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Kids from the Wildflowers Playschool, flanked by members of the community, look at the newly installed peace pole at the Putney Foodshelf.

Town and Village

Standing up for nonviolence

‘Peace Poles’ installations seek to promote harmony

PUTNEY—On a recent afternoon, students at the Wildflowers Playschool grabbed tiny shovels and helped install a new Peace Pole outside the Putney Community Center. They were joined by members of the center’s advisory board, Foodshelf volunteers, and other community members.

“The event was simple and sweet, with the kiddies filling the hole with their mini shovels and telling us what peace meant to them,” said Janice Baldwin, one of the Foodshelf’s coordinators.

The wooden poles, made in Maple City, Michigan, are part of the Wassaic, New York-based World Peace Prayer Society’s Peace Pole Project. The Prayer Society is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization with the mission “to unite people across the world through the universal peace message, ‘May Peace Prevail on Earth,’” according to its website, www.peacepoles.com.

Each pole is custom-made and has either four, six, or eight sides, each displaying that message and similar messages on the other sides. Recipients can choose from over 120 languages. The Putney Community Center pole has the standard message in English, as well as “May Peace be in our Homes and Communities."

Eva Mondon, whom Baldwin described as the “catalyst” for this and other peace poles in Putney, said her reason for organizing this installation is, “it’s a community center, and we’re talking about a place many people see.” Because a variety of community members use the center for childcare, as a food resource, and for meetings and events, she said the message of the pole reminds visitors that “the idea of helping one another feeds peace.” Mondon serves on the community center’s advisory board.

Mondon said the cost of the pole was supported by “many people” in the community, but she wasn’t sure how many. She said she kept an envelope with her to collect funds and “some gave $10, some gave more."

When asked about other peace poles she has helped bring to Putney, Mondon listed the locations of quite a few — the Putney Library, the Quaker Meeting House, Putney Cares, Town Hall, the Putney Food Co-op, the Putney Central School, and Next Stage, and one in her dooryard — but noted she wasn’t part of all of them.

“For me,” each pole is “like an acupuncture point and a reminder to have kindness and respect,” Mondon said, “and bring that to our neighbors. There’s the concept of justice, too. You can’t have peace without justice."

Peace is “an active gesture,” she said.

“The essence of a community is the awareness of our commitment to one another. That’s what the peace pole means to me,” Mondon said. “The community belongs to us. It’s up to us. We’re responsible for one another."

“There are other ways to treat one another that are not built on aggression,” Mondon said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #380 (Wednesday, October 26, 2016). This story appeared on page D1.

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