Our Opinion: Be grateful for peacemakers – and other people whose spirits shine in life’s darkest hours

November 24th, 2015 1:27 pm

Of all the things for which to be thankful, recent events have propelled this one far up our list: the capacity for certain people to rise above horrid circumstances and inspire hope.

Paris proved it again.

Intent on doing evil, terrorists who seemingly had been stripped of their humanity struck on a recent Friday night at the things we hold dear. At music and culture. At community. At life.

No sooner, however, had the worst of human nature been unleashed and begun to darken our shared psyche than the best of human nature emerged.

A man, who had watched the disturbing events unfold on television from a pub in Germany, immediately loaded his piano on a trailer and drove nearly 400 miles to the French capital. Outside the Bataclan theater, the site of so much senseless carnage, he played John Lennon’s “Imagine.” A tribute to the victims. A salve to survivors.

“I just knew I had to do something,” Davide Martello told the Guardian. “I wanted to be there to try and comfort, and offer a sign of hope.”

Martello’s gesture, a street performance similar to ones he previously had given in conflict zones, strikes a familiar chord. In 1992, during the siege of Sarajevo, a man named Vedran Smailović regularly visited bomb-damaged buildings, cemeteries and other public sites. Pulling a cello from its case, the former Sarajevo Opera musician would sit and play an adagio – sometimes to an audience of barely anyone.

The “Cellist of Sarajevo,” as he became known internationally, released hauntingly beautiful sounds on war-torn streets presumably to mourn the loss of his beloved city, or perhaps to send a message to the world, or maybe to save his sanity. Or maybe he had no choice but to play music, giving expression to the mute stirrings in his soul. In doing so, he brought normalcy – if not sense – to a situation otherwise dominated by madness.

Rather than yield to despair, Martello, Smailović and people like them show a remarkable resiliency of spirit. In prisons, they bring light. In panics, they instill calm. In dire settings, they stay grateful. While others quibble and divide, they cling to what unites. When plotters choose hate, they exude love.

Be grateful if you know someone with these qualities. If you can, become someone who exhibits these traits.

Blessed are the peacemakers among us.