Guest Blogger: John Noltner, will bring his multimedia exhibit “A Peace of My Mind” to Hoover Auditorium from June 17-24, 2017. He will also be speaking as part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series on June 20 (8:15 p.m.), June 21 (10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.) and June 22 (10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.)

He continues his writing on “A Peace of My Mind.” Read his first blog post here.

When I asked people the simple question of “What does peace mean to you?”

and began to listen, I started to hear little bits of wisdom… wisdom that gets lost in the noise of day to day life. A few examples:

Jarell Wilson started his interview by saying, “I am Black, gay, Christian and I live in Texas… by all measures, I should be miserable… but I see beauty everywhere.”

Talat Hamdani grew up in Pakistan and lived in Brooklyn on 9/11. Her son, Salmon, was an EMT and NYPD cadet, and he didn’t come home that day. She searched for him, like so many others did for their loved ones in the days following. Eventually, because of his Muslim faith, the authorities began to question whether he was involved in the plot, so Talat was faced with both the loss of her son, and the attack on his character. Eventually Salmon was found, in the stairwell of one of the towers, heading up, with his EMT bag by his side. He had given his life as he tried to save others. “How is your pain superior to my pain?” Talat asks.

Hashim Garrett was picked on as a child. He was afraid. Eventually he thought if he befriended his tormentors, they might leave him alone, but this started him down a difficult path. These new friends and him started skipping school. They started stealing from area stores and eventually hurting people. When he was 15 years old, Hashim was shot and paralyzed from the waist down. It was when he was laying on the ground, unable to move, that he realized the consequences of the decisions he had made. He now says, “I want to love those who have not shown me love. I want to be kind to those who may not deserve my kindness.”

Angela Bates grew up in Nicodemus, Kan., which was settled by freed slaves after the Civil War. There used to be lots of towns like that west of the Mississippi, but as far as I know, Nicodemus is the last one remaining… 16 residents… all direct descendants of the original settlers, now farming wheat and milo on the Kansas prairie. Angela runs a local historical museum in Nicodemus, because for her, we need to understand where we have been if we are going to understand where we are headed. She talks about the difficult history of being African American in the U.S., but she adds, “I have a choice. How am I going to respond to the world around me?”

We all have that choice. How are we going to respond? Are we going to add to the division around us? Or is there something we can do to heal it?

These stories are all around us. They are there for us to learn and grow and connect with one another. We can hear them any time we want. All we have to do is listen.

If we are able to learn how to do this… listen to one another. See past the labels and biases that we are so quick to apply, and actually see the humanity in one another… perhaps even the divinity in one another. In the end we will come closer to the Beloved Community that Dr. King talked about, and in the process, we will create peace.

Are you listening?

I look forward to sharing more stories of peace during my time at Lakeside.