Over 50 years ago, John Lennon invited us to imagine a different kind of world — where all people would be “livin’ life in peace.” This June, local faith communities and neighbors have united to extend a similar message. Throughout Oak Park and River Forest, orange banners and yard signs will invite you to “Imagine a World Without Gun Violence.”
The idea was sparked by a group of Oak Park Waging Peace activists after seeing an image of a similar banner in NYC. The banner image was included in an article written by a Presbyterian pastor following the Nashville mass shooting, calling on churches to be more vocal about gun violence. And to lead the demand for action from the government.
As June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month, we hope this banner campaign will communicate a strong message of solidarity, as well as our unwavering conviction that our country can exist without gun violence.
This conviction begins with the capacity to truly imagine our country free from gun violence. We have the audacity to ask our children to prepare for — to imagine — a live shooter in their school cafeteria. Yet we don’t ask our children to imagine living in a country where they would be protected from gun violence. We are responsible for the images that shape our children’s minds, their sense of well-being, their hopes. They need to know that we are committed to taking action and that our imagination has muscle.
What does this look like? Perhaps a bit different for each person, but certainly committing to at least one action. Join Oak Park-Austin Area Moms Demand Action. Volunteer at Mercy Garden for Peace and Healing, a community garden in the Austin neighborhood dedicated to survivors of gun violence (a program of MothersOnaMission28). March with Gun Responsibility Advocates and friends in Oak Park’s July 4th Parade. Contact your school board, demanding a secure firearm storage policy. Keep the telephone numbers for your state senator and representative in your cellphone contacts so it’s quick and easy to call them during critical legislation pushes (a call takes one minute!). Submit witness slips — with a few clicks you can file your position on a particular gun violence prevention bill to an Illinois Senate or House committee hearing. https://my.ilga.gov (witness slips from constituents were one of the reasons the Illinois General Assembly just passed the Gun Industry Accountability Act).
I recently heard in a pastor’s sermon that “hope is a decision.” I would say that imagination is a decision too. And I believe that, prior to his death by gun violence, John Lennon meant for his words to inspire life-altering decisions and actions:
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one.
Tara Meyer Dull, Lois Thiessen Love, Sandy Jefferson
First United Church of Oak Park
Ascension & St. Edmund Parish