Advent Peace

During my senior year in high school I was a columnist for the school newspaper.  For one issue, I got the idea to write an entire column that was just one sentence and to see if anyone noticed.  What topic was so broad, so vague and nebulous, as to permit such a ruse?  Peace, I decided.  I composed a draft which some poor student teacher accidentally graded, thinking it was serious.  I eventually wrote the column about something else and won an award for it, but I still occasionally wonder at the utter drivel I must have written the first time.

But it occurs to me peace is a temporal state that has a clear forerunner and clear descendant (hey, I’m always up to pontificate on this topic).  The forerunner of peace is truth, or rather, truth is the origin of peace. I remember being rather amazed at the truth and reconciliation commissions of the past decades. You mean they just openly discuss all the crimes they did, and review the past, in an attempt to move past it and heal?  But from all accounts it worked.  That alchemical quality of a real solution, of an answer, drawn not from any specific “side,” but only from God.  Only God knows truth, and when pure truth, or as pure as we get here on Earth, comes into play amazing things happen.  However, truth is hard.  It is also surprisingly quotidian, unremarkable, and complex.  As any fiction reader knows, there is a lot of truth to be unpacked at any moment within anyone, and counterintuitively reading widely in serious literature will only deepen your knowledge of truth.

But peace is temporary unless people work to preserve it.  It is subject to entropy.  Peace requires mission.  It requires vigilance, and renewal of covenantal values.  It requires adults adulting, which is not in vogue. I was watching a 60 Minutes report about a school that took on teens at risk for gang violence.  A graduate reported the school, which had saved his life, would no longer accept a kid like he once was.  It had turned away from its mission, he claimed.  Mission work, like truth, is also quotidian, unremarkable, and complex.  My main memory from volunteering is not glory but all the joyful toil.

Peace does not come from the proverbial sky, it is created and preserved on earth by us, if we so wish.

John Leighton


Hope Tomorrow is Better – A Post Shelter Reflection

Late in the evening after some church meeting or work when I get on the subway, I often look around and inspect my fellow passengers. Where are they coming from? What goes through their minds as they stare into the middle distance tiredly? They’re all people in the middle of struggling with living life as hard as life can be.

The guests at our homeless shelter are similar in their way. They live in a constant state of anxiety and will hardly remember us or any real detail about Plymouth, except vaguely. I have no idea what being homeless is like but from the behavior of the men, you can discern a little: they guard their things, ask permission for nearly every act, retire to the bunks immediately after dinner. Their days are one long, I hope this isn’t too awful and Just let me get through this and Today was bad, hope tomorrow is better. They have their own business and we are merely caretakers of them. CAMBA, the professionals, knows what it’s doing and most of them will get back on their feet soon.

Every so often I’ll wonder why the world simply doesn’t call a halt to everything and solve every problem it has. What is more important than securing safety and comfort for suffering humans, or than providing care for the ill, needy, or lonely? Why do we hold elections, Super Bowls, and 4ths of July when these problems exist?  What will the world lose if we take time to pause and bolster the weakest among us?  Nothing, that’s what. I think of Wordsworth’s sonnet, “The world is too much with us.” There is such a thing as a National Day of Service but it is sadly underpromoted, and it doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. It should be, International Stop Day.

However, slogans will not solve homelessness nor the shocking poverty that is easy to see here in this city if you’ll only look. Life is complex and social problems require wise adults and effort, neither of which are as glamorous as slogans. Human evil won’t be solved until we enter the next world; until then Jesus has granted us forgiveness for our sinful, wicked natures.