This month, the people in the pews include all of you
, our readers.
We hope you don't think we're buying into the "let's start Christmas earlier every year" trend. But we would like you to start thinking about ideas you have, or that you've seen others use, for Christmas gifts that make for peace. We want to be able to share them in the next months, as it does get closer to the time of year when we dream about peace on earth more deeply, perhaps, and when we sometimes want to give things symbolic of that dream to those we love.
For example, several years ago, Anne Meyer Beyler of Goshen, Ind., a PeaceSigns
reader and a Mennonite who has been active for peace and justice most of her life, compiled a list of books that would make good "gifts for peace." "How better to celebrate Jesus' birth than to spread the good news of peace and justice for all God's creation?" she asked.
Her first suggestion was don't necessarily go straight out and buy books. You might purchase one copy to share among several families, check books out of the library, or order any that aren't on your public library shelves through Inter-Library Loan.
Among the titles Anne recommended:
Some additional gift suggestions:
All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Got Our Skin Color/Todos los colores de nuestra piel: La historia de por que tenemos diferentes colores de piel by Katie Kissinger. Ages 5 and up, 1994, 32 pp. Color photographs showcase the beautiful diversity of human skin tones while the text gives a scientifically accurate, easy-to-understand explanation of the role of the human pigment, melanin, in determining skin color. Includes group activities that can accompany the text.
Friends and Enemies by Louann Bigge Gaeddert. Ages 12-15, 1999, 192 pp. In Kansas in 1941, America is entering WWII and 14-year-old Will finds himself alienated from his friend Jim, a Mennonite, who does not believe in fighting for any reason. Gaeddert deftly handles complex issues: What does it mean to be a good Christian? How can harmony exist in a community of people with conflicting beliefs? Is pacifism a viable option in the face of evil? These are questions we need to continue to address with our children.
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye. Ages 10-15, 1999, 271 pp. Liyana is an unenthusiastic 14-year-old when her doctor father, a native Palestinian who believes people can make peace, decides to move his contemporary Arab-American family back to Jerusalem from St. Louis. When Liyana falls in love with Omer, a Jewish boy, she challenges family, culture and tradition. Constantly lurking in the background are Arab-Israeli conflicts that move closer and closer to home.
I Have A Dream, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: An Illustrated Edition. Ages 6 and up, 1999, 40 pp. Includes single illustrations by 15 artists, all of whom have received the Coretta Scott King Award and/or have been named Coretta Scott King Honor Book artists for their work in previously published books. At the end of the book, each artist comments on his/her drawing.
Seven Brave Women by Betsy Hearne. Ages 5 and up, 1997, 22 pp. Noting that "in the old days, history books marked time by the wars that men fought," Hearne tells stories of seven women in her family who "did great things" without fighting in the eight wars that framed their lives. For instance, the first chapter begins, "My great-great-great-grandmother did great things. Elizabeth lived during the Revolutionary War, but she did not fight in it. Elizabeth was a Mennonite." The oil paintings are full of color, light, and movement. Strong women, pacifism, and genealogy are woven together to make an attractive book that may inspire its readers to delve into their own family histories.
What Is God's Name? by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Ages 2-4, 1999, 24 pp. (In God's Name is the 32-page book for ages 4-8 on which this is based.) Colorful illustrations accompany text in which people of many ages and cultures, each with a different name for God (e.g., Source of Life, Friend, Maker of Peace, Father, Mother), discover that God made them all and God is One.
For a much longer, annotated list of books and videos, visit <http://peace.mennolink.org/resources/biglist>.
Give PeaceSigns! This is a gift that will cost you only the time it takes to send friends and loved ones the URL <http://peace.MennoLink.org> and a couple of lines about why you find PeaceSigns valuable and why you recommend subscribing.
Visit the site of the Peace and Justice Support Network (same URL as the one above for PeaceSigns, <http://peace.MennoLink.org>) and see links for peace-themed T-shirts, a peace drum and other resources that could make good gifts.
Visit your own denomination's web site and find out ways you can both support it and buy gifts that promote peace- and justice-making. And then send the link to PeaceSigns! (see below)
What other ideas do you have? What are some things that have worked well for you as gifts, as Christmas cards, as activities done with a family, a Sunday school class or a whole congregation? What peaceful traditions have become meaningful in your family? What concrete ways have you observed to help folks of all ages think about Christ's gift of peace to all of God's people?
E-mail your thoughts to <email@example.com
>. We'll share them in PeaceSigns
in the next couple of months.
In the meantime, a couple of resources we recommend are:
"Giving Good Gifts," a special 8-page section of PeaceWork, the Baptist Peace Fellowship's bi-monthly newsletter, that includes out-of-the-ordinary gift ideas, commerce with a conscience, and more. To order, go to http://www.bpfna.org/ResourceCatalog.html and scroll down to the second entry under "Peacemaking Monographs."
Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. 1991. While not a recent publication, this book continues to offer timely and essential help to anyone wishing to slow down and re-focus the holiday season. The authors speak to questions such as: How can I reduce the stress of preparing for Christmas? How can I make our celebration more spiritual and less materialistic? How can I help my children see that Christmas is more than just presents? This and many other helpful resources are available from Alternatives for Simple Living at <http://www.SimpleLiving.org>.