This past Wednesday I shared about Guatemala and the stories from my time there with campers at Little Friends for Peace’s Peace Camp in Mt. Rainier. For the week, there are between 40 and 50 campers; the campers include kids from Mt. Rainier, kids from Washington D.C., and kids whose families are part of TASSC (Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition). I haven’t spoken much with anyone about Guatemala; when friends or family ask me, I often refer them here, or I say “I’m not really ready to talk much about it yet.”
MJ and Jerry Park are the founders of Little Friends for Peace. Through song, cooperative games, and activities, they share peacemaking skills with children and adults. I’ve known MJ for over 10 years and worked with her on peacemaking projects/camps since 2006. After my return from Guatemala, she invited me to come to Peace Camp and spend the day with the campers as a guest peacemaker: I would speak for 10-15 minutes and then I could run an activity.
After the word for the day (Cooperation) was introduced, MJ introduced me to the kids. I sat on a stool, level to the children and I shared just a bit with the 8-15 year olds in the room. We talked about the homes of the kids in Zona 7 (the garbage dump community), the violence that they see all around them, their stories.
The campers had some pressing questions: “Did the houses have doors?” “Where do they sleep?” and some interesting suggestion: “Well, if they’re going to collect stuff from the garbage dump, maybe we should throw out good food.”
I shared with them that my way of bringing peace was to listen to people’s stories, that powerful transformation and recognition occurs in the act of listening and of being heard. MJ later shared with me that she thought perhaps the students had missed the powerful piece of listening, but that it spoke to her strongly. Listening can lead to understanding, which in turn, can lead to peacemaking.
Our activity time was spent, half with more questions/photo showing, and half in writing.
I invited the kids to share a bit of their story, or the story of someone they knew. One girl opened her story with the line “This year I’m starting 8th grade. It’s my 9th school in 4 years.” You can bet her story had significance and meaning. Another boy (who was all over the place, energy-wise) wrote about how his dog, Max, is the only place where he finds peace. One young girl hadn’t seen her brothers and sisters since she came to the US from Uganda. A boy lived with his aunt and uncle who took care of him. Powerful stories from little powerhouses.
I found a most interesting piece left behind. I don’t know who wrote it, except that it was one of the older girls. I leave you with it, typed up, as she wrote it:
“If I were to say that I have nothing to say, no ideas, no thoughts worth sharing, in a room full of people who know me, they would all laugh. They would say that I’m the most opinionated person they know who never shuts up. But sitting here asked to write a story I have nothing. It’s not that nothing has happened in my life, but it is that those events, those stories, do not say something worth being said. What is worth being said? What idea is worth being listened to? In a world full of people saying every little thing that comes into their head, what can I say that will be more then, realer then, truer then the nonesense I read every day. Are we all supposed to speak? In the torant that is every person rushing to like, comment, tweet, post, blog, text, are the voices we should be listening to being drowned out? I’ve always wanted to have a worth while idea, a thought that would be made imortal by the millions who would repeat it, something I could think that would be truly profound. Perhaps the most profound thing I can do is be silent and listen.”