Dick Bernard: Two Gentle Books for Peaceful People….

The old ballad comes to mind as I begin this post: “Home, home on the range, where the deer and the Antelope play, where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
As this latest round of “daily dismal” – the 2016 election season – nears an end, I’d like to invite attention to some truly positive inspirational books about people like us; like the folks most of us are blessed with next door; the people we see at the grocery store, in church, out walking in the park….
The two books (click on the titles for more information about each):
“Green Card Youth Voices”. 29 Immigration Stories by young people at a Minneapolis High School
“A Peace of my Mind American Stories” 63 people, 40,000 miles across the USA
In my opinion, both books deserve and will receive national recognition.
Very briefly:
Green Card Youth Voices
It was a privilege to listen to three of the 29 authors of this book read from and discuss their experiences as Green Card Youth, immigrants to the United States. The three, pictured below 2nd, third and fifth from left, were Zaynab Abdi (pp 1-4) from Yemen; Fosiya Hussein (pp 113-115) from Somalia; and Wendy St. Felix (pp 109-111) from Haiti. (The other two in the photo, visitors at the talk: Lulu, a PhD student from Brazil; Shimri, a peace activist from Israel.)

October 20, 2016, Minneapolis MN

October 20, 2016, Minneapolis MN

It is very easy in these days to become terminally cynical about any hope for the future.
Kids like these (and there are lots of them) bring hope back.
Green Card Youth Voices is more than just pages and pictures. Each story includes a link to an on-line video interview with the author; and there is a Study Guide at the end of the book. So the book is not a destination, it is a beginning of a journey.
I highly recommend getting to know the organization, Green Card Voices. I had the very happy privilege of meeting the Executive Director of the organization, Tea Rozman-Clark, where her group was having one of its first programs, at Hosmer Library in South Minneapolis, in Nov. 2013.
A Peace of my Mind American Stories compiled by John Noltner.
I met John Noltner some years ago when he was beginning a photo journalism project, interviewing people engaged in peacemaking. His first book, A Peace of My Mind, and subsequent traveling photograph display which has been very well received around the United States led him to a 40,000 mile journey around the U.S., and lengthy interviews with 63 ordinary people about life’s stories and lessons.
September 27 I was privileged to be with a large group listening to John talk about his project.
Sitting nearby, it turned out, was the subject of one of the stories, Deanna Thompson (pp 44-45) a six year survivor of Stage Four Breast Cancer, teacher of religion at Hamline University, St. Paul, a positive example for us all.
Deanna Thompson (at right) Sep 27, 2016

Deanna Thompson (at right) Sep 27, 2016

Another story is Padre Johnson‘s, Cody WY (pp 86-87). The students above are holding Padre’s 1992 book, Journeys with the Global Family, recounting his time spent with people in 159 different countries in the 1970s. His is a remarkable story.
John Noltner’s trip to American Stories is described here, including link to a long interview in the Smithsonian on-line newsletter.
There you have it: two new books, 92 stories by and about ordinary people – people like us. These are ideal gifts for yourself, and others, at any time. Every story gives cause for reflection. Check them out. They’re an investment, not a cost.
Connections may seem random. They really never are. Everything has a reason.
A year ago this week my friend, Lynn Elling, then 93, seemed more and more determined that there must be a meeting about peace at his favorite restaurant, Gandhi Mahal, in Minneapolis. I knew what he wanted, but precisely who and what was not clear this time. Finally, I went to his home, and eight of us met with him on Friday evening, Nov. 6 (photo at end of this post).
It was Lynn who had invited me to the initial event of Green Card Voices in Nov. 2, 2013. It was through Lynn that I had some time earlier met Padre Johnson.
Lynn’s resume for Peace is long and stellar. He could not, would not, “put his feet up”. He too-well remembered the carnage at Tarawa Beach as a young LST officer in WWII.
Sep. 21, he was at the Dedication of The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis as a Peace Site.
Our Nov. 6 meeting ended, and Cathy Manning took Lynn home.
The next day, Nov. 7, he was admitted to the hospital, and except for about two days near his death he didn’t come home again.
He died Feb. 14, 2016, at the doorstep of 94.
Lynn, there are others after you who carry on your work. Thanks for your efforts.
In peace.
Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant.  The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant. The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

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