Rose says she goes there every chance she gets to see the pole. It makes her feel good, gives her a sense of peace. That warms my heart, but even though I view her action and feeling positively, I can’t see where a pole is going to make a shred of difference in the big picture of things.
It’s called the Peace Pole, and little more than a month ago, the Rotary Club of Westerly installed it at Rotary Park, the park they raised money to build for our community on Airport Road and dedicated more than 14 years ago.
Rotary Park quickly became a popular venue with its two playgrounds, walking trail, volleyball and tennis courts, gazebo, picnic tables, and public restrooms. The town keeps it well-manicured, the Gardeners of Westerly keeps things blooming in the Children’s Garden, and recently the Rotary Club added some plantings of their own ... and then installed this pole. It’s an attractive marker with the message, “May Peace Prevail on Earth” noted in the eight languages most prevalent in our community: English, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Portuguese, French, and German. The message is also inscribed on a braille plaque that is part of the Peace Pole.
If you’ve never heard of the Peace Pole before, here’s some background information. There are currently tens of thousands of Peace Poles installed in some 180 countries worldwide, dedicated as monuments to peace. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, a solution to a problem, but rather a reminder for us to visualize what our world would be if it were at peace. By installing a Peace Pole at Rotary Park, the Westerly community is now linked with people all over the world who have installed these vehicles in the same spirit.
When I was a teenager I was young, optimistic, and loved singing “Kumbaya” with my Sunday School youth group. I truly believed the lion would lie down with the lamb, they would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation would not reach up sword against nation, nor would we learn war anymore.
But then I grew up; and when you do, the naiveté of youth often wanes. You realize that while there are still so many good people in the world, there is also conflict, and when you have community of any size, you will always have conflict. So it was one of the greatest disappointments of my coming of age to realize that no amount of “Kumbaya” verses would ever instill world peace.
But that doesn’t mean we should ever stop or give up trying. It’s why Mary Jane DiMaio has been organizing Neighbor Day for so many years, it’s why we have GoFundMe pages, and why we have ongoing fundraisers for people in need. It’s why there are 5Ks in order to endow research funds even for diseases that right now have little hope of being cured. We don’t stop because we stopped singing “Kumbaya.” There is a very real human need to believe, to hope, to go on, whether or not there will be a fairy tale ending and a happily ever after. The point is, so long as the human race continues, we will continue to benefit the human condition whether it’s in our own town, the one next door, or far away on the other side of the world.
The Peace Pole standing proudly and prominently in Rotary Park will do absolutely nothing to stop wars or conflict of any kind. It will not stop the North Koreans from continuing to make missiles and storing them underground. It will not stop school shootings or road rage or evil people who act upon nefarious agendas.
But what the Peace Pole will do, and why the Rotary Club invested their money and their belief and their time to install it, is it may just stop people briefly in their tracks to wonder, “What is this thing?” And if they take a minute to read it, to understand the message, and to know why the Rotary Club bought it and placed it there, then that will be enough.
And perhaps like Rose, it will make some people feel good and instill within them a sense of peace, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If that happens, then the Peace Pole and the Rotary Club will have done their jobs.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.