From The Spiritual Center Of Her Life

Judith Anne Buchman:


Lives Her Faith


As A Peacemaker





Judi Buchman with Grand Niece Eleanor Moses



    Career Visions #14


By Michael Chacko Daniels
Editor & Publisher, New River Free Press International

“My spirituality is at the center of my life,” writes Judith Anne Buchman, the farm girl from northwest Ohio who went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in her early twenties and who has for over three decades focused her life on peace and justice activities.

Ms Buchman’s spiritual attitude stood out for me when I first interviewed her, Richa (Richard Chandler), and Kathi Byrne in 1976 [see Lifeboat Ethics & The Making Of The Trash Pickers: The Issue Of Personal Responsibility] for New River Free Press of Grand Rapids — a community newspaper that I edited and published, as it does in this  Career Visions for a Small Planet e-mail interview .

She says she is a diffident writer.

Diffident, maybe — like most of us.

But her writing resonates with lines direct from her heart.
And the simplicity of her words speak to our hearts.
A clue to the harmony she works towards can be found in the following Mahatma Gandhi quote that is a postscript to her e-mails:

"Happiness is when what you think,
what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
—  Mahatma Gandhi

A Judith Anne Buchman Data Bank

High School
Eastwod High School
Wood Co, Ohio

Bowling Green University
Bowling Green, Ohio

Other Schools
Aquinas College
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Teacher that Influenced Judith Anne Buchman

Mrs Dart
taught me in the fourth grade to pay

attention to and to identify birds, which

may have been the beginning of the

naturist in me.

Mrs. Philo
taught me to teach in innovative
ways. One time she turned Herbie upside

down to help use understand conversions

when doing fractions.

Mary Kulhman

was a high school teacher

who taught a sexuality class at our church

when we were in college. It basically taught

us to listen, respect others' point of view,

and understand that we're a lot more

alive than different.

Judy Armbruster

(my first grade teacher's

daughter, who taught me in college) taught

me that I had some ability in art and

encouraged me.

Mike Williams,  Aquinas College:
When I was looking to study peacemaking,

he knew what I was talking about. And

although Aquinas didn't have a Peace

Studies Program, I was able to create

my own program in a way that mattered.

(I have gone back to Aquinas and been

teaching Creative Response to Conflict

for the last several years.)

Books that Influenced Judith Anne Buchman

Books by
Thich Nhat Hanh

Healing the Heart of Conflict
8 Crucial Steps to Making Peace with Yourself and Others

by Marc Gopin
I'm presently reading this book with other peacemaking
friends. We haven't gotten far beacuse we have
so much to share.

Make the Connection
Ten Steps to a Better Body - and a Better Life

by Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey
I know that's surprising, but it's my book
of the summer. I read it when on retreat
with Richa. Why I liked it -- it helped
someone like myself who is so busy
with daily life, put some structures on
myself that help me physically, but has
also helped spiritually. It has helped me
to get out of the hurried mania that can
take over in this world.

Riding the Dragon
by Robert Wicks
This has helped me look at caring for myself
while I work and give to others. I received it
as a present and wrote a dozen friends' names
inside to pass it on to. It's that kind of book.

Favorite Philosopher
Philosopher/Spiritual leader - Thich Nhat Hanh.
His words were the wisdom that I heard
after Sept. 11, the simple words of being
peace when the world around you can't
even think in those terms. And, of course,
his words are no simplistic answers; he
has lived that life amongst some of the
most difficult times.

Favorite Singers
You've probably realized by now that it's
hard for me to choose one of anything.

I like my friend Carol Johnson's songs a lot.
She has written many children's songs of
hope, compassion, and caring like
Love Grows One by One
A Little Bit of Light.

Red Grammar
Teaching Peace
I use it in almost every workshop I do.

Step by Step
They do political music out of Chicago.

Buffy St. Marie

Phil Ochs

Favorite Quotation
Two that come immediately to mind are by
Mohandas Gandhi:

"Be the change that you want to see in the world."

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say,
and what you do are in harmony."

Margaret Mead:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Whitehead (in Science of the Modern World)
"A clash of doctrines is not a disaster -
it is an opportunity."

Published Works
Judith Anne Buchman and Richa
wrote a chapter in
Downwardly Mobile
Ten Autobiographical Sketches:
Each a personal search for
Justice, Peace, and Eco-Sanity
Edited by
Dorothy N. Anderson
Tom Paine Institute
467 River Rd, Eugene, OR 97404

Judith Anne Buchman and Richa
wrote a chapter in
Publishers: Radiant Justice Group
Institute for Global Education
P. O. Box 68039, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-8039


New River Free Press International

Tell us about yourself.

What makes you who you are?

JB I'm a person who loves nature, people, and the simple things of life. I like to enjoy each day without lots of things or money. I love to read, ride bike, be creative, and have "invisible days" with my partner. Once a month we have a retreat weekend which means we stop the other part of our lives. Yesterday, we biked 20 miles to Allendale, home of GVSU (Grand Valley State University). There we got a dozen Chestnut trees to plant. We visited a friend and then came back in time to hear Michael Shuman, author of Going Local, sponsored by Local First. It was a powerful presentation most of which is going to be in his new book coming out in June.

Today, we planted the trees and dumped leaves, finished our book on tape, cooked. and I'm writing you on the e-mail.

How I see myself is as an educator, a neighbor, and a peacemaker. My spirituality is the center of my life. Although my spiritual home is with the Society of Friends (Quakers), I learn much from all faiths.

I believe I became this person like most of us from my family's influence. We lived on a farm in northwest Ohio. We learned the value of having little, working hard, but being with extended family having fun. I never knew we were poor, we never thought in those terms.

I learned to be thrifty and use everything. We raised our own food, canned, and had little waste. What we didn't eat, such as bones, the dogs got. We made clothes from the feedbags that the animal feed came in. (They were actually pretty little prints in those days.)

I remember a time when my cousin gave me a nice blue, wool dress that she no longer wanted. It became my dress, then my skirt, then a pair of shorts.

I remember another time that I had a special event. Mom said, "Now we are going to buy a dress." But, when we found a pretty dress that I liked, we both looked at each other and knew that we wouldn't buy it. So we got a remnant of material for $.99, we had zippers and lace at home. Mom cut it out and I sewed it that afternoon, we had the same dress that we both liked better than the one we saw in the store.

This attitude and sense of enjoyment with making use of what is available and not wasting has carried with me throughout my life.

I also was raised to cooperate and make peace — big families and extended families have a way of doing this by necessity. The values from my religious upbringing led me to question what was happening in our world.

My first experience being away was working at a summer camp where I met up with counselors who were conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War. This was all new to me, but made sense as a result of what I was taught at home.

This whole experience of living your faith had a profound effect upon my future life.

It was one step away from me making a major decision in my life — not to pay for war. This decision affected me for the rest of my life. If I wasn't going to pay for war, then — how was I to do that.?

My choice was to live below the taxable income so that I wouldn't pay taxes. This also led to an equally important decision of trying to live more compatibly with the rest of the world. (Of course, I soon learned that most of us living within the US live way beyond the means of people in most other other countries.)

This led me to living in community with others and to working part time in jobs that had meaning to me while using my spare time to do needed work that doesn't pay. I've done many things over the years, but they always seem to involve teaching, advocating, and/or peacemaking.

My teaching involved working in a small alternative school. This school gave me a tremendous amounts of freedom to create curriculum teaching peacemaking and justice through fun, interactive activities.

It has also led to more unconventional ways by living in community with others. I've lived in several different types of communities, but the one that I have been in for the last 10 years is Well House Homeless Shelter. This is a non-profit started by a good friend. This includes a lot of social work as well, but because we live in community as well as providing housing for short term emergencies, we are constantly teaching.

I've worked with the Institute for Global Education and the American Friends Service Committee in Western Michigan before that conducting workshops such as: "Peace Education for Parents"; "Creative Response to Conflict", a local branch of the national organization in Nyack, NY; "Circles of Peace" from the national FAVAN (Families Against Violence Advocacy Network) out of the Peace and Justice Institute in St. Louis, MO


New River Free Press International

What was your vision of

society that brought you to

the work you do?

JB My vision is one where there is enough for all. We can live compatibly with nature and each other. We can solve our problems through listening and appreciating points of view different from our own.

When we look back upon this time, we will acclaim, “How barbaric that people solved their problems through violence and hurting each other!” My vision is of a future society in which people can't even imagine wars, hunger, homelessness, etc.

In Grand Rapids as in many cities around the country we are working on a Vision to End Homelessness ( It's a ten year plan that we are three years into. Already people are thinking in new ways, looking at our systems differently.

Sometimes asking a question such as “What can we do to end homelessness?” is enough to start the change process. Then, each of us examines our own roles and what we can change in our own sphere. Well House would be a good example for me. At the same time, carrying this question into the entire community.

The focus here is that people would all see that housing first is a right!


New River Free Press International

What do you think we

should remember as we remake

the world through the work we do?

JB Remember to live the life that we envision (that's the gist of the quote from Gandhi that I like so much). For example if we are working so hard for peace and justice, but don't take time to care for ourselves or our loved ones, how will we be filled with peace?

This is hard for most of us who are so committed; I've had to build structures that help set aside time for me. An "invisible day" with my partner and a retreat once a month when I don't do any Well House work. That gives me time to read, play, be in nature and reflect.

The world that we make should be filled with kindness, laughter, and good will. We need to deal with serious issues, but never take ourselves too seriously.


New River Free Press International

Has your vision changed

as you have participated

in the remaking of the world?

JB Yes, I take a lot more time for myself these days. It also helps to have my grandniece two miles away. She's just over a year old and helps me to focus on the here and now, the beauty of discovery, the simple things in life.

"Let the little children lead us." is another quote worth remembering.


New River Free Press International

What challenges do you

perceive in achieving your

vision of society?

JB We need to feel secure in who we are. That sense of self worth needs to be deep inside of us so that we aren't tempted by commercialism and power. Sometimes power is more alluring than money even.

When we get into leadership we need to be very conscientious of the power we have. This is a big responsibility.


New River Free Press International

What needs to be done

to overcome these challenges?

JB Build our spiritual beings, live humbly, and constantly pray without ceasing, for yourself as well for as understanding others.


New River Free Press International

What pointers would you

give young people of the 9/11

generation as they work in

public service assignments?

JB That some times people respond in unpleasant, even violent ways when they feel hopelessness. We need to build a society where there is respect as well as basic needs met.

If we misuse power over others, we will never be free.


New River Free Press International

What personal lessons have

you learned from the post-Hurricane

Katrina tragedies in New Orleans?

JB Well, my first reaction was - "well, I can't blame this on our administration!" But, I was wrong. The more I learned about US policies, misplaced priorities on militarism and war, the more I realized that this is a natural outcome when we don't plan and listen to those who are studying and aware of the potential dangers.

Also, we can't keep taking advantage of Mother Nature and not have repercussions.


New River Free Press International

What personal and public lessons have

you learned from the devastation caused

by the Asian Tsunami and the

South Asian Earthquake?

JB Personally, I knew a woman that I met from Sri Lanka when she went to college here in Grand Rapids. She was doing a lot of peace work in Sri Lanka. I had tremendous respect for her and what she was doing.

Whenever you have a face that goes with an area, you respond more. You hear personal stories of the destruction. You see the wonderful pulling together from different parties that made a difference.

If we can put a face on every disaster and know them as our friends, we can make tremendous connections that can make a difference.

Judi Buchman’s Choice Of Websites To Visit

Over A Cup Of Fair Trade Tea
Well House
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Excerpt from their website:

“Well House has offered temporary emergency shelter to women and families since 1978. Its namesake in 10th century Scotland was run by a religious order providing "protection and refuge" for pilgrims to the holy lands. Still today, our resident's stay is a time to rest and to set directions. Over 5,000 people have been assisted over the last 27 years.

“The original Well House "house" was built in 1879 and stands in the inner city at the South-East corner of Cass and Pleasant. Since our humble beginnings, we have added two more houses to our Well House "Home". One of these houses is across the street on the South-West corner of Cass and Pleasant while the other house is just south and next door to the original house. The third house was purchased from the City of Grand Rapids who donated the money they would have spent demolishing the house at it's old location, toward helping us move it to it's present location. This third home was then renovated with the generous donations of our friends. The maximum capacity of Well House is 25 guests. We also have a new 20 x 20 multi-use facility where our pottery facility is located.

“We are non-profit 401(c)(3) corporation. The way we receive our residents is through the Salvation Army Homeless Assistance Program. The expectation at Well House is that residents are serious about getting their life together. The household is structured informally with cleaning and cooking shared between the residents. Much of Well House's existence is dependant on charitable contributions. Contributions come not only in dollars, but also as volunteer services and in-kind donations.”

Grand Rapids/Kent County Homeless

Grand Rapids Area Housing Continuum of Care

Excerpt from their website:

“The Housing Continuum of Care (HCOC) is a planning body that aims to prevent and end homelessness by coordinating our community’s resources and services for homeless and precariously-housed families and individuals.

“The HCOC conducts several planning activities, including bimonthly meetings of its membership, monthly subcommittee meetings, two major annual funding processes, and other planning events.

“The Vision to End Homelessness: We can end homelessness in Kent County by the end of 2014!”

Institute for Global Education

(Includes: Peace Festival, Radiant Justice, etc)

Excerpt from their website:

“IGE supports the non-violent resolution of conflicts and the pursuit of justice as the best way to achieve true, lasting peace through conscientious individual and group education and action.

“We call for accountability of officials in our own and other countries when their actions work against peace.

“We are a meeting place for community groups that share our concerns about human rights and education for multicultural and religious awareness.

“OUR ACTIVITIES: Established in 1980, IGE presents programs for the public on current issues that increase our understanding and allow for discussion on controversial subjects. We examine the concepts of environmental awareness, global economics, media literacy, sexism, racism, militarism, and class-ism. We encourage action on global and local responsibility. IGE promotes peaceful conflict resolution through training, workshops with youth and adults, and ongoing community discussion. IGE publishes Equity, a quarterly publication that focuses on the experiences and informed opinions of our membership on world affairs.”


Excerpt from their website:

“What is Friends General Conference?
Friends Serving Friends!”

Topics at their website, include: Welcome to Quakerism, Summer Gathering, Find a Quaker Meeting, Friends General Conference Quaker Library, Friends General Connections.

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Excerpts from their website:

“We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored.”

“The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is the largest peace lobby in Washington, DC. Founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), FCNL staff and volunteers work with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from many different races, religions, and cultures to advocate social and economic justice, peace, and good government. Our mission statement gives an overview of our vision for our work.

“FCNL is also the oldest registered, ecumenical lobby in Washington, DC.”

Creative Response to Conflict, Inc.

Excerpt from their website:

“Creative Response to Conflict, Inc. (CRC) empowers children and adults by teaching them the skills to find nonviolent, creative solutions to conflict and bullying. CRC seeks to reduce violence in our homes, schools and communities by offering workshops in cooperation, communication, affirmation, bias awareness, bullying prevention, mediation, and creative problem solving.”

Circle of Peace/FAVAN
(Families Against Violence Advocacy Network)

Excerpt from their website:

“In 1996, the Institute for Peace and Justice’s Parenting for Peace and Justice Network (PPJN) and the PPJN Advisory Board convened a gathering of US and Canadian leaders to explore how to respond to the escalating violence in families, communities, and our world. From this gathering emerged the Families Against Violence Advocacy Network (FAVAN) and the Pledge of Nonviolence as the primary tool for educating and organizing families and communities to challenge violence at all levels and to live more nonviolently. FAVAN is a broadly based network of organizations, families and individuals committed to violence prevention and the promotion of alternatives to violence in our families, schools, faith communities, youth groups, colleges, workplaces and prisons.”

Institute for Peace and Justice

Excerpt from their website:

“From its beginning in 1970, IPJ’s advocacy priorities focused on alternatives to war and violence and on racial and economic justice. With the development of the Families Against Violence Advocacy Network (FAVAN), IPJ’s advocacy priorities expanded to include gun violence, violence in the media, violence in schools, domestic violence, and hate violence. See “Five Steps to Break the Cycle of Violence” for specific suggestions. Since September 11, 2001, IPJ’s advocacy efforts have focused extensively on alternatives to war and violence in the face of terrorism, as well as on specific legislative actions to counteract the cutting of social programs to pay for US military expansion. How to respond concretely to Dr. King’s “giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism” has been the advocacy focus of IPJ’s “Circles of Peace, Circles of Justice Newsletter in 2003-2004.”

A Blessing in Disguise

I was shocked when I read on the internet in 2005 that the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, had possessed for non-payment of taxes the home that Peacemakers Judi Buchman and Richa and several other adults lived in.

I was saddened that they were no longer in this house, once vacant and destined for the wreckers’ ball, that Don Heinzelman and they had saved and rehabilitated with love, spirit, and elbow grease back in the 1970s.

I remembered how great an inspiration their success was to the folks who worked on starting Grand Rapids’ urban homesteading program.

How could this have happened? At the heart of the answer to this question are Judi's and Richa's spiritual beliefs about peace and justice.

Here’s an excerpt from Judi’s and Richa’s story, in their own words, about Getting to the Roots, reprinted with their permission. It was originally published in 2004 in a revolutionary book of stories of people remaking Grand Rapids. ——Michael Chacko Daniels

Excerpt from a Chapter in:
Stories of people in the Grand Rapids
area who live and work for justice

January 2004

Getting to the Roots

by Judi Buchman and Richa

We were both drawn in to peacemaking in response to a horrible war (yes, all wars are horrible). We saw loved ones, young men from around the country leave to kill others in a distant land. Recognizing that our government was responsible for these tragedies was a rude awakening to us. Richa spent two years in prison for refusing to have anything to do with that war; Judi supported others who refused to participate. We both spoke out, demonstrated, organized, eventually with millions of other people. All of us working together finally did put an end to it.

Part of our peacemaking was refusal to pay federal taxes that would have gone for warmaking, and re-directing that money to life-supporting activities. That forced us to simplify our lives, because we could not earn very much money without being dishonest, which for us was never an option. That meant, among other things, several adults living together in a household, sharing a car or not owning one at all, and consuming less.

But all that turned out to be exactly the right thing for us – a blessing in disguise! We learned more and more about the political/economic system we were born into and were taught was the world’s leading participatory democracy. It does have its good side, but it also contributes heavily to oppression of others and damage to the earth. Our simplification also freed us from working at jobs we didn’t like in order to make a lot of money – jobs that too often also contributed to the destructiveness – and gave us more time to devote to making our world a better place as well as for simply enjoying ourselves.

We’ve seen our earth being plundered. Why was this allowed to happen? We’ve seen suffering locally and around the country, and have heard or read about it in other countries. We’ve learned about our government’s role in so much of this. We’ve had to ask: Why?

When Judi was due for a sabbatical year from teaching, our plan was to go to Mexico to work with a rehabilitation center that we thought could use Richa’s skills at putting things together out of whatever materials were available. But we realized that they already had people with such skills, and many other people we listened to or read about from other countries urged us to make changes here in the US as the best way to give them a chance at a decent life.

After much discussion, study, and prayer, we decided to redirect city and county taxes on our home as a challenge locally to that systemic injustice. Instead of paying that money to City and County government, we gave it to organizations locally and elsewhere that worked for justice. Since our home was in many ways the center of our lives, as well as our major material asset, this was a big risk. Yet it seemed fitting, given our frustration in trying to make progress in other ways, and seeing our nation gradually resume its warmaking and other oppression throughout the world.

We argued that this action was justified due to the extreme needs that were not being addressed otherwise. It was a cry for the people suffering and against the madness of a system that masquerades as democracy and “the free market”.

We further argued that we were meeting our obligation to the community by providing a safe, supportive shelter for homeless people.[1] But local officials did not accept our tax re-direction, and ended up taking our home from us. We did not resist when it came time to evict us, as the house went to a family in need via an “urban homesteading’ program.

Judi moved to a homeless shelter right down the street. That shelter, Well House, had been started years before by a friend, Marian Clements, who had bought the house that became the nucleus of Well House while living with us. Marian had a heart that wouldn’t quit. She knew first hand being a person who dealt with mental health issues. She let us know what it was like to have a mental breakdown – the positive and the negative. With this knowledge we were able to give her the support she needed while living with us, so that she didn’t need to be hospitalized. That was the last time she had a breakdown. This inspired her to want to start her own place for others.

As mentioned, during the 20 years we had our home we shared it with others, taking in people needing shelter, often without charge because they were unable to pay. Richa had done the main work with our “hospitality guests”, with Judi providing periodic support. At Well House that reversed. Judi, with help from Richa and many others, continues the work that Marian did for many years until her death from breast cancer in 1997. While hospitality work at our home was sometimes intense, it is consistently intense at Well House.

Living at Well House is full of many different experiences. You definitely have to be a people person, have lots of energy and like to do a variety of different types of work. Luckily the above is a good job description for Judi. It’s never boring! Judi has learned about boundaries, “tough love” and still being able to build relationships with people she’d probably never have had a chance to meet in other settings. She continuously challenges residents to be all they can be, often pushing them beyond what they think they can do. At the same time we both feel we can be a voice to share the stories and help to change a system that keeps making more people homeless. Challenging systemic inequalities also gives us the credibility to look people in the eye and challenge them to do whatever is within their own power. . . .

[Excerpt reprinted through the courtesy of Judi Buchman and Richa.]

Read More In:
Stories of people in the Grand Rapids
area who live and work for justice

January 2004
Published by Radiant Justice Implementation Group
under the auspices of
Institute for Global Education
P. O. Box 68039
Grand Rapids, MI, 49516
Hard unbound copies $2 if picked up directly
By postal mail: 1-3 copies: $4 each, 4-10: $3.50 each, 11-24: $3 each, 25 or more: $2.50 each
Add $1 per copy for bound copies (plastic comb, covers with card stock)

Available online at:

Checks are tax deductible. Make out to: Institute for Global Education

About the Editor: San Franciscan Michael Chacko Daniels, formerly a community worker and clown, and now a re-emerging writer and editor, grew up in Bombay. Books: Writers Workshop, Kolkata: Split in Two (1971, 2004), Anything Out of Place Is Dirt (1971, 2004), and That Damn Romantic Fool (1972, 2005). Read all about his Indian and American journey at He helped found the Jobs for Homeless Consortium in 1988 and was its executive director from 1995 till its closing in 2004.

All views expressed in the interview are those of the interviewee

and not those of the editor or this website.

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