“Every good thing you do, every good thing you say, every good thought you think, vibrates on and on and never ceases.” - Peace Pilgrim
September 21st is International Peace Day, it is a holiday sanctioned by the United Nations and dedicated to world peace. In honor of this special day, we would like to celebrate the life and work of an advocate for peace that you may or may not have heard of before.
Mildred Lisette Norman - Peace Pilgrim
On July 18, 1908, Mildred Lisette Norman was born in New Jersey, USA. She was born into a tight-knit family that worked on a poultry farm. She graduated high school as valedictorian, worked as a secretary, wrote and directed plays, and got married.
At the age of 30, Mildred faced a personal turning point after a night-long walk through the woods. Like many of us, she found herself seeking a deeper meaning in her life. This began her spiritual awakening and the process of her 15-year transition to a life fully dedicated to service and peace.
In 1952, Mildred became the first woman to walk the entire length of the Appalachian trail in one season, and in 1953 she renounced her former life and took on her new identity of “Peace Pilgrim” as she began her first cross-country pilgrimage for peace on January first of that year.
Over the next 28 years, Peace Pilgrim completed seven pilgrimages, walking all across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. By 1964, she had already walked 25,000 miles, and after that, she stopped keeping count. Her message was simple: “when enough of us find inner peace, our institutions will become peaceful and there will be no more occasion for war”.
Peace Pilgrim was the ultimate minimalist. She wore the same clothing everyday: blue pants and a blue tunic with “Peace Pilgrim” proudly written across her chest. The only things that she owned and carried with her were a comb, a toothbrush, a pen, and a map. She lived by this value: “Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold”.
She never used any money throughout her entire journey. Peace Pilgrim said, “I just walk until given shelter, fast until given food. I don't even ask; it's given without asking. I tell you, people are good. There's a spark of good in everybody”.
Peace Pilgrim believed that “we are all cells in the same body of humanity”. Wherever she walked, she only sought to help and lift others:
“I began to really live life when I began to look at every situation and think about how I could be of service in that situation. I learned that I shouldn’t be pushy about helping, but just willing. Often I could give a helping hand—or perhaps a loving smile or a word of cheer. I learned it is through giving that we receive the worthwhile things of life.”
As she became more well known, Peace Pilgrim was invited for speaking engagements and even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981. Before she could be considered, she passed on to “a freer life” on July 7th of that year.
Peace Pilgrim is an inspiration to us because she dedicated her life to a worthwhile cause that she truly believed in. She taught, “this is the way of peace: overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love”. And that is what she sought to do everyday.
Peace Pilgrim's example inspired a movement of people who are committed to peace and following her footsteps still today. You can learn more about the movement here
We love Peace Pilgrim’s simple and profound words: “Life is like a mirror. Smile at it and it smiles back at you. I just put a big smile on my face and everyone smiles back”.
May we all strive to do the same.
Peace and Love,
The Rice Love Team
Resources and photos courtesy of Friends of Peace Pilgrim.