Tuesday, May 3, 2011


In 1953, a woman named Mildred Lisette Norman heard a call togive up all her worldly belongings, take on the name “Peace Pilgrim,” and start walking. She described the picture that formed in her mind of the garb she should wear: a simple tunic with pockets for a toothbrush, comb, pen and a small pad of paper. Soft canvas shoes (I'm not positive but in the video below she could be wearing Vans). A pair of worn slacks. Starting in Pasadena, California, she walked across and around the U.S. for the next 28 years: fasting until she was given food, walking until she was given shelter, talking to anyone who wanted to listen about peace.

Peace Pilgrim's bold adventure captivates me. Think of how much easier life would be!: no having to get your oil changed, show up for jury duty, dust. (Tragically, she died in 1981 when the car in which the person who was giving her a ride to her next speaking engagement crashed). Feather bed, a pile of newspapers by the side of the road: she could sleep anywhere. For years I've carried around a little blue pamphlet called "Steps Toward Inner Peace" that I picked up for free at the Catholic Worker house in L.A.

"The positive approach inspires--the negative approach makes angry. When you make people angry they act in accordance with their baser instincts, often violently and irrationally. When you inspire people they act in accordance with their higher instincts, sensibly and rationally."

"There is a magic formula for resolving conflicts. It is this: Have as your objective the resolving of the conflict, not the gaining of advantage. There is a magic formula for avoiding conflicts. It is this: Be concerned that you do not offend, so that you are not offended."

"Q. Do you work for a living?

A: I work for my living in an unusual way, I give what I can through thoughts and words and deeds to those whose lives I touch and to humanity"...

"Q: How can I begin to really live life?

A: I began to really live life when I began to look at every situation and think about how I could be of service in that situation. I learned that I should not be pushy about helping, but just willing"...

[By the way: "Steps Toward Inner Peace" is not copyrighted and you are welcome to reprint it in whole or in part. It has now been translated into twenty languages and published in a few countries. We hope that in time it will be translated into many more languages and published in every country in the world."]


From a book called Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words:

"When I was not on the road I was speaking and gathering signatures for the three peace petitions which I carried. The first was a short plea for immediate peace in Korea. It read: 'Let the killing in Korea cease! Then deal with this conflict situation according to the only principles which can solve it—overcome evil with good and falsehood with truth and hatred with love.'
            The second petition was directed to the President and congressional leaders requesting the installation of a Peace Department. It read: 'This is the way of peace, overcome evil with good and falsehood with truth and hatred with love. We plead for the establishment of a Peace Department, with a Secretary of Peace who accepts these principles—and with all conflicts at home and abroad to be referred to this Peace Department.'
            The third petition was a plea to the United Nations and the world leaders for world disarmament and reconstruction: 'If you would find the way of peace you must overcome evil with good and falsehood with truth and hatred with love. We plead with you to free us all from the crushing burden of armaments, to free us from hatred and fear, so that we may feed our hungry one's, mend our broken cities, and experience a richness of life which can only come in a world that is unarmed and fed.' " 

"After a wonderful sojourn in the wilderness, I remember walking along the streets of a city which had been my home for awhile. It was 1 p.m. Hundreds of neatly dressed human beings with pale or painted faces hurried in rather orderly lines to and from their places of employment. I, in my faded shirt and well-worn slacks, walked among them. The rubber soles of my soft canvas shoes moved noiselessly along beside the clatter of trim, tight shoes with stiltlike heels. In the poorer section I was tolerated. In the wealthier section some glances seemed a bit startled and some were disdainful.
            On both sides of us as we walked were displayed the things we can buy if we are willing to stay in the orderly lines day after day, year after year. Some of the things are more or less useful, many are utter trash. Some have a claim to beauty, many are garishly ugly. Thousands of things are displayed—and yet, my friends, the most valuable are missing. Freedom is not displayed, nor health, nor happiness, nor peace of mind. To obtain these things, my friends, you too may need to escape from the orderly lines and risk being looked upon disdainfully." 

"Ultimate peace begins within; when we find peace within there will be no more conflict, nor more occasion for war. If this is the peace you seek, purify your body by sensible living habits, purify you mind by expelling all negative thoughts, purify your motives by casting out any ideas of greed or self-striving and by seeking to serve your fellow human beings, purify your desires by eliminating all wishes for material possessions or self-glorification and by desiring to know and do God’s will for you. Inspire others to do likewise.
            Some will prefer to work on an interim peace—a setting up of mechanisms to resolve conflicts in a world where conflicts still exist---so that although there may still be psychological violence there will no longer bay physical violence. If this is the peace you seek, word on a world scale for world disarmament and reconstruction, for a world government which will include all people, for world thinking: placing the welfare of the human family above the welfare of any nation. Work on a national scale for changing the function of the so-called Defense Department from destruction to construction. So much constructive work is needed among the less fortunate peoples in the world, and for the adjustment of our economy to a peacetime situation. Lots of problems to solve here. Get others to work with you." 

Particularly apropos this week:
"I once said to a woman who believed in war and Christian values: 'On the one hand you talk about Christian values, on the other hand you say, 'Isn’t force the only deterrent they respect?’ This has been our trouble down through the ages—we have given only lip service to Christian values, and lived by the jungle law of tooth and claw. We have quoted ‘Be not overcome of evil, overcome evil with good’ and then attempted to overcome evil with more evil, thereby multiplying the evil. We worship God, but have no faith in the working of God’s laws of love. The world awaits the living of the law of love, which will reach the divine within all human beings and transform them.”

[ PP had no truck with pesky copyrights: "People working for peace, spiritual development, and the growth of human awareness throughout the world have our willing permission to reproduce material from this book"].

As Peace Pilgrim says, one lone individual with an awakened conscience can right a whole slew of wrongs.


  1. Heather

    Your post today is complex especially in light of the killing of Osama Bin Laden on Sunday. Jesus advised that we should render unto Caesar that which is his and unto God those things which are His.

    He also replied to Pilate shortly before his crucifixion when Pilate reminded Him that he had the power of life and death. Jesus said he would have no power except that which His Father allowed. This implies 2 areas of responsibility--personal morality and public morality.

    Jesus, it seems to me preached to the crowds in terms of personal morality. To complicate things even more is the issue of the power of the state and the power of the church. The prerogatives of Church and state came into conflict often in the middle ages and later times.

    The Roman Catholic Church always seemed to stray from the straight and narrow path when it became involved in these issues. There are many examples but I will not recite them now. The power of the Church given by Christ is to be an example to the world demonstrating the power of love and compassion.

    The state is powerful and abuses it's power frequently but it has legitimate power. It also operates in an amoral environment often dealing with wicked people.

    We as followers of Christ should remind statesmen of the gentle principles of Jesus. Those qualities are sublime and divine. We are right to express them to those who govern in the public arena. The men and women in that arena often are corrupt and expedient.

    It is difficult to be non-violent and Christ-like when abuses occur but to take up arms as did the revolutionaries of 1776 requires severe, rigorous soul searching. Not to be done lightly.

    The Peace Pilgrim got it right.

  2. This is awesome. Thank you for sharing this Heather.


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