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Is peace within our grasp?

Cedar Crest promotes peace through year-long effort

Created date

November 3rd, 2016
Since January, May Fisher has lead a peace initiative at Cedar Crest, which culminated on Sept. 21 with a day full of activities and a breathtaking display of 500 origami doves, several of which can be seen behind her.

Since January, May Fisher has lead a peace initiative at Cedar Crest, which culminated on Sept. 21 with a day full of activities and a breathtaking display of 500 origami doves, several of which can be seen behind her.

As the 2016 presidential race comes to an end on November 8, many of us may be reflecting on how this election, in particular, has focused on differences possibly more than any other election in U.S. history. 

May Fisher, a lifelong advocate for peace, has turned the election’s negatives into a positive at Cedar Crest, the community where she lives in Pompton Plains, N.J. And it’s catching. 

Compassionate community

Since January, she has led a peace initiative throughout the community that culminated with a day of events and ceremony on September 21, International Day of Peace. The piece de resistance? A breathtaking display of 500 origami doves.

“What inspired me was last fall when the discussion about the upcoming election started, there was suddenly a lot of meanness and disparaging among people I know and like. It seems among some people, many pent-up ideas and feelings were being stated in a very negative way,” May says.

A flyer she posted on the community’s bulletin boards and distributed in mail cubbies read: 

“Cedar Crest celebrates 2016, a year dedicated to peace and understanding. Please join us as we continue to spread peace throughout the community.”

The flyer encouraged neighbors to pick up a paper dove from one of the four clubhouse lobbies and write on it what peace means to them. Then neighbors were asked to display the dove on the door of their apartment from July through September 21. 

“This year, in particular it is important for us to be aware of our differences and how we treat others,” says May. “There is so much goodness and positive thinking among us that we can celebrate through our good choices.”

With help from community resources coordinators Amy Wagener and Kelli Daood, May and other community clubs planned events for the celebration on September 21, as well as days leading up to it. 

Aside from the peace doves, activities included the sale of “peace dove buttons,” from which all proceeds went to Doctors Without Borders, a tree planting on campus, performances by the community music and acting groups, film screenings, peace garden tours, and even a Pets for Peace parade. 

“The response has been wonderful. There is a lot of compassion here in this community,” says May. “People have been asking what is next, which is nice.”

Differences make a difference

May, who has been active in the peace movement since she was 14 years old and has lived at Cedar Crest for seven years, says the community is a microcosm of the U.S. “It’s home to many different cultures, religions, views, and opinions. How good it is to learn something new that expands our understanding of other people.”

She says educating each other about differences promotes understanding, but it also promotes change. Having the freedom and ability to promote peace at Cedar Crest has made it a great place to live.

“Nothing is ever neutral. There is always a tug one way or another on any issue, which is positive because you always move forward with tension; otherwise, you stay still. Up until the election I have felt there were always ways to work together and to accept our differences. 

“We are representative of the general population: people who have different opinions and people who have devoted their lives to living peacefully. The discussions that go on are very interesting,” May says. “I feel free to say who I am.”

So who is she? What are her similarities and differences among her neighbors and friends?

“I am an 83-year-old woman from Brooklyn, N.Y. I am not a member of a faith group; I simply try to live an ethical life. In that way I am different from other people here. At first, people are surprised you are not part of a faith group, but they look at you for who you are, and it’s okay to be different. It’s very different to come from Brooklyn to a place like Cedar Crest. But it’s a good place for me to be because I’ve lost a great deal of mobility, but I can still be very independent and active.”

And has she ever. Aside from the year-long peace initiative, May leads and participates in several other community activities. 

She started the Brooklyn Club, introduced Qigong, and hosts The Edie and May Show on CTV, Cedar Crest’s in-house television station.

“That’s one of the values of Cedar Crest. You can do what you want. We can get ideas and support from the staff,” she says.

Of her most recent involvement, she says, “I would like to think the peace initiative is making a difference. People come up to me and say it’s not just a special event, it’s the way they live. Let’s hope it rubs off a little bit both here and out in the greater world because we are part of the greater world, even if we think we are just in this smaller community. Each person can make a big change.”