Honoring His Father and Faith: A Mennonite Tests His Peace Stance
by Bruce Stambaugh, guest contributor
Forty years ago, the very first sermon I heard preached in a Mennonite church was on non-resistance. It was exactly what I was looking for spiritually, and I embraced it. My father, a World War II veteran, was skeptical, but eventually accepted my decision.
Four decades later, I accompanied my 89-year-old father on a special excursion called Honor Flight for World War II vets. Dad was dying of cancer, and he had long wanted to make this trip to Washington, D.C. Regardless of their physical condition, each of the 117 vets on the plane was required to have a guardian for the all-day roundtrip. In his situation, Dad needed extra care.
Given my non-resistance stance on war, I was reluctant to go. I likely would be the only conscientious objector on the packed plane. But this trip wasn’t about me. It was about my father fulfilling one of his dreams. I needed to go with him, regardless of my personal convictions.
As anticipated, the vets received their patriotic just due. Upon landing at Reagan National Airport, fire trucks sprayed arches of water across our arriving jetliner — a ritual usually reserved for dignitaries. As we exited the plane and entered the terminal, a concert band played the patriotic music of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and “God Bless America.” Dozens of bouquets of red, white, and blue balloons tied to posts and chairs bobbed in the air. Hundreds of volunteers young and old vigorously greeted us.
The entourage visited several war monuments in the U.S. capital that day. At the circular, granite National World War II Memorial, strangers approached the vets with reverence and emotionally shared their gratefulness. They shook the vets’ hands and thanked them for their service. I quietly took it all in, tears streaming, emotions and thoughts mentally whirling. Still, I tried to focus my attention on caring for my elderly father.
Returning to the airport later that same day, the vets received a similar patriotic welcome home. Dad said his experience ranked right behind his marriage of 67 years. With that comment, I was glad that I had the chance to experience that day with my father. I felt honored and glad he was able to go. Dad died three months later.
Despite all the hoopla of the day — or perhaps because of it — the futility of war became all the more obvious to me. The events reinforced my non-resistance stance. In listening to the vets on the plane and buses that transported us throughout the day, I heard them all say that they hated what they had to do. I also remembered the words of Jesus, who said to turn the other cheek and go the second mile and beyond for your enemy.
For a day, I had one foot on the foundation of God and country and the other on the teachings of Jesus. The trip with my father was an inspirational reminder of the commitment I made as a young man to a different way of making peace in a hostile world. Because of this experience, I bonded with my father in his time of need, and I greatly respected what my father and the other veterans on the flight had done. Yet, I knew I could not have done what they had — not because of cowardice, but out of conviction.
I had participated in the Honor Flight out of love and respect for my earthly father. I had held fast to my peace convictions out of love and devotion to my Father in heaven. In that paradox, I found no conflict whatsoever.
Bruce Stambaugh is a retired educator and a freelance writer living in Millersburg, Ohio. You can read more of his writing on his blog at Roadkill Crossing, and Other Tales from Amish Country.
We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.
We think of love as things like oxytocin, which bind us to other people. But in the figurative sense, I would say that love is an unselfish attachment to another person in that you’re attached to somebody both for what they do for you, but also mostly for what you can do for the other person.
—Kirsten Lindsmith, from "Navigating Love and Autism"
The college student’s relationship with Jack Robison, who also has Asperger’s syndrome, is the subject of Amy Harmon's fascinating New York Times feature. The piece reveals how Lindsmith and Robison’s love grows out of their shared experience of autism while the struggles and tensions in their relationship are also amplified by their Asperger’s.
~Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
Oh, this sentiment is so lovely. Yes, we here at On Being are romantics… Thanks for this, guardian:
Rituals around the world
Here’s a selection of runner up photos for Guardian Travel’s competition. Click through the gallery to see which one judge Natalie Mayer picked to win a £200 Point101 voucher.
In this picture: Melanie Barrow, runner-up: This photo was taken at N Seoul Tower which overlooks the South Korean capital. It is said that if two partners lock their love together along the towers fence line, and throw away the key, it will seal their love forever.
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The Nameless, Faceless 1,027 Palestinian Prisoners and One Named Israeli Soldier
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
On the surface, it seems like the Palestinians and Hamas won a major victory in today’s exchange of prisoners. Gilad Shalit, one Israeli soldier, in exchange for more than a thousand Palestinians. The numbers are theirs to claim. How could Palestinians not be declared the victors?
With all this media coverage, I really only know one name. The general public truly only knows one name. One face. One set of parents. One human story of drama and pain and sacrifice. I know Gilad Shalit. He’s my son and my brother and my friend. He’s the child I would sit out in the rain and the blazing sun to protect and bring home. I ache for his family and his country. He’s human, he’s real, he’s flesh and blood.
With the Palestinian prisoners, I don’t know the name of one person. We don’t know the name of one person. No headlines in the papers or blogs exclusively devoted to the single surname of a Palestinian prisoner returned to her family. I know only numbers and politics and negotiators. I don’t know the woman above. We don’t know her. The story of a daughter and a sister and a mother and a wife. We don’t identify with her because she has remained faceless, nameless, lost. How long has she spent inside an Israeli prison? How long has her family begged their government to make a deal for an exchange? She goes unnoticed and unnamed by all of us.
Even the description of the photojournalist doesn’t identify her but names one man:
"A Palestinian prisoner hugs relatives after arriving in Mukata following her release on October 18, 2011 in Ramallah, West Bank. Israeli Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit was freed after being held captive for five years in Gaza by Hamas militants, in a deal which saw Israel releasing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners."
This is the tragedy of the circumstances. When the dust settles and history remains our only chronicler, we will remember the name of Gilad Shalit — a young man who spent five years in Palestinian cell — but not the name of this one Palestinian woman. And we will remember that the Palestinians received 1,027 people in return. Numbers get confused in our memories, but the story and image of one individual, one life worth retrieving, will remain with us forever.
But, now at least, I know her face. We see the love of a family and the pain of return. And, even though it’s not the equivalent, it’s a beginning. The Palestinian leadership would do well to remember this, and so should the media, including us.
Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images
Some people I can sign a license for and some I can’t. But it’s exactly the same covenant commitment.
—Katherine Hawker, minister of Webster Groves Evangelical United Church of Christ in Missouri, who, along with six other same-sex couples, will be crossing the state line into Iowa this weekend to be legally married.
Katherine Hawker, right, with her partner, Darlene Self. (photo: Lori Rose)
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Quilts as Tangible Memories and Bequeathed Love
by Jean Anderson Dunham, guest contributor
Rose triangle bead quilt (photo: Carson Too)
If there is one tangible object that represents my mother, it would be a quilt. She spent my childhood making beautiful patterns: lone stars, flying geese, double wedding rings. Each stitch was exactly even and the corners of the fabric joined together just right.
She was a perfectionist, my mother, and at times was a little too hard on us. I tried to be the daughter she thought I should be. And I never smiled right in pictures. But to my mother, if things were perfect, she could love.
I now know this fear was a sign of deeper hurt and that she longed for love in ways her own mother couldn’t provide. But I have these quilts, these beautiful transitional objects, and they remind me of her.
Jean Dunham is a child psychiatrist living in Austin, Texas. She curates articles and images she finds interesting on her Tumblr at roots and wings.
Archbishop on the Meaning of the Royal Wedding
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Well, we may as well add to the deluge of posts about the royal wedding with a prenuptial video from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who presided over Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding ceremony today. In this Lambeth Palace production, Rowan Williams shares his optimism in knowing that a young couple are still willing to commit to one another and discover each another during these modern times in a fast-paced world:
"Here are young people sending a message of hopefulness, sending a message of generosity across the world. And, it’s my privilege to bless that in the name of God, to witness that in the name of God, and to send them on their way."