One Path to World Peace
Once there were three young men: a Jew, a Hindu and a Muslim. No, this is NOT the beginning of a joke. This is actually a true story about one path to world peace.
But first, a quick detour to the village of Chelm. According to Jewish tradition, everyone who lives in Chelm is a fool. Here is one of the many stories about Chelm.
Two Chelmites were walking outside when it began to rain.
“Quick!” said the first one, “open your umbrella.”
“It won’t do any good,” replied the second one, “My umbrella is full of holes.”
“Then why did you bring it in the first place?” asked the first one.
“I didn’t think it was going to rain,” explained the second one.
So now you know a little about the village of Chelm.
Now back to the three young men: the Jew, the Hindu and the Muslim. For the past five years, I’ve heard them tell stories at programs sponsored by a youth interfaith storytelling group, Children at the Well, initially funded by a
Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling from the National Storytelling Network.
I wish you could have been at these programs with me. Upon entering a house of worship, a different one each year, you see the families of the tellers bringing in fragrant and colorful food for after the program. Some Hindu women are dressed in brilliantly colored saris, and have a red dot on their foreheads. Some Muslim women are wearing gorgeous silk head scarves, totally coordinated with their tops and long skirts.
Then the stories start. Ben, the Jew, tells a Chelm story. Ritam, the Hindu, also tells a humorous story from his tradition. Both these young men are gifted mimics and use many different character voices to embellish their stories. Khalafalla, the Muslim, often has a solemn expression on his face, but when he smiles, his whole face lights up. Recently he is sharing stories about his journey from the Islamic school, where he graduated in 8th grade, to a public high school, where he is learning about that larger community and they are learning about him.
But what I love the most – more than the stories AND the food – what is most heartwarming to me and touches my soul -- is watching these young tellers before and after the program. They group together: chattering away, gesturing dramatically, laughing often. All these young people from so many different communities in my area are now friends.
One day, I was at a local story swap with those three young men (at the first gathering of
New York State Storytellers.) Of course, they were sitting together. After several stories had been shared, there was a lull. The facilitator, my friend Joe Doolittle, looked at the three young men and said, “Does one of you have a story you’d like to share?”
Ritam, the Hindu, turned to Ben, the Jew, and said excitedly, “Tell them a Chelm story!”
Khalafalla, the Muslim, smiled and agreed, “Yes, tell them a Chelm story!”
So Ben did, and we all laughed.
I remember thinking: How many places in the world today would you find a Jew, a Hindu and a Muslim sitting down together as friends, and sharing stories?
Then I thought: Who would ever have imagined that one path to world peace goes directly through the village of Chelm?