Songwriters inspire Warren's new year's resolution

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 2, 2002

What a year! Unthinkable horror gripping the world. Complex historical differences "settled" with bullets and bombs. Arab-Israeli tensions about to explode.

It was 1955. The H-bomb race, violence associated with U.S. school desegregation, and the impending Suez crisis made for an uncomfortable time.

In the midst of the darkness, Sy Miller and Jill Jackson lit a candle that illuminated the whole world. In so doing, they demonstrated a quality I've come to value so much in you who join me at this coffee table every week.

The two songwriters introduced Let There Be Peace on Earth on a California mountaintop at a weeklong multicultural and inter-religious youth retreat. It "continues to travel heart to heart. . .in people everywhere who wish to become a note in a song of understanding and peace," Sy writes.

I've sung, whistled and hummed this song for years, and no doubt you have, too. But I hadn't realized the scope of its influence till now.

I wanted to include reference to the song in this first-of-the-year column, and figured I'd surf the Internet for a couple of minutes to make sure I remembered the words correctly.

Four hours later when Mary Anna called me for dinner, I was just scratching the surface of the more-than 1,300 Web sites that my Google search engine located in response to: "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Among these were some of the most beautiful and moving Web pages I've ever encountered, complete with audio, artwork, and the written word.

There were pages by every major religious tradition in the world. Artists, poets, and essayists exulted in the words. The song showed up in community and human rights events, in children's creations, and in languages beyond my ability to read.

In particular, Sy and Jill's candle burned brightly in the many pages of comfort and hope in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Sy and Jill are heroes to me. They chose to do a compassionate act within their little corner of the world– a seemingly small act that drew on their expertise for the benefit of a small group of young people. Yet, the ripple effect of that one act spread out, I'm sure, beyond their wildest dreams.

They're a lot like you. As I have come to know you through this column and over many coffees, you, too, have become heroes to me.

"But," you may say, "I'm no hero; I'm not perfect."

To this I reply: My heroes don't have to be perfect, just compassionate.

And compassion, as I see it, is the cornerstone of peace.

Compassion puts itself in the other person's shoes and strives to do what it can to make the journey more pleasant. It is gentle and merciful, and at least as concerned for the well being of another as it is for its own.

Compassion is the essence of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Not a bad formula for peace, eh?

And you have become my mentors in compassion – cup by cup, letter by letter.

You have demonstrated risking your own lives for the cause of human rights. You have pointed out the moral mandate of the media to speak the truth with love. You have modeled a caring attitude toward the suffering, the grieving, and those abandoned along the roadsides of life.

All in all, you have been teaching me the meaning of "blessed are the peace makers."

True, I still have a long way to go in fully putting into practice your lessons. But with your help and patience, I will keep trying.

In fact, I'd like to make this my new year's resolution: to be a more compassionate person, a person of peace. And I want you to hold me to it. It is as Sy and Jill stated in the second half of their song:

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

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