||Rev. Beverly Waring Sermon
Veteran's Day November 11,2011
Reading “The Weight of a Snowflake” Author unknown
"Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a small bird called a coal-mouse asked a wild dove.
"Nothing more than nothing," answered the dove.
"In that case I must tell you a marvelous story", the coal-mouse said.
"I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow, not heavily, not in a raging blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without
any violence. Since I didn't have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their
number was exactly 3,741,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say, the branch
Having said that, the coal-mouse flew away.
The dove, since Noah's time, an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile and finally said to herself: "Perhaps there is
only one person's voice lacking for peace to come in the world."
Working for peace can be tedious and solitary work. Much like quilting. It can take a long time. It can feel like an endless task. It can be
more about the process rather than the end result. When working for peace there is always room for improvements, always opportunity
to try new techniques. Working for peace can be uplifting and engaging work. Much like quilting.
Several years ago, shots were fired and a person was killed in the sanctuary of a Vermont Unitarian Universalist church. My home
congregation heard of this tragedy through a former member. We wanted to do something. We wanted to send comfort and compassion
to our friend and her fellow congregants. We wanted them to feel that their sanctuary could be a sacred space again. We wanted their
lives to be about peace – not violence. Someone had the idea of making a quilt. We were sending our messages on a medium that had
texture, warmth, physical comfort along with words. We wanted them to feel peace, not just hear the message of peace.
So, a group of us cut squares of fabric. Many more of us wrote messages, drew pictures, added our unique touch to that fabric. Then we
pieced the squares together, one love-filled square at a time. Rows were added to rows until we had a quilt top. Those of us who came
to the sewing table angry or sad, overwhelmed with rage at what had happened in Vermont or overcome with grief over the events in that
sanctuary, found comfort and equilibrium in a community gathered towards a common purpose. One heart at a time was filling with
peace. One set of hands at a time was joining with others to create a peace quilt. Similar to working towards peace, the quilt-making
started with one person, one heart, one intentional mind working to find peace inside themselves in the midst of a not very peaceful
world. One person wanting to share that sense of peace with others.
Obviously, there is much more to working for peace than what it takes to make a quilt. But I believe the parallels are helpful to think
about. As with quilting, it takes individual effort, individual desire, individual creativity. And as with quilting, as the effort of one is joined
with the effort of another the benefit grows exponentially.
I have not been quilting very long, and I am not very good at it. But when I combine my desire and passion with the skills of others the
results are amazing. What I have learned from quilting, I have taken into other arenas of working towards peace. I learned that I needed
to approach each task with intention and a quiet peacefulness in my heart.
I have attended several peace rallies over the past several years. I stand with others on the common in my hometown of Marlborough,
trying to keep a candle lit in the wind, holding a sign that simply says “PEACE,” letting all who drive by know what I yearn for in this world.
The traffic roaring by on busy RT 85, the honking horns, the shouts of support as well as the jeers do not penetrate to my core. In my
heart and soul I am able to feel the peace I yearn for in the world. In my heart and soul I am experiencing how calm I can be in the midst
of chaos. I am being the peace I want for the world.
For me, like Lao-tse tells us, this is where working for peace must start. It must start in my heart. It must start with me and with you and
with individuals like us. It must start as a state of being in the world.
Then when we are able to live that peace, when we are able to be at peace with our friends and with those we are in conflict with, only
then can we truly start working for peace in the world. And although putting an end to war is certainly a goal, for me working for peace is
more than that. It is about living in peace, personally and collectively.
This is what the founders of the Vietnamese-American Peace Park at (ME LIE) My Lai had in mind. When it was proposed, it was noted
that both countries had many monuments to war and that it was time to create a monument to peace. The ground breaking in 1998 was
attended by Vietnamese and American veterans.
So on this day, Veteran’s Day, 2011 I stand here speaking of peace. And there is a reason for that. As you heard earlier, the original
name for Veteran’s Day was Armistice Day. It was declared a holiday in order to celebrate the end of fighting in World War I between the
Allies and Germany.
The armistice or peace agreement went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. In a speech regarding
Armistice Day and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles, Woodrow Wilson said, “There is one thing that the American people always rise to
and extend their hand to, and that is the truth of justice and of liberty and peace. We have accepted the truth and we are going to be led
by it, and it is going to lead us, and through us the world, out into pastures of quietness and peace such as the world has never dreamed
If President Wilson’s words had become reality and the peace found after World War I had lead us and the world into pastures of peace
such as the world has never dreamed of before, how different things would be today. We would not have the need for peace rallies on
our town commons or peace parks around the world or peace poles such as the one we will be dedicating here soon. If the idealism of
calling World War I “the war to end all wars” could have been realized, we would be celebrating lasting peace on this day. However, in
1954, the holiday was changed to Veteran’s Day to recognize and honor, in addition to World War I veterans, also those from World War
II and the Korean War. And today, we have so many more veterans from so many more armed conflicts to honor.
What I have come to realize through working on the peace quilt and through attending rallies and through exploring other ways to work for
peace is that there truly is more to peace than simply the end of war.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King both linked justice as a necessary component to their concepts of peace. Gandhi said that peace
required not only the absence of violence but also the presence of justice. And Martin Luther King differentiated between negative peace
and positive peace. He criticized the concept of negative peace which he described as “an absence of tension,” and instead advocated
for positive peace which included the presence of justice. Neither man was speaking about peace as the end of war. They were
commenting on violence between individuals, between classes, between races, between people sharing common cultures but seeing one
another as the stranger.
The violence experienced in that Vermont UU church was not about war but about fear – fear that a mentally ill individual would hurt
someone if the police did not stop him. Our friends in Vermont said that looking at our peace quilt hanging in the sanctuary where
violence occurred could not erase the memories of violence but could bring members of the congregation to a place of inner peace. And
through that inner peace, collectively they could reclaim their sanctuary as a sacred place of peace.
Inner peace is what I have been able to experience at times even as my candle lighting and sign holding has occurred in the midst of rush
hour traffic and unfriendly passersby who see a yearning for peace as an insult to those serving now and who have served in the past as
members of this country’s armed forces. I am able to find peace in those moments because I know in my heart that I can live and work
and hope for peace while still being grateful to the men and woman called to serve our country until that peace is realized world-wide.
And I strive for inner peace because I know that even if the war ended tomorrow and all our service men and women came home, many
would be coming home to other forms of conflict and violence. Even without military war we have to address issues such as domestic
violence, poverty, homophobia, racism and the threats to wildlife and to our environment if true and lasting peace is to be found.
And that is why many of us from the group that came together to make that quilt for the Vermont UU congregation stayed together. Over
the past several years, we have met to make quilts for children who flee violence with their mothers.
There are evenings when I show up for quilting barely able to keep my eyes open and definitely not safe to hold a sharp instrument. And
in my weary state, I wonder if it is worth the effort. What am I really contributing, compared to people fighting genocide in Africa,
compared to those helping rebuild New Orleans, Haiti and so many other places where the violence of mother nature has devastated so
many, compared to those who are serving in the armed forces?
But I must tell you that when we finish six quilts and have them blessed and send them off to the shelter for those kids, the tears in my
eyes, the love in my heart and the peace I feel to my core is not insignificant and is anything but tedious or lonely. It is at those times
when I feel most hopeful, when I feel that our yearning for peace, our simple acts can make a difference.
So, every time I stand at a peace rally or cut a piece of fabric for the next quilt, I find myself praying. I find myself praying that Margaret
Mead was speaking with wisdom and prophesy when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can
change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
And when I am at a peace rally or working on a quilt or looking at a peace pole, I think of the coal-mouse and the dove.
Nothing more than nothing. Yet something very real as well. Maybe it needs one more prayer, one more hug from a friend, one more
kind word to an adversary. Maybe one more person finding inner peace and then spreading that peace to one other person is all that is
needed. Maybe it needs one more quilt, one more person at a peace rally, one more voice against an injustice. Each of these by
themselves may feel inconsequential, like nothing more than nothing, but may just make all the difference in the world.
Let it Be So.