A Sadder Place, A Happier Place

Louise NielsenToday we lost Louise.  At age 95 she most certainly led a long and fully engaged life to be celebrated.  But today Winds of Peace Foundation is a sadder place as it grieves the loss of one of its founders, and the one who might be said to have birthed the organization in the first place.  Yes, Louise was a “mom” to a lot of us.

My intent here is not to chronicle a long life filled with accomplishments and adventures. If you want to know more about the challenges and energies of her long life, read Steve Swanson’s book, One Couple’s Gift (C. 2009, Nine Ten Press).  But noteworthy among her many legacies was her hallmark of living a life of unabashed caring and unpretentiousness.  Among recent generations who have found this increasingly difficult to comprehend- let alone emulate- Louise was a model.   The empathy which she felt for others the world over was truly matched by the strength of her convictions and actions.  A woman of heart and compassion, she understood what really mattered in our connections with one another around the world.  She did as she said.

Louise had occasion to meet and build a Habitat for Humanity home with former President Jimmy Carter.  She was amazed at a kiss of her hand by Nicaraguan politico Daniel Ortega during one of her many excursions there.  But the faces she most remembered were of little children in need of food, shelter and clothing, images that remained with her long after the Central American trips became physically too difficult.  Simplicity hallmarked her attitudes: if a little boy is hungry, feed him.  If a little girl is homeless, shelter her.  And if children are naked, clothe them.  And she did.

Few of us who ever had the good fortune to visit Louise at her home will ever forget her gracious giving of herself on those occasions, always inquiring about family, making meals from scratch to accommodate day-long meetings,  preparing bedrooms for overnight occasions and always curious to know the workings of every initiative posing itself for consideration.  Louise brought a quiet presence to those times, a presence that bore the essence of calm, of confidence, and yet necessity for those whom we served.  One might have surmised that it was Louise, in part, who we were trying to satisfy in our work, and that feeling might have had some merit: Louise desired justice for those too small to secure it for themselves.  Now they have lost one champion’s voice.

So today and in the days to come, Winds of Peace is a sadder place, but only because in her own special way Louise made it a happier, better place.  The work may continue without her physical presence, but it will never cease to exemplify her will, her spirit and the unshakeable care that she felt for other human beings.  And in the end, that is the very best that any one of us can give….


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