This weekend, many of us will take time to pause and remember. I have found my way to Remembrance Day ceremonies at different cenotaphs through the years, and made an effort to have my children watch and participate in the community gatherings. Attendance numbers may rise and fall but our collective presence continues as a quiet recognition of not only the end of The Great War but also for all who have served and sacrificed for our country.
While “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” symbolizes the 1918 signing of the armistice that would end the hostilities of World War I, the last hundred years have added other reasons to remember. Other wars and conflicts have continued to take those who serve our country. Many do not return, and those who do carry both inner and outer scars that come from such sacrifice.
Nov. 11 reminds us of the high price of peace, and the importance of working to maintain it. We may not be called or able to serve in our armed forces. We may feel that we have little influence in global affairs and the ongoing politics of war. But how we live and the values we demonstrate inevitably carry the message of what we, as individuals, as a community, and as country, believe is important.
In 1981, the World Alliance of YMCAs issued a statement of peace that states, in part, that “the responsibility for peace begins with each person, in relationship with family and friends and extends to community life and national activities.” In recognizing that a state of peace is more than just the absence of violence and conflict, individuals are challenged to Participate, practice Empathy, Advocate for positive change, build Communities and Empower others. Beyond a handy acronym, it is a reminder that living in peace doesn’t just happen. It requires active and ongoing involvement, from each of us.
This year’s Peace Week is from Nov. 18 to 25, and there will be a number of events from yoga to paint nights to celebrating those who support the values of peace and our communities. Most of all it helps to remind us to think of how we each choose to live. Nominations are open for this year’s Peace Medallion – is there someone you know whose dedication to others deserves recognition?
On Saturday, we acknowledge those who have served for us and for our country. After the trumpet call fades and the ceremonies end, consider how what you might do to continue and promote the peace so many of us take for granted.
Jan Matthews writes her column for the Cumberland YMCA