Five years and counting, a peace vigil stands firm
In Needham, Mass., peace activists make weekly pleas to end violence and remain hopeful that their message is heard.
(Page 2 of 2)
Mr. Fleming, shifting from foot to foot against the damp cold, adds, "In the last few months, people seem friendlier."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Many in this group are middle-age and beyond, although a young father with a 3-year-old son sometimes joins them on the common.
One regular participant, Elise Boulding, describes herself as "a peace activist all my life." A Quaker, she taught peace studies at various universities, including Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., and the University of Michigan. She was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
Andrew Bunie, a retired teacher, holds a sign reading "Blessed are the peacemakers."
But even committed peacemakers find themselves tested. A year ago, on a bleak day when the sky was gray and threatening, the Needham participants stood on their little plot of borrowed land in the center of town, cold and discouraged. "We wondered if what we did had any impact at all," Mrs. Fleming recalls.
Then a waiter from Masala Art, an Indian restaurant across the street, approached with a smile and an unexpected gift: He wanted to bring them tea and coffee. "He told us, 'You don't realize how much we appreciate seeing you here every week,' " Mrs. Fleming says. "It cheered us up enormously. We were witnessing to more people than we realized."
Today, as a hedge against the cold, another regular, Chip Wilder, has brought a thermos of hot chocolate for everyone. Two battery-operated candles on a card table add a touch of postholiday cheer in the wintry darkness.
Calling this a peace and justice movement, Mrs. Fleming adds, "It's almost a vigil against violence. There's so much violence in our culture. Kids see it all the time on television. It's very upsetting."
For some of us who have passed the vigil-keepers many times in the past five years, their presence serves a purpose that goes beyond their specific cause. Their constancy and steadfast devotion raise humbling questions for the rest of us, such as: What cause do I believe in fervently? And what am I doing to support and promote it?
At 4:45 p.m., members of the group put down their signs, form a circle, and join hands. After a moment of silence, Mrs. Fleming says, "Peace be with us." The vigil is over. They collect their signs, say goodbye, and head to their cars, eager for the comforting warmth of home.
Explaining that they are here for the long run, Mrs. Fleming offers a comment that could apply to every worthy cause. "A few people can make a difference," she says, "and we intend to keep doing it."