…and let it begin with me

“Let there be peace on earth…” Many of us will recognize this phrase from a popular song frequently heard during Christmas time. “Let There Be Peace on Earth” was written by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller in 1955. It was initially written for and sung by the International Children’s Choir created by Easter Beakly and Arthur Granger of the Granger Dance Academy in Long Beach, California. Since then it has found its way in many churches, school plays and radio stations. 

“Let there be peace” found its way into my mind, too, since the beginning of the presidential election campaigns, the social unrest because of the senseless killings of black people, the COVID reality and its consequences and most recently the post-election days. The division within our country would be normal since we all have different opinions, ways of perceiving reality and life values. But what makes the current division so dangerous is that it is often fueled by hate, discrimination and distrust. 

Through the events of the past few years (many people would say of many years and not just a few) my heart has been pained to finally admit that we are not the people that I was raised to believe we are. We are not the people who our original founders had in mind. In 1883 Emma Lazarus wrote an inscription for the Statue of Liberty. It really doesn’t sound much like us.

But I do have hope! I do believe that with the concerted effort of at least 10% of the population we can make a difference. I read that statistic somewhere that if 10% of the participants in a group are energized enough to gather their inner forces, change can happen. In 2019 there were 382.2 million people in the US, so if there were just 38,220,000 people dedicated to justice and peace, the United States would be different. If this number of people took it upon themselves to let it begin with me and not them, change could happen. It would take a lot of commitment, strength and creativity, but it is possible.

I offer you two sources of reflection here. First the complete inscription that is on the Statue of Liberty:  

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. 

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– Emma Lazarus, 1883

It wasn’t like a brazen giant of Greek fame with conquering limbs… but it was a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. It was not a giant but a mother who welcomed all peoples to this land. Not a conqueror, but a woman with mild eyes commanded who welcomed those who had nothing. She lifted the lamp that showed the way. Not just any way, but through the golden door.

Second, a video of the song “Let it begin with me.” I heartily suggest you watch this version because it contains other quotes on peace from famous people. I was moved by the song once again, but I must admit that I am yearning for peace in our land again, to recreate the Soul of America.

Sister Nancy is a Franciscan of the Sacred Heart and Formation Director for the Joliet Diocese Missions.

Now we invite your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below. And while you’re here, continue on a virtual mission by reading more of our stories and reflections as we discover together how “We are Mission”.

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