Heart in hands isolated on white

Every Mother’s Day, sons and daughters of all ages find ways to recognize their mothers. Flowers, brunch, chocolates, and breakfast in bed are beautiful, traditional gestures by which we thank our mothers for all they do to create safe, loving, accepting and nurturing places for us in a world that is so often anything but.

Mothering is not for the faint of heart. It’s about being there every day when children are little and wearing food stains like badges of honor. It is about joining those we care for in the trials and tribulations of growing up, feeling their pain and offering support. It is about balancing work and home and managing a family budget. 

But motherhood is also about peacemaking — at home, in our communities and around the world.

In her Mothers’ Day Proclamation of 1870, Julia Ward Howe captured the feeling of mothers everywhere when she wrote, “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” 

How many of us can hear our own mother’s voice as she implored us over and over again to “stop fighting;” “be nice;” and “share.” At their best, mothers work tirelessly, as Julia Howe reminded us, so that “the great human family can live in peace.”

Mothers’ Day has deeper historical roots than flowers, chocolates and brunch. Peacemaking and social-justice work are less explicitly acknowledged aspects of motherhood, yet mothers have often led efforts in the home and on the world stage that teach the values of kindness, openness, and peacefulness and speak up against the cooption of these values when we allow disrespect, injustice, inequity, and hate to go unchecked.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart — and it’s not just for biological mothers. Motherhood is also for foster moms, step-moms, spiritual moms and even those who care deeply about peace and justice, though they have no children of their own. In Bruce Springsteen’s ballad about Tom Joad, the youngest son in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, upon leaving home and facing the devastations of the Dust Bowl, Tom presents his mother with this promise, this gift:

 “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy

 Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries

 Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air

 Look for me, Mom. I’ll be there.”

 Bruce Springsteen

 The Ghost of Tom Joad


As we experience today’s injustices, hatreds and wars, this Mother’s Day is a perfect time to recommit to the work of peacemaking. 

Four Oak Park women, led by Mary Rose Lambke, and sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oak Park-River Forest, researched the peacemaking origins of Mother’s Day and founded an action group, Mothers and Others for Peace. 

We hope you will join them in Mills Park on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, May 7, at 11 a.m. 

Thanks to state Senator Don Harmon for having the Illinois Legislature designate May 7, 2016 Mother’s Day History Day. Let’s start a new Oak Park tradition and take some time the day before Mother’s Day to stand up for peace — and to recommit to working to achieve it. The Saturday Mother’s Day Gathering is for adults and children, men and women, anyone who takes strength from gathering together sharing words and song and reaching out to strangers and those in need.

This mother and son think it is a terrific way to celebrate the contributions of mothers to the moral fabric of our lives and to peace in the world.

Mary Ellen Munley is a resident of Oak Park. Jack Rossiter-Munley lives in New York City.

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