I am probably the most un-Quaker-ly person you will ever meet.  I am loud, you know when I am in a room, and I am at many times filled with fight and avarice.  I am always thinking, always planning, rarely stopping either my body or my brain.  I am always hatching a new plan.  Quiet and silence is a struggle for me.  As I plow through my life like a bull in china shop, I throw things at problems like flaming arrows, often making them into catastrophes.  Then, I run bloody murder from the destruction.

It is exactly because of this that I know that I am called to the Society of Friends.  This girl needs silent worship, a simplified life, a view that G-d is in all….a path and a way that opens to the Divine instead of calling it down with demands and force.  Most of all, I need a testimony of Peace.

To be honest, it is the Peace testimony that causes me the most inner friction of anything I have come across in Quakerism.  I have avoided it entirely…never going to a peace vigil, never holding a sign about torture, never even signing a petition about torture.  I don’t know if I have ever even used the word with my children.

After much inner searching as to what could possibly be my problem…I have come to this analysis:

I was raised in a very liberal and secular family in inner city DC, where “activism” was fed to me in a bottle.  Anyone raised in DC as I was (and I’m not talking Bethesda or Arlington y’all) will be able to relate to this.  Most of us Hill-Billies (as we called ourselves, growing up on Capitol Hill) grew up with passion for activism and hatred of injustice as our main functioning emotions and drives in life.  Through facebook (yes, the evil FB!) I can rattle off the types of jobs and lives that my peers have now so you can see what I mean….Female Episcopalian Priest in South Africa, Public Defender, ACLU lawyer, CDC administrator, Obama campaign worker, creators of alternative education charter schools in the inner-city, volunteers for social change through rap foundations for inner-city teens, artists galore….you get my drift.  We were raised to bring “change” and to go to where people needed help the most and fight for them.  We were raised almost as an army of “change-makers”, whether through law, art, religion or education.  We were the ones against guns of any kind, for any reason, against war or injustice in all of its forms.

I remember crying at nights over the idea of children not being able to go to school, about weapons being built and used, about racial injustice and children without enough food to eat.  I staged a sit-in at my middle school because we had had no less than three english teachers in one year, and I felt that we deserved a better education, and that they should ensure that we had a proper teacher in our classroom.  (I quickly went back to class after threat of suspension..but the thought was there).  I secretly “sponsored” a child in Africa with my allowance money.  I hosted a bake sale when I was 8 to raise money for a new library at my inner-city elementary school.

I was one of only a few white kids at my school, my mother having sent me to a school that was “reverse integrating”, trying to bring two school districts together, one with a majority of middle class white families and another with mostly lower-class African American families.  Most of the white families took their children out of the school when this merger happened, but not my parents.  They lauded the fact that I was in the minority, as most little white children never have such an experience.

Here’s the end of it…..at this school, I was harassed, jumped and constantly tortured for being white.  I was told I was the cause of slavery, that I talked funny, that I dressed funny…I was called “honky”, told I smelled, had huge groups of children shun me and refuse to talk to me because of my race.  I was cornered, punched in the face, pushed in the halls, had my lunch spilled to the floor.  All the while, teachers and administrators turned their eyes away from this, and never once allowed me to believe that I was a victim of racism.  Instead, it became about me not trying hard enough to fit in and make friends.  Well, I was so scared every moment of every day that I suppose this might have been true.  So, I guess I really did have the quintessential minority experience, as it were.

These years that I had in a “war-zone” sowed into me a hair trigger response to any sort of “fight” or “battle” of any form.  I wanted nothing to do with “social justice”.  Sure, I wanted everyone to be equal, and I wanted everyone to have liberty and freedom…but most of all, I didn’t want to have to think about it at all.  The following years, in high school, college, then my first years on my own were spent in desperate searching for PEACE.

I looked for it in religion, preferring expressions that told me I was “inherently evil” and needed to completely reject who I was.  I looked for it in embracing war, completely duped by George W Bush, and the neo-con movement  into thinking that if we were powerful and “right” that this was the answer for peace, not only on a national level, but a personal one as well.  (sorry, didn’t go back to my liberal roots, though…much more a libertarian now..still to the chagrin of my family)  I tried to find peace in a bottle, drinking and partying…thinking myself funny and clever at how many scrapes I could avoid and how absurd I could act.  I thought if I just got married, just had kids, just had the right house, just knew the WHOLE TRUTH about anything and everything…that I would finally acheive this elusive PEACE that everyone was talking about.

Peace to me has been about my own heart, my own spirit and my own life.  I can’t even look at social injustice…not even someone throwing litter on the ground….without throwing at it every ounce of strife and anger that I carry in my heart.  This is why, when first walking into a Friends Meetinghouse, and heard all of the focus on social justice and the like, I became torn up inside.  As it was being spoken about, I would just close up and think, “wah, wah, wah, wah…..(ie Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice) okay when are we going to talk simplicity and integrity?”  Yes, I could sit in silence and focus on so many things…but not Peace on any level.  It was just too painful, because I didn’t know what it was.

I recently went to a Meeting where they were going to have a discussion about what might bring more “young folks” into the fold.  I wasn’t invited to this discussion, but I immediately thought of this conundrum.  I wonder if a restless heart that does not know peace is universal to my generation.  This generation with constant stimulation and never stopping to breathe, being fed “reality” by things that are not real at all has a systemically war-torn spirit.  If I was in that room, I would tell them that social justice and Peace on a global level is an amazing thing to talk about, work for, and hope for.  However, I know that at least in my case…until there is Peace in my soul, in my life and in my Self…all I have to “affect change” in the global arena is fight and angst.

I am learning to sit.  I am learning to stop.  I am learning to see Peace not as an agenda, but a birthright given to me by my Loving Creator.  As I open to it, and give it space to reside in my heart, I am able to share it willingly (even without knowing that I am!).  As I sow Peace in my own life, and into my home and my family, I am affecting a change that could never accomplished holding a sign in anger.  The Society of Friends holds an amazing gift for me personally, but also for my generation…a Peace Testimony that begins in the individual, which can then be taken to the world.

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