SYCAMORE GROVE: My apartment is a sanctuary, a peaceful place of retreat and study. At times this has been difficult when neighbors have been drunken, rowdy, lewd, even drug-dealing – and finally causing me to move to safer environs. But without family, I find very little communal interaction with the rest of the neighborhood, much less the nation. Asking stoned neighbors to turn down the stereo – or having to call police in the middle of the night – turned into some difficult labor in the past year.
My only regular contact with children is through Meeting, but I have felt called more to be present and responsive in the hour of worship than to help out with the children’s First-day classes held at the same time.
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. – 2 Timothy 1: 5
AGAMENTICUS LANDING: The Friends responding to this set of queries all have school-age children at home, which means that this summary fits some, but not necessarily most, of our Meeting households.
The model presented in this set of queries, including worship as a daily family activity, initially appears foreign to the realities of modern American home life. “Well, ideally, theoretically,” is how we found ourselves reflecting on home as “a place of friendliness, refreshment, and peace, where God becomes more real to those who live there and to all who visit there.” We admit the calm and peace part are especially hard. We hope that people who come feel welcome; we are open to having others, though it may be wild when they get there.
Regular time of worship is missing, although silence before meals is common, appreciated, and often calming. So, too, are prayers before bed. We sense a need to do more than observe silent grace with our children. We need, for instance, to talk with them about prayer; voicing what we’re grateful for can be a good daily practice. We look also for other opportunities to explain the ways our faith and practice operate.
This set of queries reminds us of the importance of being mindful about our daily individual conduct so that our children will perceive in us loving, compassionate, and caring examples. As Waldorf teachers are instructed, we must make our actions worthy of imitation. We are reminded as well of the importance of upholding non-violence as we respond to inevitable daily conflicts. Living by the same rules and standards we expect from our children is truly difficult, yet to instill a knowledge of justice demands nothing less.
Too often we forget how children possess a surprising and unrecognized capacity for sitting in or participating in so-called adult activities.
Because Friends have laid down Plainness, there are no outward signs in our homes to announce “We’re Quaker.” How would visitors know? We think of Greek Orthodox or strictly observant Jewish neighbors whose houses present striking images of their faith: when you cross the doorstep, you know you are entering their world. We think, too, of the feel of an Amish household and farm. Is a clean, simple house what we require?
A practical side appears when we narrow down and focus our possessions and activities: with newly opened space comes clarity, too. As we reread the queries, we see that when there are discrete moments of peace in our families, we can substitute the word “love.” Recognizing our children for who they are, we seek to provide them with kindness and kind experiences that bring happiness and peace. For us, peace is not optional but essential.
Mutual consideration and adjustments in a family are not just between the couple, but among all members. As an entity, a marriage is indeed a sacred, loving, and permanent relationship that includes parents and children as well as the couple.
Unfortunately, at this time Meeting remains weak in its ability to respond to calls of family discord. We hope that organizational and operational strategies become available to address this reality.
WILLOW BROOK: I have much work to do rebuilding a loving relationship. Misunderstandings, miscommunication, self-delusion and the like have all left their wounds.
For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.