Peace Pilgrimage Reflections -- August 11, 2013

08-11-2013 | Bob Sabath

Reflections from Janie Blakely
Shared Stories: Lights on the Path of Peace

As is usual on this journey of the spirit called "The Pilgrimage of Peace," this afternoon we gathered for lunch on the deck of Still Point cabin. It is a rare August day—clear, yet mild. As we sat atop a mountain above the Shenandoah; numerous butterflies and hummingbirds joined our gathering, supping on the flowers while we savored fresh veggies and pasta salad. We were also nurtured by sharing stories of our lives with one another.

Just as our bodies were replenished with food, our spirits were nourished by wondrous stories about an unexpected Appalachian blizzard in 2003. We marveled as we heard tell about two friends who trampled all day through 36 inches of snow to get to the only shop around for miles in order to pick up milk, rice and especially—dog food.

We heard from another companion who happened to move from out of state to West Virginia that very day -- only able to unpack mattresses and a few snacks which had been tossed in the car. "Weren’t your children really young in 2003?" the storyteller was asked.

"Yes, my youngest was four," came the reply.

With a shared intake of breath, one listener then dared to ask, "Oh my, what did you do?"

The storyteller beamed. "My neighbors all brought food -- one family at a time, throughout the week. We’re now good, good friends. All we needed came to us. The electricity was out, so we just hunkered down in front of the fire until we could get out again."

Another table companion exclaimed, "What a welcome to your new home that turned out to be!"

The storyteller beamed as she nodded in agreement.

Some of us are fellow pilgrims sharing this retreat experience for the fifth time in as many years, some of us are long time friends, and some of us are brand new acquaintances. In this time and place, we share new bonds as fellow "pilgrims" seeking the path of living peacefully. Our shared stories are an essential element in the creation of those bonds -- the bonds which draw us together as fellow seekers of peace. At the same time as stories draw us together, they also create openings for new reflection and hope as we move forward on the path.

The storyteller takes a risk to reveal something about herself or her worldview -- and the listener gives his time and care to meet her in the place of her revelation. Then with thought and care, hopefully they exchange roles. In the exchange, both are invited to be transformed; to see the world, or themselves, or their companion, in a new way. When the path you follow is seeking peace, the only way to reach your destination is to live it along the way.

In Hebrew understanding, "shalom" (this "peace" in English) not only includes an individual sense of peacefulness and well-being, but innately relays a shared experience of fullness, completeness, and safety. Sharing stories at a retreat such as "The Pilgrimage of Peace" indicates the longing to abide in the shared wholeness that the word "shalom" seeks to describe.

This new understanding creates the opportunity for tangible connection and care to pass between the co-travelers. This connection in turn creates an opening for a deepened recognition and experience of what it means to live in peace. When gathering together at the table or hearth, we not only share words, but our lives, hopes and dreams. In doing so through stories, we lay the stepping stones for new paths of peace yet to be traveled -- which can now be illuminated by shared compassion, understanding and hope.