Perhaps the first real sunshine after a month of rain helped, but Thursday, October 6, inspired me with peace in three flavors. As I prepared for my talk “Peace from the Inside Out,” my day began by rehearsing “Blowing in the Wind” and “Down By the Riverside” with Carolyn Brown. If you know Carolyn already, you will understand when I tell you how uplifting is her infectious optimism and good nature. And those of you who heard her voice on October 9th will understand that I was inspired further. Practicing the Bob Dylan number was a great start, and when we got into the gospel tune about “laying down my sword and shield,” I had to just lay down my guitar and sing! The power of that song and Carolyn’s spirit just begged to be freed from the constraints of my finger picking. It reminded me that peace, like music, is not an absence, but is full and flourishing!
The second flavor of peace I tasted was a bitter one. As I walked up to the Baltimore City jail, I found the medieval building ringed with barbed wire cold and intimidating. In contrast, peace presented itself in the form of two smiling yoga practitioners fresh from their class with some female inmates. Lea, Greg and I shared lunch at Red Emma’s while they told me about how surprised they were at the receptivity of the inmates to the yoga practice. Even those who chose not to participate in the poses seemed to enjoy just relaxing and watching the others. It seemed to help them, if just for a few moments, forget about the cycle of violence that landed them behind bars.
To finish my day I visited the Occupy Baltimore site at the Inner Harbor for a third taste of peace. Sure, there were angry people there, but there was also energy and hope and cooperation – all ingredients important in peace building. Activists young and old painted signs, planned workshop agendas, and circulated petitions. For a few moments I joined some on the street corner, signs in hands. The smiles, honks and peace signs from many commuters warmed me. I made a mental note to add a verse to Carolyn’s and my gospel number: “I’m gonna sing out for ‘Bmore peace’/Down by the harborside!”