I’m sitting here staring at a black-and-white photo of my mom, dad, two brothers and me. The year must be 1961 because my younger brother was a baby.
It was printed on card stock and mailed to friends and relatives as our annual Christmas card.
Printed at the top was the inscription Peace on Earth. At the bottom it was simply signed, The Stanleys. I realize, now that I’m older, what a big deal this was to my mom.
She had to ask or hire someone to come to our house and take the photo.
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And then there was the primping. It’s not easy to get three kids under the age of six bathed, dressed and smiling.
Finally, she had to address all of those envelopes and lick the stamps.
To her it was worth it, and I’m sure she loved every minute of it.
“Peace on earth, good will to men” was once a common yuletide greeting.
Do you remember the lion-and-lamb Christmas cards? It was what the angels told the shepherds in Bethlehem:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people ... and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8-14, King James Bible)
When I was a kid, my cousin Mike and I were roped into singing at a few small-town venues (a word for modern-day club meetings or local events).
I really can’t say why. Our voices weren’t great, not even good. I think we were dumb and gullible and wanted to show off.
One of the three songs we had “perfected” was “Let There be Peace on Earth.”
I remember one specific night. It was cold. I was nervous as I creeped up three stories of old iron steps that were pretty much hanging in mid-air off the side of a stone building that housed the hideaway of the Women’s Rebekah Lodge.
My mom was there and both of my grandmas and sweet Aunt Alice.
Honestly, back then I didn’t even think about the words of the song:
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our father, brothers all are we, let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.”
I recall the ladies had tears in their eyes as we sang. They believed in peace. Hoped for it.
Fast forward fifty years. Have we given up on the notion of peace? Have hurricanes, mass shootings, threats of war, and political quarrels snatched it from us?
Are we slipping and sliding away from tranquility, unity, and love? It feels that way. But the verdict is still out. The song says that peace begins with me. And with you.
The decision rests with, “We the people.” It’s up to us. We need to look into the eyes of people who don’t look like we do and see a piece of ourselves there.
And when we do, our empathy levels soar.
And we are reminded that we do have something in common with one another ... humanity.
The chorus of the song that my cousin and I sang years ago calls us brothers and advocates harmony. It’s what Christmas (and life) is all about — to love those around us, no matter who they are or what they believe. To bring light to the darkness and good will to all men and women.
We the people can choose peace and harmony. We can promote and pursue it. We can make it a priority and pass it on to others.
And this is cause for hope. Right here. Right now.