I had the picnic basket packed with pasta salad, cheese and crackers, and watermelon by 7PM. We had an hour to go. It was a only a five minute drive to the church yard, but we’d need to get there early to find a good spot.
When we arrived, the unofficial meeting was just coming together. There were dozens of young faces – some just a few months into this world. There children born on the other side of the globe lolling on picnic blankets with kids whose grandparents and great-great-great-grand’s built this town. But, while the faces are different, the feelings of the attendees – unlike on official Town Meeting day – were very much in sync.
Everyone, regardless of how they felt about the latest stop sign or school budget line item, greeted their neighbors happily. Some had brought dinner. Others brought dessert. In front of the congregation was what looked like a laundry line, draped with colorful sheets. It looked like the make shift stage Thing1 and Thing2 had created under our swing-set a few years ago.
By the time the sun dipped behind the mountain at the edge of the field, the meeting was ready to begin. A wiry man with a snowy white beard walked to the center of the lawn making introductions and as he left the grassy stage, players bearing elaborate marionettes glided into view.
For the next two hours, we watched field in front of the mountain darken, with the only light coming from lamps clamped to teepees at each side of the stage. The players and puppeteers told tales of foolishness, mercy, greed, and, finally of one of those rare but wonderful instances of man’s humanity to man.
The last story of a lifetime of generosity and love ultimately benefiting the generous concluded with the illuminating of paper lanterns constructed to look like houses. The puppeteers dimmed the stage lights and soon, the only sight was the tiny houses against the mountain and the only sound was the rushing river nearby. And the only thing we knew for that moment was the peace that we were unconsciously sharing with everyone in that field.
That moment was a gift from the players. It was also a gift from the Arab and Jewish storytellers who gave these stories to their children and to the world. As our moment of peace came to a quiet end, I thought of their descendants a half a world away, locked in endless conflict and, gazing at the stars, I wished peace for both sides – for their sakes and everyone else’s. I wished for us to remember that, we all have an inheritance like this – one that could unite us more than we allow it to us divide us if only we’d claim it.
It’s only a wish,and, as John Lennon said, I may just be a dreamer. But I didn’t imagine these stories or that moment.