Monday, November 6, 2017

Beauty in Response to Violence

The following post was written last week so I do not mention yesterday's massacre in a Texas church. Violence at a place of worship is particularly hard to bear. Prayer is our most crucial tool so I pray for those affected by the madness of yesterday. Picture books and art, such as the music in the story below, are other tools that can benefit faith families reeling from violence, but allow time for the settling of those emotions and deal with most urgent needs first. Stories more easily bring healing when we can sit and listen with open hearts, not hearts burdened with fear and grief. 

Next Monday in the USA, we will be honoring our veterans so I've been saving this book, a true story, that reminds us violence, via war or otherwise, affects not just our veterans but entire communities. Additionally, art such as music as in this book or other artistic expressions, can be a balm of healing. If you are a veteran, thank you for your service and many sacrifices. If not a veteran but violence has touched you recently, my prayer is that healing can come through ritual, beauty, and community.
Picture Book: Flowers for Sarajevo
Author: John McCutcheon
Illustrator: Kristy Caldwell
Summary: Drasko, a young Yugoslavian boy, enjoys helping his father, Milo, sell flowers on the street. 
There Drasko enjoys Sarajevo's diversity of Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Christians. Despite their differences, most go home with Milo's flowers. Milo loves their differences, even Goran, the cranky merchant next to them, is enjoyed by Milo. 
But war begins quickly, and Drasko's father leaves for the battlefied. 
Drasko works hard to keep his family fed by remaining on the streets, selling flowers. Tensions increase across those who remain, 
and Drasko gets pushed to the worst corner. At least he's near where the orchestra practices. Lonely and missing his father (the music reminds him of their dancing), 
Drasko doesn't know war is about to enter Sarajevo's streets. 
An explosion shatters a wall in the bakery nearby. Chaos ensues. Those who can scatter.
Twenty people have been killed while in line for the bakery. Still Drasko returns to the emptier street the next day. 
When the church bell rings at 10, a man exits the orchestra 
and carries his cello and a chair amidst the rubble.  
At the site of the bomb, the musician sits and plays. Silently, a diverse group gathers, is moved by the music, 
and then watches as the musician leaves also in silence. 
Drasko is so heartbroken, he gives his roses away. 
The musician solemnly repeats daily for a total of 22 times, his ritual gift for the city, a performance for each lost life. 
Drasko begins a ritual too. Each night he prays 23 prayers, one for each who died and one for his father. 
Routine forms again and sellers, even the bakers, are open for business. Mean Gorin brings a customer to Drasko and compliments his flowers. Drasko returns the favor with a rose as his father often did. 
At each day's end, Drasko leaves roses at the bakery and at the orchestra's door. 
He places a rose at Milo's place at the table. Like his father, Drasko is determined to help Sarajevo remember and return to its beauty.
Hanna’s Comments: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia was a diverse city whose glory days you might remember from the 1984 winter Olympics. During The Bosnian War, a bomb did damage the last bakery, killing 22 people. For 22 days, cellist Vedran Smailovic honored the inhabitants with Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, a piece known to have miraculously survived a bombing in Dresden, Germany during WWII. Later, Sarajevo was under siege for 1,425 days, the longest for any capitol city in modern warfare. Thousands of inhabitants lost their lives. The beautiful city that had been celebrated only a decade before, was a war zone. Smailovic became known as The Cellist of Sarajevo. In the back of the book, you'll find the score, lyrics, an Author's Note, and a section called A Region Shaped by War which gives a summary of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. An audio CD was included in my book that contains lots of supplemental material such as conversations and the author reading the book with page turn prompts. 
Original Publisher & Date: Peachtree, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: Audio CD
Scripture Connections: And my God, my soul is cast down within me. (Psalm 42:6); When I remember God, I moan. (Psalm 77:3); These days should be remembered and kept through every generation. (Esther 9:28)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of adults when studying the spirituality of art or resilience. Use this book as an example of the power of rituals of remembering or lamentations and mourning. Consider giving this book as a gift of gratitude to musicians in your faith family.