Called to Peace: 2012 Peacemaker of the Year Awarded
By Kay Shively
The children call them each by the same name: “Peacemaker.” Kathryn Womack-States and Belinda Watkins have been known by thousands of children in the Anderson, Indiana, Community Schools; to these children, the two women embody peacemaking. In 1995, these two women—both the Church of God’s own, as it happens, social workers in the Anderson school system, were asked to develop a program to help children in one elementary school learn to get along with each other.
Initially there was no plan to do more than fill an immediate need. But it spread and spread. Today, every child in pre-kindergarten through third grade in Anderson Community Schools experiences the Peacemaker program. Sadly, not every child learns at home to get along with others or to solve problems creatively. Some know only bullying and retaliation. Some are taught prejudice and distrust of others. But by the example of these two women respecting and valuing each other across racial and other differences, and through the media of music, storytelling, activities, and crafts, the children learn to celebrate differences, express feelings in words, speak kindly, cooperate with one another, and utilize problem-solving skills. Each lesson is symbolized by a different color bead, added by the child, to a leather bracelet that can be worn as a reminder.
The Peacemaker program has completed seventeen years. Most students in pre-school through grade twelve have been a part of the program. Can we say, then, that the Anderson schools have overcome prejudice, bullying, and violence? Unfortunately, our entire culture militates against these lessons. Adults often need their own peacemaker program. But a light shining in the darkness is a clear witness. And each light added destroys a little more darkness. That’s the prayer of the Peacemakers.
Belinda has recently retired, but Kathryn still enjoys being known as Peacemaker. The second generation is beginning to come along. One young mother recently said, “I was a Peacemaker, and now I’m glad that my child is, too.” What better lesson to pass on to our children? The Church of God Peace Fellowship is pleased to honor Belinda Watkins and Kathryn Womack-States as 2012 Peacemakers of the Year.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”