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Volume 3, Issue 1
Spring 2007:

Peace Comes Softly

Judith Buswell

Cell 2 Soul. 2007 Spring; 3(1):a2

"Perhaps Umija can help me with this," I thought as I tucked music for a Bosnian folk song into my purse and climbed into my husband's car. We were taking Umija with us to a concert that evening and there would be time to talk about these Bosnian words that were strange to my ear.

It was only that week that I had met Umija and her husband Rasim. As refugees from war-ravaged Bosnia, they had resettled in the Lakes Region, in the same community where I live. Somehow I sensed she would want to help me, a member of the Pemigewasset Choral Society eager to be comfortable with the lyrics of this music that we would perform in our next concert series.

We arrived early and finding good seats was easy. While waiting for the concert to begin, I pulled the music from my bag and put it on my lap.

"Umi," I asked "can you help me with the words to this song from your country?"

"Oh my," she said "You are going to sing a song from my Bosnia?"

"Yes, but I don't think I'm saying these words right. I'll sing a bit for you. Please stop me at any time to make corrections."

So I picked up the music, turned to her, and quietly began singing the plaintive folk song, "Tuzno Leto," expecting her to interrupt me at any moment. She looked at me and then down at her hands. I sang the first page, and then the second, while she grew very quiet and still.

"Oh dear," I worried as I continued on. "She is my new friend and here I am butchering her language."

I kept singing and still she did not stop me. Finally, I sang the last note. There was a long pause of silence as she continued staring at her hands. I was certain I had insulted her in a way I would never comprehend.

Finally she looked up at me and her eyes were damp with tears. "I have been in America for four years and this is the first time anyone has sung to me in my own language. You have given me such a gift. Thank you. Thank you," she said over and over.

My hand touched hers and our eyes locked. For the briefest instant, thousands of miles of wrenching pain and horror seemed to fade and I was able to cross that span between her culture and mine. It was a sacred moment that I will remember forever.

Only then did I understood that moments of real peace come softly and unannounced, quite like dust on the wings of a butterfly. What allows tribes and nations to live side-by-side never comes at the end of a rifle or through an edict from a pulpit or podium. It simply follows a precious glimpse into the bare soul of another.

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