Peace is the essential component of community

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 19, 2001

The past week's horrific events have plagued our weeping world with feelings of fear, despair, revenge and hate. I was greatly encouraged, therefore, to receive the following e-mail from one of our local coffee companions:

The other day I overheard my 15-year-old son talking with a friend on the phone. Instead of saying goodbye, he said, "Peace!" before hanging up. At dinner that night we teased him a little about being so retro.

(As some of you remember, 30 years ago some people used "Peace" commonly as a greeting.)

His response was that all his friends are using it now (read, since Sept. 11).

The next morning I dropped him off at school. As he was getting out of the car he said, "Peace, Mom!" I just had to smile. The really great part of this was, it left me with a positive energy that I carried with me into the rest of my day.

I'd like to offer a suggestion. Instead of ending conversations with "Goodbye," etc., wish the person, "Peace." It can't hurt, and it may just help in shifting the collective consciousness away from anger and retribution towards peace and hope. I do believe in the ripple effect.

Kay Christie, Cochrane

Kay's letter reminded me of the word for "peace" in the Stoney Nakoda language spoken at Morley. It's the word oyade [o-YAH-day].

Now, I've never heard the word used as a greeting, but it does have something important to say about our world's current state of affairs.

You see, oyade is the kind of peace that exists among people when they live in a respectful, trusting relationship with one another.

And so, oyade has another, closely related meaning: "city." Thus, an oyade ("city") is a large community where people live together in a relationship of oyade ("peace").

To use Kay's words, the ideal community of people is one where the "ripple effect" of trust and mutual respect shapes the quality of life for the good.

In my role as a Scripture and linguistics consultant, I remember a discussion that went on among the Stoney Bible translation team involving this word.

It was back about 1970. The six interpreters from Morley were working through the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke.

When they came to the angelic words to the shepherds, they debated at length whether to translate "peace on earth" with oyade, or with a phrase that refers to living together without fear.

You see, it was clear to the team that there could be no peace among people if they lived in fear and distrust of each other.

All of which highlights the importance of something another of our Cochrane coffee companions said to me the other night about the answer to terrorism and war.

David Sweeney pointed his finger at his heart and said, "The answer lies in here, inside each one of us."

At the close of the Second World War, Gen. Douglas MacArthur spoke similarly:

"We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem . . . involves a spiritual recrudescence, an improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."

Which brings me back to Kay's letter and her son's longing for peace. Let me conclude with The Prayer of St. Francis, suggested by e-mail coffee companion Leanne Forest, of Edmonton:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.


© 2001 Warren Harbeck

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