It is the little things; let your life speak

When I was in high school I had to read a autobiography or biography for a class assignment. I talked with my grandmother a former librarian and general fount of wisdom. I wanted a woman with some spark and fire. She recommended that I read "The Long Loneliness" by Dorothy Day.

Dorothy Day has been one of my personal heroe's ever since. I am not big on idolizing people who are not real people in my life, but Dorothy is one of the few. Something about her search for community and a life which lived out one's convictions spoke to me. I was also taken up with her struggle to be a person of faith while surrounded by many who were doubters.

In college my spirituality was deepening and maturing. At one point I felt that the only way to live my convictions was to live in an intentional community. I lived in a Catholic Worker for awhile. It was a wonderful time filled with service and spirit. I was very close to dropping out of school and giving my life over to the work of the Catholic Worker communities. Something changed though and I have felt that my vioce is needed to change and persuade those with means and priviledge that we must change the social structures that oppress our humanity. For as we keep economic opportunity, health, education, and oppurtunity from any of our brothers and sisters we in turn our keeping our own humanity disadvantaged.

One of the most important things I have taken from Dorothy is that we don't know the effect our actions will have on another. Even the smallest action has the potential to dramatically affect another person. The true miracle of this is that we will never know how our interactions can alter another person. Few of us will ever know that 10 years down the road someone will be reminded of some small kindness and it will have made a positive impact somewhere. Conversely, negative behaviors carry at least as much impact--sometimes more. This idea is much like that of "letting your life speak." While letting your personal decisions reflect your moral character, at the heart of this Quakerly sentiment is that we are all children of god and deserve to be treated as such. It means let your words ring with kindness and truth. Let your life be a mindful and intentional one, but not at the expense of another. And do not judge those who do not live like you.

After college I spent some time in the same Catholic Worker community that I had lived previously. I remember being in the kitchen one day and reading the notes on the canisters of sugar. I was rather shocked that one note said something about the sugar being unbleached, raw, etc. The wording of the note was such that I was shocked because of the expression of middle class values. That everyone should eat certain foods and buy organic...but this was in a home of hospitality for the homeless. If a person cannot afford housing then they are just happy to eat. And organic foods and foods with a conscience are expensive. Until they are affordable one should not expect the poor to eat them. Nor should we assume that people want to eat crap, but if a pound of sugar costs less than two dollars and unbleached organic raw sugar costs 6 dollars...what do expect most of us to do? Just as my parents would go back off the grid in a heartbeat, if it wasn't so expensive to rewire the house and buy solar panels.

Now the difficulty with being faithful to making the most of all interactions and letting your life speak in big and small ways, is that it is easier said than done. I sometimes forget to let my words ring with kindness...truth is easier (but I tend to channel an angrier god than a god of love). Sometimes I take the elavator instead of the stairs. And I often judge others quickly and rarely change my mind...but again I point to Thomas Kelley, "begin where you are. We all stumble, but begin again."


Query #10

Are we concerned that man's increasing power over nature should not be used irresponsible but with reverence for life and with a sense of the splendor of God's continuing creation?
I'm concerned with the way that modern agriculture affects the earth and I don't feel I'm doing enough to counteract it, either with my power as a consumer or in any other way. I do feel the need to discuss environmentally sound agriculture with people when it comes up, hopefully in a way that allows for further though on all ends.

I feel pretty good about the transportational choices I make. Between car-sharing, public transportation and a whole lot of walking, I feel as though my regular transportation choices are very good for minimizing pollution.

I'm concerned about how to be more expressive of my support for green political causes. I do pay close attention to the issues and vote accordingly, but I'm not sure that I'm making any sort of an impact. But the query isn't asking what I'm doing or what kind of an impact I'm making on our collective human stewardship of the planet. It's just asking if I'm concerned about it. So the simple answer is yes.

Elizabeth Bathurst

P.S. You might want to check out this previous post about the queries.


My Glass Menagerie

I have come to realize that I collect people. Not in some freaky way, by putting them in a display case for my own amusement. Rather, this collection finds their way into my life: The friendless, misunderstood, lonely, drunk, up-standing, freaks, social outcasts, sinners, and saints. I have always had an odd asortment of friends.

This was most recently illustrated during the beginning of a new semester. In one particular class, there was one individual who seemed to be generally disliked by the majority of the class. I tried talking with my classmates one day explaining that this is my third class with the individual in question. I tried to explain that while most of what comes out of his mouth is phrased in such a way as to make the hairs on the back of your next stand on end, when you really listen to the essence of his statements--underneath the word choice, he isn't so far off. The looks I recieved told me they were not convinced.

The next class was worse. People seemingly ganged up on the poor guy. As I said he and I have had two prior classes together and have reached an understanding. So while I may challenge what he is saying, he knows it is not personal but more philosophical in nature. The third class rolled around, again having attempted to have my classmates look more at the content rather than the vocabulary...however, this class the individual moved to sit closer to me. I have found the more I talk to him one on one outside of class the better he is able to clearly direct his discussion points in class. While this has not eased tensions, it has made a difference in the class dynamics.

I was explaining this situation to a friend who is also in the course and is familiar with my struggles with this individual. I admitted that this is not the first person I have taken "under my wing" unethusiastically, but have made a lasting friendship with. She said, "Its because you are always looking for the light in a person. You always find their good qualities and bring them out."

I was a bit taken aback. She isn't a quaker, yet her observation was put in quaker terms. It made me think...that perhaps this is part of me. The caretaker, I see the darkened soul and want to make it shine again. And I guess its true because some of my "menagerie" is broken and that takes its toll on me. It is not that I have any illusions about this making me some kind of saint...I have no illusions of grandeaur when it come to myself.