A WOMAN CALLED PEACE

How many of us want world peace? How many of us are willing to give up everything we have for it, including that brand new Play Station 3 with Blu-ray capability?

On January 01, 1953 a woman who went by the name Peace Pilgrim did just that. Well, she didn?t give up a Play Station 3 ? she just gave up everything she owned. Including her name.

At the age of 44 Mildred Ryder had grown weary of a materialistic world that put possessions before people. Donning navy slacks and a matching shirt with her new name ?Peace Pilgrim? monogrammed across the front and the words ?25,000 miles for Peace? emblazoned across the back she hit the road. In her pockets she carried what would be her only worldly possessions for the next 28 years ? a comb, a folding toothbrush, a ballpoint pen and copies of her message: ?This is the way of peace. Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.?

In 1964 she reached her goal of 25,000 miles. ?At that point I stopped counting the miles,? she said. ?But I kept on walking.?

During her lifetime numerous people were touched by the silver haired lady with the piercing blue eyes and boundless energy. She believed that our barrier to world peace is simply immaturity. It makes sense. If you have ever witnessed three toddlers in a room with one shiny toy, the fisticuffs that ensue are not unlike three world leaders in a room with a barrel of oil.

Mature minds do the math and understand how the trillions of dollars spent on war could eradicate world hunger. Immature minds shout, ?Mine, mine, it?s all mine.? Mature minds learn to share. Sharing a toy is a difficult concept for an immature mind. Only the threat of the toy being taken away altogether will convince toddlers to take turns. With the future of our very planet in peril, it may well be the only thing that makes adults learn to play fair as well.

Peace Pilgrim believed that the maturity necessary to achieve world peace depended on each human first finding inner peace. And that peace comes from ?living to give rather than to get.?

A year before Peace set out on her lifelong pilgrimage she became the first woman to walk the 2,050 mile length of the Appalachian Trail. She recalled ?I sat high upon a hill overlooking rural New England. The day before I had slipped out of harmony, and the evening before I had thought to God, It seems to me that if I could always remain in harmony I could be of greater usefulness–for every time I slip out of harmony it impairs my usefulness.?

Soon after she set out on her peace pilgrimage and stayed in harmony thereafter. She never accepted money, or asked for food. If food was offered she ate, if it wasn?t she fasted. Most times she ate. ?People are kind you know,? she observed.

If she had a speaking engagement she would hitchhike to get there on time, if she didn?t she walked. Although she spent most nights under the stars without so much as a pillow for her head, in the 28 years until her death she never once suffered from a cold, an ache or a pain.

Peace Pilgrim died in 1981 at the age of 73 in a car accident on her way to a speaking engagement. Had she lived she would have been 100 years old this year. I hope her message lives on for far longer but let?s hope her dream materializes sooner.

But her whole message was that it?s not enough to hope, is it? It?s time to do. As Peace herself once wrote ?One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time can make history.?

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. She can be reached at contact@shannonmckinnon.com