edge of chaos, violence and war, I realized on Thanksgiving Day that we shouldn’t take for granted moments of peace, of shared space, of a collective sense of the dignity of human beings. It was nice to be in the midst of so much diversity yet no sense of strife, but I couldn’t help but feel that someone should have stood on the highest ground in the Park and yelled something about what was happening, in the peaceful array of humanity.

For most, Thanksgiving Day in Central Park was not so strange—except, perhaps, that it was so warm. But, it also seemed to me to be a moment to remember and value. It may be easy to despair at the violence and the suspicion that can spring up among people of different races, nationalities, religions, but we should find ways of celebrating, or at least taking notice of, the myriad ways in which and through which we experience peace even in the midst of obvious differences.

This isn’t to say that we should ignore the significant places where there is hatred and brutality—places that require important work to be done. We ought to be more mindful, though, of our capacity for peace and for peacefulness. And to find ways of shining a light on that peacefulness, lifting it up for the ray of hope that it is.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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1 Response to The Capacity for Peace

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks, Susan. You’re absolutely right; we don’t focus enough on those moments or events which demonstrate our capacity for love, hope and peace. Maybe that could be another recognition for prayer, at least once a month, during the prayer time at church.

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