This is a story that begs to be continued.
When I tell it to a live audience or on the radio, I always finish by asking the audience what they can do. Sometimes it takes years for people to find their answer to the question.
I hope that when you discover what you can do, you'll tell me about it.
The Crazy Cellist of Sarajevo
In the city of Sarajevo, bombs were falling. Every day, citizens feared more and more to go out into the streets, because the war was so vicious.
In the city of Sarajevo, on an early morning in May, a bomb fell on a street corner, and killed twenty-two people who were standing in line outside a bakery, waiting to buy bread for their families.
In the city of Sarajevo, there lived a cellist named Vedran Smailovic.
And when this cellist heard the news, that twenty-two of his neighbors had been killed by a bomb while waiting in line to buy bread, he went a little crazy.
He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to stop the bombs—he wanted to keep the people safe. But how? He wasn’t a member of the military. He didn’t even own a gun. All he knew how to do was to play the cello.
Not knowing what else to do, and having gone a little crazy, this cellist took his music stand and a folding chair and his cello out into the street. He took his cello and his music to the street corner where those people had stood, where the bomb had fallen. Not knowing what else to do, he sat down in the middle of the street, in the middle of a war, and he played the cello.
In the city of Sarajevo, a small miracle happened that day: he didn’t die.
Not knowing what else to do, this crazy cellist went back the next day, and sat down for an hour every day to play his music with bombs falling around him.
In the city of Sarajevo, an amazing thing happened: the pilots of the planes overhead told each other to avoid a particular street corner because there was a guy down there, he was playing the cello, and they told each other to fly elsewhere when he was playing his music because he was crazy.
And so, in the city of Sarajevo, when the music played, the bombs did not fall on that part of the city.
Word spread among the musicians of Sarajevo, and they drew up a roster. The took turns playing music on that street corner, until there was music on that street, in the middle of the war, all day and all night, in the city of Sarajevo.
And while the music played, the bombs stayed away, and the people were safe.
In the city of Seattle, an author named Robert Fulghum heard the story about the crazy cellist of Sarajevo.
Fulghum was the author of a popular book called Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. He learned what that crazy cellist had done, and he was inspired to work for peace in his own city.
But how? He wasn’t a member of the military. He didn’t own a gun. He didn’t even play the cello. All he knew was how to write books like the Kindergarten thing.
Because he didn’t know what else he could do, Fulghum did what he knew how to do: he wrote a book.
Then he took himself on a book tour of twenty-two cities, to tell the story of the crazy cellist of Sarajevo and to raise money for local peace projects.
In the city of Bellingham, I heard Fulghum tell the story, and I was inspired to work for peace.
I’m not a member of the military. I don’t own a gun, or play the cello or write books.
I’m just a storyteller.
What can I do for peace?
I can do what I know how to do.
In a village far away from here, a terrible thing happened: a child died.
All the village mourned the death of this child, but the mother mourned more than any of them.
For days, for weeks, for months, she cried and wailed and wept for her loss.
After a year and a day, the mother sought help for her sorrow from the wise woman of the village.
“Please,” begged the mother, “do you have something to help me recover from this sadness? Some potion, some pill, some herb—something?”
The wise woman thought about this request for a very long time.
Then she said, “To ease this sadness, you will need to make soup.”
“Soup? I need to make soup? How will soup ease sadness?”
“Ah,” said the wise woman. “The soup you will make is very special.
"This soup must be made in a pot borrowed from a family that has never known sadness. Make soup in this pot, and eat the soup, and your sorrow will be eased.”
So the mother visited her neighbors, asking for the loan of a soup pot.
At the first house, the youngest son opened the door.
“Welcome,” he said to the mother. “Of course, we want to help you—but remember that our grandmother died last summer.
"Our family has known great sadness. Do not take our soup pot. Instead, take these carrots from our garden, and put them in your soup. Our grandmother loved carrots.”
At the second house, the eldest sister opened the door.
“Welcome,” she said to the mother. “Of course we want to help you—but remember that our uncle died two winters ago.
"Our family has known great sadness. Do not take our soup pot. Instead, take these yams. Our uncle always grew the sweetest yams in his garden.”
At the third house, an old man answered the door.
“Welcome,” he said to the mother. “Of course we want to help you—but remember that my daughter died ten years ago.
"Our family has known great sadness. Do not take our soup pot. Instead, take these beans. My daughter loved bean soup.”
At every house in the village, the story was the same: each family had known great sadness. And each family offered something to put in the soup of sorrow.
At the end of the day, the woman made soup in her own soup pot.
She invited all of her neighbors to share the soup.
Together, they remembered the ones who were gone.
And as they ate, and shared, and remembered, the sorrow was eased.