Just a Stone


Just a Stone

It’s just a stone; a plain, dark brown stone.  There’s really nothing about it to catch the eye, although if you move it just right in the sunlight tiny, tiny specks do sparkle, hinting that this is an igneous rock that was formed from cooling lava.  There is nothing extraordinary about its shape, other than to note that it is worn smooth from years and years of exposure to harsh elements.

Ever since I was a kid I have had a habit of slipping a stone into my pocket to remember places that I have been to.  That’s why I have this one.  I wanted to remember a country, a place, an event, a challenge.

The place where it came from is Ireland.  Michelle and I visited Ireland on pilgrimage a number of years ago.  Visiting holy sites such as Knock was the primary mission.  A secondary purpose was some personal heritage as my maternal grandmother and her parents came to the United States from Ireland three generations ago. 

The place is stark.  The weather on the day we were there was fairly nasty.  The dark gray sky pressed down low; the wind was howling at about 40 mph driving stinging raindrops into our faces.  The highway we were on wound its way through the valleys as we snaked from the east coast of Ireland to the west.  There was hardly a sighting of another person.  The only obvious creatures of any number were the white specks of sheep that dotted all of the steep hillsides.          

The event was the Great Irish Famine, or the Great Hunger as the people of Ireland refer to it.  I learned of the Potato Famine, as it was referred to in the history textbooks of my youth.  It wasn’t until this trip that I learned that while the potato crop certainly failed several consecutive years, shiploads of grain and cattle and sheep were exported mainly to England almost every day - commerce over compassion.  The real tragedy of whatever kind of famine you care to label it, is that surely many fewer, and possible no one at all need have starved. 

Along this lonely stretch of highway there is a rustic stone cross that stands in prayer and recognition for all of the many poor Irish who died of starvation while walking to the sea coast where they hoped to board a ship for someplace with food.  I picked this loose stone from the ground near the base of that cross.

The challenge is in the prayer that is written all over the plain, smooth face of this stone: “May no one suffer.  May no one go hungry.  May no one feel despair.  May no one lose hope.  May no one die alone.  May no one feel unloved.  May no one feel dehumanized from any choice I make or refuse to make.”

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan