Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Grandma Hershey’s Way of Peace
When I think of peacemakers, I don’t think of soldiers or guns or even the Peace Corps. I think of this verse from the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Then I think of Grandma Hershey.
Grandma Hershey was soft. When I was sick, she made me soft-boiled eggs and toast and put them in a cup. When she sewed, which was often, she wrapped her soft arms around me and brought me close to show me how she did it.
She and my mother were the peacemakers when their husbands could not understand each other. Under that softness was a very tough willingness to suffer for the sake of peace.
Grandma Hershey had soft eyes. You can see them in the picture above. She left this earth in 1985, but I still feel those kind eyes on me. She’s expecting me to be peacemaker too. Here’s how I described the way she taught me without words in Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World:
The “girls” in the Hershey family, my aunts, all acknowledged each other and their mother the way all adults in the church did. They performed the ritual of the same-sex, “holy kiss.” I observed this custom often from a rocking chair on the porch, watching each aunt approach Grandma Hershey as she gathered them to herself, one at a time, like a hen with her chicks. In the gesture of those serious kisses was great love and respect quite different from the effusive hugs I later saw and envied in other families. It carried a tone of awe for the divine order of things and for the great commandment to love one another as God has loved us.
The “holy kiss” was one of the ordinances of the Lancaster Conference Mennonite Church. From the Statement of Christian Doctrine and Rules and Discipline of the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church, 1968, pages 16–17:
“The salutation of the holy kiss should be observed and practiced by the believers, brethren among brethren and sisters among sisters, as an expression of fervent love. It should be practiced when meeting for worship as well as when meeting for social fellowship.”
I wrote about ten ways to practice peace in my latest Not Quite Amish contribution. I hope you click on the link and join the conversation there. And I invite you to name a peacemaker in your life below. Tell us what brings them to mind when you read about Grandma Hershey.
Your grandmother has the same glasses as my grandmother, and I remember my grandmother wearing similar dresses. I never saw her in slacks. She must have been a peacemaker–there were always large family gatherings at her house, with all her children (my father and his siblings) and 20+ grandchildren. The gatherings stopped after she died in 1972.
I never thought of her as a peacemaker until I read this, but I see now that she was, and she instilled in me a deep desire for peace and harmony.
Thanks for starting us off, Tracy. You bring up an under-evaluated and under-appreciated role of mothers and grandmothers. Family gatherings where no one wants to disturb the peace because we would hurt Grandma. When my other Grandma died in 1951, that role was never filled. My mother, the only daughter in the family, tried to do so, and she did sponsor many gatherings. Yet without Grandma as the hub, the peacemaker, things were never the same. Glad you saw something new in your own story today!
When my sister Janice speaks of Grandma Longenecker, she too uses the word “soft,” as in soft speech, soft breasts, soft lap.
Grandma Fannie also prepared soft-boiled eggs for us on snippled up toast and even read tea leaves for us, a whimsical fact my sister Jean pointed out again last week.
But Grandma was not soft concerning her principles. Following the dictum of Menno Simons (1541) she was ardent in her desire to reach out to her neighbors around the world through the relief efforts of MCC and taking refugees into her own home: http://plainandfancygirl.com/2013/05/01/loving-hands-homes-teddy-bears/
A peace-maker extraordinaire, she set a pattern I try to emulate. What a wonderful heritage we share. (I believe your dad favors his mother at least in facial features.) Great post. Enjoy the time away from blogging – you certainly deserve it!
“Snippled up toast” is a perfect description, Marian. You always make me smile.
Yes, there is a resemblance between my father and my grandmother. He got his height from his Snyder genes also.
Having a lovely time already and looking forward to more adventures. Of course, I’ll be back to share them. Thanks for the blessing.
I grew up with firebrands, I guess. A mother and a grandmother who spent their whole lives disagreeing with each other and most of the rest of us, too. I have an aunt, my most favorite person on the planet (besides my own children) who was always making things right once the ashes of the latest dust up had settled. She’s still doing it to this day, sharing a house with my mother and their mother, who are still disagreeing at ages 61 and 90!
If it weren’t for Aunt Dee, I think I’d be stuck in that same trap…fighting with my own mother and teaching my children that this..this arguing and phone slamming…is how we communicate when we disagree. But Dee taught me better, thank goodness. 😀
Loved this post!
And I loved seeing you here, Megan. You and I are going to have to get together after this big trip and be real peacemakers — a UT grad and an Aggie who “just get along.” Love you posts and your style. Thanks for the shout out.
Glad you have your Aunt Dee. And glad you have those two feisty women as mother and grandmother. You can take what you need and leave the rest. Feisty and funny often go together. You’ve got a great blogger voice. Keep writing!
After reading through your post once, I pause, asking myself, “did Shirley really say that?” I read it again, and, yes, find that you indeed make your relationship with your grandmother current, still feeling her eyes upon you and hearing her expectations that you too are a peacemaker.
I listen for my grandmothers’ voices too, even the voice of the one I did not know. Irene Hertzler Yoder died at age 59, in 1941, when her 10th child, a boy was around 16, and my mother, Mary, a middle child, had just married at age 26. I ‘ask’ Irene about her pelvic floor, after so many births–what was your relationship with your birthing channels? And, I tell her about my own journey to become more aware of my pelvic floor. More connection to body becomes a path of peacemaking, I dare to say.
On another subject, Welcome to this time zone. I look forward to seeing you soon. “Make new friends, but keep the old, some are silver and the others gold.”
Hi Dolores, and yes, I had a palpable feeling of Grandma’s presence as I wrote those words. Can’t wait to share Grandma stories with you.
Those words about friendship are the theme of this trip. See you tomorrow!!
My father Vernon Miller was my peacemaker model, died March 2006. I think he was the original one who said “Why can’t we all just get along?” With neighbors, at church, in the world, among siblings–same story. He learned peacemaking in the C.O. camps he was part of for four years in the 40’s–his “college” education regarding Anabaptism and Mennonites.
Have a great blog vacation and I know you’ll be loaded with stories when you get back from your doozy palooza.
Thanks, Melodie. Your father had powerful experiences in his youth that helped mold his perspective and his skills for the rest of his life. I have a hunch he was also inclined to peace by his personality also. Lots of ways to become a peacemaker. All of them good.
I like that “your doozy palooza.” Thanks for the good wishes and back atcha!
Neither of my grandmothers, although very different in temperament and dear to me, were not peacemakers. One was an angry woman who held grudges her entire life. The other lapsed into puddles of tears when things didn’t go her way. The second was soft to the point of shapelessness, the first hard as nails in spirit if not body. If we had female peacemakers in my family, perhaps a couple of aunts fit that role, though I was not around them enough to be sure.
My grandFATHERS were the peacemakers. Based on his childhood, my mother’s father had every reason to be bitter and angry, but he thrived on adversity and was soon in charge of large construction crews in New Mexico. He was the one who bounced babies on his knee and slipped money to older grandkids with a hug. Over 300 people, mostly Hispanic, shed tears at his funeral.
My other grandfather was a portrait photographer, in constant demand for weddings as well as studio shots. He traveled constantly in the fall doing school pictures all over NM. He never failed to get smiles from children. He got along with everyone, and made me feel as if I were the only person in the world who mattered. I’m sure each of his ten grandchildren would say the same thing.
Even with my grandfathers’ great examples, peacemaking is not something I learned in my family of origin, but I hope I’ve absorbed some of that ability through the years from others who did, like my mother-in-law and her mother.
I love these descriptions, Sharon, and your contribution to the conversation. Like Melodie, your image of peacemaker has a masculine cast. It would be interesting to contemplate what difference it makes in a woman’s life if women or men are the dominant peacemaker influences.
I also love that you say that your grandmothers both were near and dear to you even though you wouldn’t hold them up as exemplary in the role of peacemaker. They obviously loved you and you loved them. Love then allows us to learn from others what we need.
Fortunately no Grandma has to carry the burden of needing to be a saint. That might rule us out of the best job in the world. 🙂
When I was born, all my grandparents except my mother’s mother were already dead. My mother and her mother were so much alike they didn’t get along — both stubborn, controlling, temperamental, angry at the world! I never detected softness in either one.
My dad was a loving soul but being raised in orphanage robbed him of the ability to be affectionate. I doubt he ever experienced a hug as a child. But he was a peacemaker. And at family gatherings there was always a broil up (i.e. hot discussion ending argument). Daddy was usually the first to ask, “Why can’t you people just get along for a couple of hours?” I love that man to this day for that! And like someone else mentioned, I definitely think of him more in the present than the past, and our conversations are some of the best I have. Dad was my hero! But he died in 1973.
After that I really didn’t have anyone to fill that soft spot until an aunt began writing to me. She had married into the family and when we moved from TN to OR for some reason she started sending letters. Aunt Margaret became the aunt I was closest to until she died a few years ago at age 95. She encouraged me to write, a now and again writer herself, and we enjoyed talking about books and sewing. I don’t think of her as soft but more of the sturdy type who could take care of herself, and she did following my uncle’s death.
Looking forward to July 6th!
The “soft spot.” I like the sound of that! Children are lucky who find one, no matter the gender or the relationship. I’m grateful with you for your kind-hearted father and your sturdy aunt. See you tomorrow!! I’m so excited that you’re coming to Portland Mennonite Church.
It was so much fun meeting both of you, Shirley and Sherrey, this a.m. at Portland Mennonite and hearing your insights into writing. I’m looking forward to connecting with you via social media. Happy travels, Shirley.
Linda, it was a pleasure meeting and worshipping with you yesterday. The morning was truly the high point of our Sabbath. I trust we didn’t scare you away from writing with our comments about how hard writing is. Looking forward to connecting more via our blogs and social media.
Shirley – I’m late to this post, but I have a wonderful excuse. I’ve just enjoyed a wonderful almost-week-long visit from my sister. In fact, my ribs still hurt from laughing so hard!
I love the way you explained that while your grandmother was soft, there “was a very tough willingness to suffer for the sake of peace.” That takes fortitude and guts — two ingredients I admire very much.
I’m looking forward to seeing you this coming Wednesday (July 9) at 7pm at Third Place Books (the Lake Forest location). I may have been late to this post, but I won’t be late for that event. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person!
Laurie, if your sister has your wit and wisdom, I’m sure the rafters were ringing with laughter.
I can’t wait to meet you in person! Seattle, here we come!
Thanks to all of you that responded with thoughts of the peacemakers in your lives. You have challenged me to keep trying to put my stories on paper. And a special thanks to you, Shirley, for publishing Blush. You continue to inspire me as you did on the first day that I met you at Goshen College.
Thank you, Mary. I’m so glad you enjoyed Blush and that it has inspired you to keep writing. I know that you have lived a life of purpose and adventure too and that telling those stories will be good for you and all you love. Blessings.
Thanks for this post about your grandmother, the Mennonite rules, and the women in your family. I am moved by the “holy kiss” and women honoring each other in this way. When I think of peacemaker in my adult life, I think of the Dalai Lama. When I think of peacemaker as a child, it was my diplomatic father who could keep peace when my easily offended mother felt slighted by my grandmother–and that was often. I hope your tour has rejuvenated you and you have time now for a few days rest.
Elaine, yes, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a wonderful example of peacemaker. I had the pleasure of being in his presence and hearing him laugh. I felt very blessed.
I’m glad you had one peacemaker parent. I can tell you’ve learned a lot from him.
Our trip is wonderful! I’m writing these words while the train is stopped in Milwaukee. Meeting friends for dinner in Chicago. Life is good. Hope your own summer is splendid.
Shirley and Elaine – Two years ago, I was one of eighty people who were honored to have lunch with the Dalai Lama at Loyola University after he addressed a large audience. Here is a link to the blog post I wrote about that PHENOMENAL (once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list) experience: http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2012/05/01/lunch-with-his-holiness-the-dalai-lama/
Ach, Laurie. I left a comment on Your site, but WordPress did’t like my password, so I lost it.
In essence, I pledge myself to real human contact with a homeless person on the streets of Chicago, your old hometown.
Shirley – Enjoy the Windy City. I read that you’re having dinner there with friends this evening (after traveling by train through Milwaukee).
You will, indeed, be given the opportunity to have contact with homeless people while there. God’s blessings as you share your energy. My prayer is for a Tonglen-like effect: http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2010/05/06/tonglen/
Shirley, what a beautiful post. I could “feel” that kiss of peace:) I so look forward to reading your book and to enjoying many more of your posts. Wishing you continued joy on your tour.
Thanks, Alison! I think, from what I have read on your blog, that you will enjoy BLUSH very much. I’m glad you felt the kiss of peace all the way from that front porch sixty years ago. Amazing, isn’t it?
Your grandma sounds like a wonderful woman-reminds me of some “soft” old ladies I have known.
I’m glad you have known the same kind of peacemakers, Lucinda. Grandma Hershey was soft, yet she made a huge impression on me and many others.
I just read this for the first time and was especially drawn to your comments, Dolores, as we share the same grandmother Irene, the one we never knew. Now I live in her hundred-year-old house and listen for her voice. I grew the sweet peas she lived, this spring. In my family, the soft eyes and warm accepting ways were my father’s, her son.
My maternal grandmother had the snappy brown eyes and outspoken ways that informed a different way of responding to the world, she had lost her mother at the age of 8 and grieved her whole life.
Susan, sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I hope Dolores sees your comment. And I nodded my head as you described another kind of grandmother. How hard it is to overcome the pains inflicted on us in our youth. Sounds like you found a way to understand and forgive whatever “outspoken ways” may have affected you negatively at the time. Wisdom comes as we learn from our own pain.
Poached eggs and toast. That was my Missouri grandma’s get well quick food, too. And when Vic was sick, a local friend made sure we were supplied with eggs from her free-range hens of many colors. After chemotherapy, the man could eat a poached egg and lightly toasted bread when he could manage nothing else. Grandma’s knew something. Thank you for sharing your grandma’s softness with us.
I’m so glad Vic got to benefit from the tradition of true comfort food passed down by grandmas. Thank you, Elaine, for sharing these memories. The only kind of chickens we had on the farm were free range! Nobody could have imagined the huge flat incarceration systems now part of every rural landscape. 🙁