REHOBOTH MILLS: Being sensitive to needs of others around me who may be in less fortunate circumstances is a weakness on my part. It is too easy to let a hardness come over my heart and a blindness over my eyes, especially in a big city like Rehoboth, where there is so much poverty and hardship it can break your heart. Yes, and much of it along racial lines. And much abuse of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and violence, too. Charity is not the same as the more tender, personal sharing that arises in communion and obedience. When we are in close fellowship – in Christian community one with another – we may more closely share the burdens of others. But I find myself pretty much isolated here, and community is thin; in this apartment complex, the neighbors keep to themselves. I see that I am answering this along the lines of material circumstances. Yet sensitivity to the spiritual needs may be even greater. Many who are materially comfortable are troubled in spirit and require our prayerful support and our words of spiritual encouragement. I have deep gratitude to Ohio Friends who anonymously prayed for me through the dark hours of my separation and divorce. Seeing another Friend whose actions in life give grounds for concern but knowing my counsel would be most unwelcome has been a great difficulty. Prayer has been the only opportunity I have seen there. The pain can be very great, but we know that a suffering love is one aspect of Christ’s concern for each of us. I am finding the many hours of driving I do in my current job often can be a good time for holding others up in prayer.

JANE’S FALLS: Being more sensitive to the needs around us is one thing. Here in New Hampshire, the state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, I see many homeless people; and in Rehoboth, I often found myself driving through neighborhoods that would break your heart, the poverty and suffering were so apparent. But what is the appropriate response? The natural response is to look away or walk right past. Giving a wino a dollar won’t help anything for long. I feel a hesitancy to contribute to secular organizations, including the United Way, because I feel that very little of the money actually gets down to the level where it’s needed and because I’m sensing that giving only physical help without feeding the spirit as well is irresponsible. I am much more comfortable with some of the Friends and Mennonite service programs, or the Brethren’s Heifer Project (which is something Winona Meeting might want to consider assisting), although I am feeling less and less unity with AFSC as it moves further from acknowledging Christ in its mission, at least as I’ve seen it in these parts.Sharing the burdens and counsel is one of the joys of membership in a meeting of believers.

I need to be open to a more open and useful service, in both time and money, than I have been.

WILLOW BROOK: My wife sees ways to respond more than I do. A major concern has been the local charter high school, where she’s served as a board member and its chairman.

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.

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