By Mary Bridges, chaplain, Salina Presbyterian Manor
It has become tradition on April 1 to pull pranks of the harmless variety on those near and dear to us. Even the most serious among us have been known to indulge in a practical joke or two. For me, April Fool’s is a reminder of the day, 26 years ago, that I flew to Tel Aviv.
I spent a month as a guest of Hope Lutheran Church in Ramallah. I visited Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It was a life-changing experience. I recall there were armed Israeli soldiers everywhere. I learned a great many things while I was there, and met Pastor Munib Younan.
Munib went on to become a bishop and then president of the Lutheran World Federation.
Recently, he spoke at Bethany College in Lindsborg, and I was able to attend the symposium. We had some time to visit, and I was able to catch up on the lives of my host family and others whom I met.
Hope Lutheran Church, which runs its own school, believes that education is the key to finding a lasting peace. They educate not only their own children, but Muslim and Jewish children, too.
While I was in Ramallah, I visited the school on several occasions. I met with individual classes. One of the church members, Sonja Nijim, had previously visited my church to learn about other countries and cultures. I explained that when I returned home, I would share what I had learned with many groups.
One 16-year-old female student asked me what I was going to tell them and I asked, “What would you like me to tell them?” And she replied, “Tell them we are not terrorists.”
Another young girl asked me why we celebrated different holidays, and in particular, “April Fool’s Day.” I didn’t know how to answer. I later discovered that the origin of the day may come from several places.
• The timing of this day seems to be related to the arrival of spring, when nature “fools” mankind with fickle weather, according to the Encyclopedia of Religion and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
• The Country Diary of Garden Lore, which chronicles the goings-on in an English garden, says that April Fool’s Day “is thought to commemorate the fruitless mission of the rook (the European crow), who was sent out in search of land from Noah’s flood-encircled ark.”
• Others theorize it may have something to do with the Vernal Equinox.
• Some think it ties in with the Romans’ end-of-winter celebration, Hilaria, and the end of the Celtic New Year festival.
For me, April 1 will always be a reminder of an experience that was not foolish, but life-changing.