Linda LeTendre doesn’t expect many of the people who attend this weekend’s Peace and Justice Fair to take the same avenues she has to promote peace.
LeTendre frequently takes part in peace protests and demonstrations. She’s been arrested eight times.
For LeTendre, it’s a matter of principle. Raised a Roman Catholic, LeTendre later became a Quaker, and she believes if you’re going to be a Christian, you don’t go to war. You just don’t do it.
But she knows that taking a literal stand for peace makes some people uncomfortable. And that’s fine — in fact, she considers protesting something of a calling, one that not everyone receives, or answers.
There are plenty of other ways to get involved in the peace movement, and she hopes that the Peace and Justice Fair will open people’s eyes to that.
`We’re hoping to get some general folks who want to get involved in peacemaking but don’t have the faintest clue where to start,` she said.
`There is something for everyone,` organizer Elizabeth Meehan said. `If you’re a conservative or a liberal, you will find something to do there. It’s not a hippie, tie-dyed shirt sort of event.`
So what sort of event is it? It’s equal parts education and entertainment. The fair kicks off at noon on Sunday, Sept. 20, at The Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church of Saratoga Springs, with several booths offering information. More than 30 organizations are taking part, including Pennies for Peace, which supports education in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Curbstone Press, a printing company that focuses on social issues; and Bread for the World, a Christian coalition that fights hunger and poverty. Several local groups, such as Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, Saratoga Peace Alliance and Schenectady Neighbors for Peace, will also be represented.
Some booths will have petitions to sign, while others will simply strive to teach fairgoers about practices like buying fair trade goods.
`Each person will be able to say, ‘I learned something. I can do this,’` Meehan said. `We want them to find something that makes sense in their life for peace and justice.`
Meehan was raised with that kind of mindset. `We’re one global family. We’re all neighbors,` she said.
To that end, when she learned about three Ugandan children who were going to dance and perform in the Capital District this summer, Meehan volunteered to let them stay with her in Ballston Spa. Her children are grown and she had empty rooms, she said.
She acknowledged with a laugh that she wasn’t aware she was going to have the kids for a full week. But as the week wore on, she wished she could keep them longer.
`The time feels too short,` she said. `It’s wonderful. I feel lucky that I live my life open to these possibilities. I feel like it has been a privilege.`
At 1:30, the fair will unveil a number of demonstrations and activities for families. There will be chalk drawing on the sidewalks with the youth group from Temple Sinai. People are invited to make a `pinwheel for peace` that will be installed at the fair. There will be musical performances, face painting and a drumming workshop.
Performers include The Solidarity Singers, God’s Hands Puppet Team and Billion Bells for Peace.
Meehan is somewhat in awe of all the groups taking part, particularly since when she first tried to recruit organizations to the fair, it was a bit of a tough sell.
`People were somewhat skeptical initially,` she said. `It’s something new, so some people are always skeptical.`
But as more organizations signed on and word of mouth spread, Meehan’s phone started to ring regularly with more people wanting to take part.
`The response has been terrific,` she said. `We haven’t turned many people away.`
LeTendre, of Saratoga Springs, was instrumental in getting people involved, drawing on her connections with several peace-based organizations. Though she’s not officially a member of the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church of Saratoga Springs, she regularly attends services there and sings in the choir, and she embraces the church’s philosophy that to serve God, it must be socially conscious and politically involved.
`[Peace] doesn’t happen just wishing it,` she said. `It’s going to happen when we make it happen.`
She got a strong nudge in that direction when her friend Beth was dying of leukemia. LeTendre told God that the world needed more people like Beth, not fewer of them. She said God told her that He agreed, but `I’ve given you the resources to heal Beth. It is how you choose, and keep choosing to use, those resources that makes a difference. You can take care of each other or you can kill and destroy each other; it’s up to you.`
Up to that point, LeTendre was `sort of in the background` of the peace movement. But that conversation with God, she said, moved her closer to the forefront, protesting and bearing witness for peace.
Still, she knows there is plenty more to be done. She envisions people leaving the fair and taking steps like recycling or writing to their congressmen in support of peace.
It’s a vision Meehan shares and is excited about spreading.
`We don’t want everyone to just be preaching to the choir,` she said. `I believe most people would get involved if they knew they could. Little changes can make a big difference.`
`Peace-ing It Together, The Peace and Justice Fair` is Sunday, Sept. 20, at the The Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church, 24 Circular St. in Saratoga Springs. Admission is free and food will be sold. For information, visit www.peace-ing.org.“