Larry Crane - Hopeful Stories Series

Hope Is Alive in the World

   Hope is the 3rd major way station on the road to a Spiritual life, following Belief, and Faith. It is also an absolutely essential component of a healthy human life. As such, one would expect there to be ample examples of true hope being displayed in this day to day world we live in. This is the first of hopefully many stories that will illustrate hope being alive and well in our world. This story occurred during the 2004 Nuclear Free Future Run, an all volunteer, cross country running and walking event sponsored by FootPrints For Peace, to promote the advance of peace and justice, to pray for healing and sanity, and to further the betterment of the world as a whole. If any readers also have stories of Hope, I ask that you share them with us and the world by sending them to me and I will publish them here.

   Those of us who have traveled the road in this way have come to expect teachings, revelations, and realizations to come to us as a natural outgrowth of the adventure. It was in my first 4 mile section of FootPrayers that another realization would descend to me on the wings of Grace. I started just outside of Hazard Kentucky, knowing I would have to go through it. After less than a mile I came abreast of a shopping center sitting on a flat area excavated out of the mountaintop. It had 2 superstores as well as a strip mall backed up by at least a 100-foot high wall. The extent of the transformation of the natural terrain was staggering. When I reached the other side of the mall I saw dozers and dump trucks pushing fill into a hollow that must have gone down 100 feet, then I noticed another project on the other side of the road, not quite as large, but still considerable. Since the purpose of this event was to walk and pray for the healing of Mother Earth from the ravages of nuclear energy and weapons, needless to say it was difficult to maintain my focus faced with such monumental mountaintop removal projects. The traffic, dust, and heat began to erode my positive affirmation to the point of doubting whether we could just stop, let alone heal and repair damage of this magnitude. For a brief period I walked along the razors edge of despair wondering how my pitifully small footprayers could possibly make a difference. As I neared the top of a sizable hill, plodding along with my head downcast I happened to notice some standing water in the ditch line. The oddity of water in a ditchline on the top of a hill when there hadn't been any rain in a while piqued my curiosity. As I continued to gaze at the water I noticed that it was now running along side me. In this hot dusty dirty place at the top of a hill there shouldn't have been any water running, let alone clear, fairly clean water. Now my curiosity overcame my doubt and I searched out for an answer, and just as I reached the apex of the roadway hill I noticed a dark area behind the bushes along side the road. I moved closer and saw that there was a small cave on the hillside next to that busy road, and tumbling out of that cave was cool, clear, pure, bio-mass filtered, LIVING WATER!!!!!!! Here was my answer, in a rush of energy, I realized both to the riddle of running water in this place, and to whether we could have an effect on the Earth Mother. Here She was showing me that with little help from humans, She could still produce LIVING WATERS in a filthy desolated place. Then it came to me "HOPE IS ALIVE IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!" We just have to look for it and we will find what we need! My question and prayer had been answered, WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, if we just don't give up and give in to despair!

   At this point we ran into one of those synchronistic occurrences that seem to be an integral part of going down the road. When we pulled into Pine Mountain State Resort Park, we were informed that the campground had closed down and no one seemed to know of a viable alternative. Jim and his crew hadn't gotten there as yet, so we parked on the roadside at the Park entrance to wait for their arrival. While we were parked there a Kentucky State Trooper stopped to see if we needed help, and we learned from him that there was a campground at Cumberland Gap National Park, over on the Tennessee side, about 15 or 20 miles away. It seemed odd to us that in such a scenic area of the mountains there would be so few campgrounds in the vicinity (Hmm, perhaps a Peace Hostel eastern Kentucky Mountains Campground for a future business?). We weren't aware of it yet, but the synchronistic happening was to require us to be in the Cumberland gap Campground, so these things have a way of working out for the best. Those of us that have traveled with our Native American friends have learned about something called Indian time, meaning "It will happen when the time is right". It serves to teach us to be patient and not to get all that upset when our plans have a way of blowing up in our faces, and leading us in an unexpected direction. Sometimes these can lead us to meaningful learning experiences or just plain old wonderful adventures!

   We finally got in cell phone contact with Jim and it was decided for us to go on ahead to pick the camp spot, and they would meet us there. We found the campground and after 16 laps around the place looking for just the right spot John insisted on one that he liked. We went along with his wishes, rather than argue with him or listen to him bitch, and it wasn't long until we were all setting up camp on the fine spot. As it turned out, I suspect that his intuition or instincts were at work here, because as you will see we were supposed to be in that place for an unexpected meeting. Once setup was complete, a few showers were had, and Jon Blickenstaff was awarded the Cadillac award for the toughest section of road for the day (for going over Pine mountain on HWY 421), we settled in for a good meal. Just as we were all finishing up getting our fill, a young man walked up to us and introduced himself as Joel. He allowed as how he had come over to our camp to pre-apologize for any disturbance he and his 7 mates, who were camped beside us in a grove of trees, might cause us, as they sometimes got a little loud. We didn't know if he meant all night beer parties or what, but we quickly ascertained they were part of a program called Student Conservation Association. They were in the park for the summer on a kind of internship doing maintenance and upgrade construction in the national park. So they weren't rowdy, just lively. John, never wanting to let the opportunity for a good web-site story pass us by, had by the time Joel was headed back to their campsite arranged for us all to get together later and share our stories.

   We walked into the SCA campsite for some fellowship with our young brothers and sisters and were rewarded with meeting 8 of the nicest, most intelligent, idealistic and motivated youngsters out there in the world. Kawhump! The second piece to "Hope is Alive in the World" loudly fell into place. I immediately saw the connection in series to the "Living Waters Spring" realization of yesterday! Mother Earth wasn't through with my answer just yet and I was about to experience the second part to Her response. These youth, Dave Weber (coordinator), Katie Ross (coordinator), Gideon Burdick , Brian Maye , Allie Von Bieberstein , Julia Dewitt , Amy Barra , and Joel Barker , once I had heard their stories of why they were doing internship, coupled with their youthful zeal and spirit, became the second demonstration of Hope being Alive in the World. I saw that if the youth (who are our future) were willing to take up the service cause spontaneously Hope Truly was Alive In the World, and not only we might make a difference, but with this next generation coming along with spirit and service in their hearts, we can make a positive difference in the world of the future! I hope and pray that the parents of these fine children are aware of what a magnificent job of parenting they have done, and from my perspective thank you, they are your gift to the world and to humanity's progress. I truly believe that the synchronicity, fate, Grace or whatever you choose to call It saw fit to place us beside those wonderful youth this night so that we all might learn and grow from our interaction!

   The main self avowed purpose of this get together was to share our respective stories, which we did comprehensively and beautifully. Jim started the process from our perspective and gave one of the most inspired descriptions of what we do and why that I felt compelled to include it in its entirety, so please bear with us for the length, but struggle through to the end and it will surely be worth it. Jim Toren speaks; "We believe in self-awareness and that All Life is Sacred, and we believe in the action of our Prayers. So we run, and as we are running we are praying, each for his or her own reasons and in their own forms. This particular run is based on the healing of Mother Earth and the fact that nuclear weapons and power don't get us anywhere but hurt. We wish to demonstrate that we believe the whole process of nuclear technology is a bad idea! I got started on this path on the 1994 Walk for Justice to support the freeing of Leonard Peltier, a Native American political prisoner. His story is told in a book named "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" by Peter Matthiessen. After many events over many years supporting Native American, and peace and justice issues, I decided to start an organization called Footprints for Peace. The idea was to continue the tradition of combining running with prayer (a process we have aptly named - Footprayers), carrying forward the message that All Life is Sacred, supporting causes of peace and justice, and the healing of our Mother Earth and humanity as a whole. Our main focus is to create peace through footprayers and to carry our message, spreading it from village to village, town to town, person to person, heart to heart." After Jim finished we all had an opportunity to have our say, and explain the why and how of the road from our own perspective. Then it was time for our young friends to tell their stories, which we recorded and included on this site. We had finished all the stories and were engaged in general conversation when the thunder boomers that had been circling us for a few hours decided to set in for the night. That pretty much sent the runners scattering for their respective tents, however I personally stayed to long in talking (I have been accused of this before), and took shelter under the SCA tarps. Before long the main front of the storm blew itself out and I was able to make a mad dash for the iron tent (my wagon which has room for me to sleep in) and settled in for the evening only moderately wet. I drifted off into dreamland with the last waking thought... TAKE HEART - HOPE IS ALIVE IN THE WORLD! With the young ones willing to work to make a better world, we really CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! A sentiment I wasn't quite through with yet as I was to find in the future!

   This next day would complete our commitment for the 2004 Nuclear Free Future Run. Our running day today would end at the main gate of the Y 12 Nuclear facility, where we would link up with the walking pilgrimage from the Atlanta Buddhist Temple. Nun Denise and Monk Utsumi (leaders of this group) along with whomever had accompanied them would be finishing a 30 day, 450 mile trek today, while we 6 run/walkers finishing a 6 day 360 mile run would join in solidarity with them. The goal is to one day have a group coming from each of the 4 directions for this event, but for today we will be content with covering the north and south portions of the quest. Although we would finish our commitment today we had decided as a group to stay for the weekend and participate in the rally at Bissell Park and the Action At Y12 - 2004 which would almost certainly contain some form of peaceful protest - civil disobedience. I was reminiscing about the button I wore on my hat, which says "Atomic Power - No Thanks!". I had acquired that button at the last no-nukes protest I had attended in Madison, Indiana in the late 70's. The public outcry there had permanently stopped an eminently unpopular nuclear power plant under construction from being completed. In winning that conflict we had proven that it is possible for a committed public presence to alter the course of unpopular activities, a sentiment I wished to interject into this gathering!

   Since we had so few miles to cover today, we were able to enjoy a more relaxed morning than we had become used to while on the road. The plan was to cover the remaining miles and then assemble about 1 half mile from the main gate and run to greet the Buddhist contingent as a group. We knew they would be arriving around mid-morning so we headed to Oak Ridge and passed them on our way to our start point. We discovered we only had 4 miles to reach the gates so we gathered around a half mile out and ran in as a group. When we reached the gate Denise and Utsumi along with a contingent of about 20 or 30 or so were standing there in front of the barrier beating their drums and chanting a Buddhist prayer. As we approached, the chanting got stronger and stronger, and the goosebumps arose on all of us of their own free will. It was a powerful moment when the two groups combined and we formed a great circle in the front of the barrier erected at the main gate of the Y 12 facility. We had our closing circle ceremony, uttering prayers of thanksgiving that everyone had arrived safely, and then we all began chanting along with the Buddhist drum cadence as if we could make the nuclear horror disappear with just the force of our chants and prayers alone! Perhaps we can! It was at that moment that the third part to my revelatory answer about hope fell into place. I strongly felt the power of selfless mutual commitment to a higher calling. Many times in the past I had felt the loneliness and isolation of my own personal commitment to a spiritual way of life, but now I had another tangible example of the simple fact that I was not alone in this commitment (a feeling that would be reinforced over and over again during the events of the weekend to come - but that is another story covered on this site). At that precise moment in time I was feeling the pure Joy that comes from Grace descending into your heart and soul and fostering HOPE! At that moment in time I knew without any doubt that I was not alone and that "HOPE WAS ALIVE IN THE WORLD". When Hope lives in your heart it gives birth to the belief that WE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD !!!!!!! So keep praying, keep running, continue to care, never give up, and try to remember - WE WILL!

   The story still had one component left to unfold for us as we approached the end of the trip to Oak Ridge and the Y 12 weapons facility. The final day would be one filled with protest and non-violent civil disobedience. There was a fairly sophisticated skit planned to caricature the possession and use of nuclear weapons. My fellow steward of Peacehq discribed the action this way:

   "The idea behind the "symbolic bomb" was to tear it down and then build a Peace Town. There was a lot of furniture and accessories that the police wouldn't let us take out but since they were busy some of it made it out on the road. Well, the "bomb" went down with a lot of cheering and shouting and what was supposed to be a Peace Town turned into a couch for Judy Ross. I helped her from her seat on the sidelines to the couch and, after handing her umbrella to Joe, gave her a big hug and kiss and told her that as long as we had people like her we couldn't lose our struggle for peace. I think the authorities by this time had enough. They began to move us off the streets threatening to arrest us if we stepped on or over the yellow edge marked on the roadside. I was trying to get some last photos but couldn't manage any. I ended up behind the crowd and had a hard time seeing Judy Ross and Joe's arrest. As they took them away we were yelling "Judy, Judy, Judy...." and she loved it as she flashed the V of the peace sign."

   Judy Ross, at 85, was the most venerable, wise, and honored peacemaker at the gates to Y 12 this day. My mother's maiden name was Ross, and as a fellow Scot Highlander clan member I had paid my respects to Lady Judy earlier in the events of the day. When I saw her out on the roadway before the gates, sitting on the couch in the middle of the road, I came to the shocking realization that she meant to offer herself up to arrest for blocking a public road along with the other prisoners of conscience. I nearly lost it while hugging her and tearfully murmuring Grandmother - I Love You - I Love You! It nearly broke my heart when the police officers came to arrest Grandmother Judy. Myself and several other peacemakers stayed close as they took her away, not being able to bear any mistreatment of the commited and courageous Grandmother to us all - Judy Ross. To their credit, the policemen and women who handled Judy Ross and the other resistors, did so with great gentleness and respect. As they loaded her in a cruiser, the statement of my fellow steward echoed in my mind - "as long as we had people like Dame Judy we couldn't lose our struggle!" triggering the final piece of the Hope Is Alive in the World realization. With this example of commitment we have demonstrated that; WE HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD.

   To those of you who have persevered to the end of this story, I thank you, Mother Earth thanks you, I hope it was worth your effort and I'll see you down the road sometime soon I Hope! If you have examples demonstrating Hope in the world, send them in to become part of hopefully an ongoing series of inspirational stories. Look for them here soon!

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