Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quakerism! $@&#* Yeah!

From the time I could walk, allllll the way through 12th grade, I attended Quaker school. Like any kid growing up, I expressed my share of gripes about teachers, classes, peers, school rules, etc, but ultimately, when I reflect on attending the school that I did, I feel immense gratitude.
How nice. End of story? Nope. Why am I writing about it? It's a tough world out there these days, and I think we could all use a gentle dose of Quaker values. Some of the values that were routinely stressed in learning about Quakerism are those that I think many people overlook in day to day actions and interactions. They were stressed for a reason, dang it. Quakers were - and are still - smart! Below are a few values that at a young age, I was beginning to understand (though I probably couldn't articulate them very well) as being central to positive interactions and experiences.

Patience. Gratitude. Equality. Open-mindedness. Acceptance. Peace. Understanding. Tolerance. Sharing. Simplicity. Truth.

These values are still core to a functioning atmosphere, small or large-scale, but they are too often forgotten in the midst of anger, selfishness, politics, hurt, loss, etc... Each is simple, and simply achieved given the right mindset. How do we get there? Open our hearts and our eyes and be more aware. Really though, that's a good start.

Although my family only practiced Quakerism during the earlier years of my life, Meeting for Worship was built into the school-week, and was a time that I learned to cherish as I grew older. For those of you unfamiliar with Meeting for Worship, it is typically a 30-60 minute period where a body of people (usually Quakers, but not exclusively!) gather and sit in silence. If you are moved to speak, you rise from your seat and do so. You can say anything. Literally anything. You are expected to be respectful, obviously, but there are no topics that are considered off-limits. You may not directly address other members of the worship, nor may they directly address you, but if something someone speaks about, moves anther person to speak, they are more than welcome to respond so long as it is addressed generally.
In elementary school, kids would stand and say things like "I miss my goldfish Spaz, my cat ate him last week" or "I really liked recess today because we got to play dodgeball outside and my team was really really really cool and we won". As we got older, the nature of Meeting began to change. The depth of what was shared increased, along with relation to current events in the immediate school community and beyond. By the time I reached high school, it was fairly common for Meeting to turn into a discussion, maintaining a wonderfully respectful yet productive dynamic, regardless of whether the topic incited anger, pain, frustration, or confusion.
The importance of respect and open-mindedness are qualities that are often let go too easily. I see it, so I'm sure you've all seen it. It's sad and disheartening to witness instances of ignorance, disrespect, or mistreatment, and they happen literally all the time. I know that with enough like-minded people, we can begin help others realize the impact that a simple positive interaction can have. It starts with you! So what if that sounds cheesy?!

My apologies if it sounded like school up in here. I can't help it. Quaker values may have been drilled into me, but it was in an entirely peaceful fashion, and it was worth it. I haven't been to Meeting for Worship in a few years, so I won't suggest one Meeting House over another, but there are plenty in the Philadelphia area, and all are open to visitors. Check one, or three... out!

Finally, your homework: on your way from one place to another this week, smile at 3 different people. Don't be a creeper, just share your smile! It really, honestly can do wonders :)

1 comment:

  1. Bravissimo! That was a wonderful summary. Go Quakers!