Last night I was given the honor of being asked to speak at the Porterville Peace Rally. These were my comments.
Good evening. My name is Rick Groves. Most of you don’t know me, and all of us are far too complex to nail down in a few words. So, by way of personal introduction, I’ll just say I’ve been known to teach a little and to preach a little. But mostly to just love people around me. And I love to tell stories. Time permitting, I hope to share one or two with you here tonight.
I want to thank the organizers of this Peace Rally for this lovely chance to share some words. I received a call from Kayleen Murello last Tuesday inviting me, and I was extremely surprised and quite honored she had taken the time to run me down. I cannot begin to express what a blessing it is to be included and awarded this wonderful opportunity.
Tonight, my friends, we’re having a Peace Rally. Peace is the freedom from disturbance. It is quiet and tranquility. It is harmony.
We all desire these things.
To say the world does not contain evil would be a false statement or hopelessly naïve. But to realize the world is comprised of a greater and far more powerful good is not simply reassurance. It is reality.
Good does not always triumph, but the lessons of history are that evil wins for only a short season. The undefeatable spirit of humanity always rises up and retakes the victory. And we will have victory.
To achieve victory takes two things: The brave action of a group coming together to stand and fight for what’s right, and the brave action of an individual standing alone to fight for what’s right.
Nothing worth accomplishing has ever been achieved without both. It takes cooperation and it takes leadership.
It’s been said the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing. If we hold this as true, then its corollary is also true. Good people doing something are the only thing necessary for triumph over evil.
And so we come together tonight as good people taking action for a cause that is right.
And make no mistake, this involves all of us together. You cannot say this doesn’t affect you.
I promised a story, so here’s one of my favorites. You may have heard it before. If so, you’re about to hear it again.
There once was a mouse…
The mouse peeked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. “What wonderful food might this contain?” the mouse wondered as his little nose sniffed the air. He was terrified to see it was a mousetrap!
Scurrying to the barnyard, seeing the chicken, the mouse screamed his warning, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”
The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head, and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can see this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I just cannot be bothered by it.”
The mouse ran to the pig and told him, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”
The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”
The mouse dashed to the cow and said, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”
The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m really sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”
So the mouse, head down, feeling dejected, returned to the house to face the farmer’s mousetrap….alone.
That very night, a sound echoed through the house – the single abrupt snap of a mousetrap capturing its prey.
The farmer’s wife, awakened by the noise, rushed through the darkness to see what was caught. In the deep shadows, she didn’t see the poisonous snake whose tail was wedged in the trap.
With a ferocious strike, the snake’s fangs injected venom into the soft flesh of the farmer’s wife’s leg. Awakened by her scream, the farmer rushed to her and killed the snake with a butcher knife. He called the doctor, who came right away and removed as much poison as he could and gave her medicine, but her fever would not go down.
Everyone knows that chicken soup is the best treatment for a fever, so the farmer took his hatchet to the barnyard to collect the main ingredient.
But the poison continued to do its deadly work, and her sickness continued. Friends and neighbors sat with her round the clock and, to feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.
Alas, the farmer’s wife did not recover – and on the third day, she died.
She was well-loved by all and her funeral drew so many people that the farmer slaughtered the cow to provide enough meat to feed them.
Meanwhile, the mouse with great sadness stared out from his crack in the wall. He had tried to warn them…
So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem, and you don’t think it concerns you, remember this little story. When one of us is threatened, we’re all at risk. Together, we are all in this journey called life.
So keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to give support and encouragement. Never forget that each and every one of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry – our lives are woven together tightly for a reason.
You know, when I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation – and I could indeed have changed the world.
We change others only by changing ourselves and then demonstrating that change to inspire others. And when they are inspired, they become that group that stands together to change the world.
Aesop tells the fable of an old man on his deathbed summoning his children around him to give them some parting advice. He asked his oldest son to bring a bundle of sticks that were tied together.
“Break it,” he said.
The oldest son, also the strongest, strained and strained, but with his greatest effort couldn’t break the bundle.
The other sons also tried, but none of them could break it.
“Untie the sticks,” said the father, “and each of you take a single stick.”
When they had done so, he called out to them, “Now, break them!”
Each stick was easily broken.
“You see my meaning?” said their father. “Apart, you are fragile. But stand together, and you cannot be broken.”
We’ve hopefully enough time for one last story.
A squirrel perched on a branch talking to a dove that had landed there. “Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” he asked the bird.
“Why, nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the squirrel said.
“I once sat on the branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow – not heavy, not a raging blizzard – no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch – nothing more than nothing, as you say – the branch broke off under the weight of the snow.”
Having said that, the squirrel flitted away.
The dove thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”
An old Texas Baptist minister from way back in the day named Joseph Fort Newton said, “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.” I’m going to challenge you here tonight to figure out how you can build a bridge and by so doing tear down a few walls. This refers back to my earlier comment about standing alone as a leader.
Are there any leaders in this group tonight?
If so, start leading.
Because, after all, like the little mouse tried to warn us, we’re all in this together.
And like Aesop’s tale of the dying father, together we are invincible.
And like the squirrel showed us, it may be your voice that makes a difference in this world.
So I encourage you tonight, stand together and love one another. Teach others around you by your demonstration how to love.
I have experienced personally what it feels like to be mistreated and to be on the receiving end of unfair discrimination. Long ago decided I will not tolerate intolerance, will speak and act against it.
I will stand with you and will not abide that others treat anyone with hatred or violence.
I know many in this community and this country who will pledge the same.
May I leave you with some wise words uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”