Peace Bringer Spotlight
Bruce & Cath Alberts
and Katie Aguinaga
Bruce Alberts is a lay minister in his church in Lapeer, Michigan. His wife, Cath Alberts, is a retired realtor. Their granddaughter, Katie Aguinaga, is now attending the University of Michigan, pursuing a degree in computer skills. Collectively, they represent a trio who put one of Mattie’s ‘visions for peace’ into action through their annual “World Trade Day” — exactly as Mattie described it in his final book, Just Peace: A Message of Hope.
In 2002, Mattie introduced his “Three Choices for Peace” to 5,500 children and leaders during a speech at the Children’s Peace Pavilion in Independence, Missouri. The Children’s Peace Pavilion is housed in the Community of Christ World Wide Church, an organization that Bruce describes as “dedicated to the pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and the healing of the spirit.” The members of the Community were so inspired with Mattie’s message and his vision for a peaceful world that a two-room “Peace Is Possible” Exhibit was created in his honor at the Children’s Peace Pavilion.
After Mattie died in 2004, the Community of Christ’s annual world conference was held in the same building where Mattie had given that first “Three Choices for Peace” speech, and where the Peace is Possible Exhibit is located. Bruce was one of thousands who attended the conference, during which a clip from Mattie’s 2002 speech was played for the attendees, who were on their feet chanting the “Three Choices” along with Mattie and the thousands of children and leaders in the video.
When Mattie’s final book, Just Peace: A Message of Hope was published in 2006, Bruce and Cath read it cover to cover, and were drawn to Mattie’s “9/11 Anniversary Composition” written on September 11, 2002, in which Mattie proposes a new way to commemorate the events of 9/11. Mattie offers the suggestion of an annual “World Trade Day” as a way of honoring the lives of those who were impacted by the terrorist attacks of that day, yet also move people “forthward” in peace, giving meaning to loss and tragedy. He suggests that people gather in local or world communities each year on September 11, and “trade something” with their neighbors — a photograph, a story, a game, a book, a keepsake — anything that gives reason for conversation so that we get to know our neighbors around the block and around the world, which fosters trust, and peace.
(READ MATTIE’S ESSAY FROM THE BOOK BELOW)
Bruce and Cath spoke with their granddaughter, Katie, and decided to organize a World Trade Day in Mattie’s honor that very year. On September 11, 2006, citizens from all over Lapeer, Michigan and neighboring communities gathered together on the courthouse lawn to ‘make peace the news.’ They brought mementos to trade with others attending the celebration. They participated in activities set up under tents to teach and promote peace. They sang songs together. And as day turned to evening, together, they read Mattie’s “For Our World” poem — a ‘what now? what next?’ peace passage he penned on September 11, 2001.
From 2006 through 2011, Bruce, Cath, and Katie organized an annual World Trade Day, rooted in Mattie’s message, and spreading peace through the citizens of Lapeer. “We are thankful for the all the support we received and teh privilege to work for peace and unitiy in our community,” Bruce said. “I believe Mattie would be pleased with our efforts.”
Community service and active participation in volunteer activities is nothing new the Alberts family. Bruce is a Board Member of the Lapeer County Equal Rights Alliance. Cath frequently attends seminars and classes pertaining to peace and communication, and says she “uses the skills I learn in my everyday life, and in my professional career, such as when I was a member of our realty Arbitration Board. It is fulfilling when people can work together, and reach a win-win conclusion in a situation.”
“I think my feelings of ‘equality for all’ and reaching peace come from my family, ” Cath said. “My grandfather was half Native American and my grandmother was disowned by her family for marrying him. But my grandparents strove to treat all people the same. My grandmother also instilled in my the importance of doing volunteer work.”
In 2012, due to age and health concerns and the fact that Katie is now away at college, The Alberts did not plan what had become an annual community event. It is their hope that other citizens — in Lapeer and throughout the world community — pick up on Mattie’s vision, and carry their efforts to shape this event ‘forthward for peace’ as Mattie would say.
“Like Mattie, we believe the ‘Peace is Possible’ and we will continue to work for peace in our church and community,” Cath stated. “I never met Mattie, but I have somewhat come to know him through his books and poems and philosophy of peace. And I can truthfully say that he has had a tremendous influence upon my life. We are honored to be considered Peace Bringers by the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, and we hope to support the work of the Foundation — which is spreading peace for our world.”
Thank you, Bruce, Cath, & Katie,
for being Peace Bringers.
The text of Mattie’s 9/11 Anniversary Composition
“Every year, we must recognize the tragedies that occurred on September 11, 2001 in some way. We must commemorate the lives lost in the New York World Trade Centers, in the Pentagon, and in the Pennsylvania field where airline passengers prevented another deadly attack on Washington, DC. However, if we focus on the terrorism and evilness of the day, it not only means that Americans will never move on and heal their wounds, but it also means that in a way, we are giving undue credit to the attackers who caused pain to so many thousands of innocent people. Thus, instead of mourning and reading countless speeches of sadness, we must rise out of the ashes and create a day that reminds us of how life could be and, in fact, should be.
What I am proposing is a true “World Trade Day,” that will annually occur on September 11. People around the world will find some way to trade something significant, though not necessarily financially pricey, with someone else. One person might choose to trade a photograph of a loved one with a neighbor, another may choose to trade a game with someone at a bus stop, and yet another might choose to trade a book or a positive idea with someone in a distant country. This act of kindness and sharing can help Americans unite closer with each other, and spread a message of hope and peace around the planet. Imagine… a just peace could simply begin with trading thoughts over a cup of tea and a game of chess. How could we not seek such a tradition, in which we transform terror and tragedy into tranquility and trust?
The new “World Trade Day” can foster relations between and among people of all ages and nationalities and beliefs. Children can trade with adults. Israelis can trade with Palestinians. Catholics can trade with Muslims. Anyone can trade with any other person… and that is what is important about this event. In commemorating a tragic event in a way that promotes positive growth, we can move beyond our anger and fears without forgetting the truth of the past. By celebrating “World Trade Day” with a respectful and future-oriented attitude, we are paying the highest honor to those who suffered on September 11, 2001, and we are planting seeds of peace for all those who will live through the future of September 11 each year.” — Mattie J.T. Stepanek, excerpt: Just Peace A Message of Hope, AMP, 2006, p.71
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