A Piece on Peace, and Gifts, and Vision…
You’ve doubtless heard the story. Now nearly 101 years ago, beginning on the eve of 24 December, 1914, some German and British soldiers along WWI’s west front put down their armaments to partake of a brief piece of peace. Respectfully, they buried their dead. But they also filled this time outside of their trenches with sport, song and the giving of gifts. Together, if ever so fleetingly, they shared a vision of a world again at peace. Did this mark the end of the war? No, indeed the fighting quickly reconvened following the Christmas “truce.”
This restoration of hostilities illustrates what I believe we each intrinsically understand: that peace is not the absence of disagreement or the perfect alignment of position or opinion. As I’ve often heard it described, peace is not found in uniformity, but in unity. And gifts? They are surely beneficial to the giver. Visions? Well, they are the dreams, which given the appropriate investment, determine our future. And December? That’s the month where these three—peace, gifts and vision—frequently intersect.
I’ve witnessed this often, and felt it myself. Our extended family doesn’t reside here, and last Christmas, following a very busy fall, we found ourselves with no plans for the day. But, we had heard of a community Christmas dinner being served at First Presbyterian Church and we volunteered to help set up. I could never have imagined the outpouring of service I saw in this place. (And this occurs at Hudson’s on Thanksgiving, too!) Without mentioning names, my wife carved turkeys next to a local businessman, whose business only closes on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Where will you find him those two days? He is volunteering at these community events, peacefully using his gifts of time and talent to contribute to the vision of hospitality he has for our island.
During our November planning workshop, Town Council agreed to pursue a Vision for our Island in a most purposeful and professional way. In my view, a meaningful process will include a comprehensive analysis of our community’s assets and obstacles and answer the most important questions of where we are now, where we wish to go and how we may get there. I am calling upon each citizen to take this opportunity to participate with unity of purpose in a peaceful process to establish this Vision. I am humbly asking you to give the gift of your time and effort to this important project, which will surely be advantageous to us all. If we may arrive at a product born of widespread participation and consensus, it will serve as the guide for decision-making, evaluating, planning, financing and implementing strategies aimed toward achieving the Vision in a way which is transparent, understandable, measurable and foreseeable. The question I’ve been asking each group I have addressed recently is: What could our preferred future be if some 40,000 genuinely interested Islanders work together toward a collective vision for our Island? I for one would like to find out.
Reflecting upon my first year as mayor, I must acknowledge that so many of you have given much to me, as measured in words and works, which have inspired and encouraged me and often challenged me toward a greater understanding of a matter. I sincerely thank you. May your December be marked by shared stories of peace, and gifts, and vision.