July is a month when things slow down (at least in theory!), kids are on vacation, and families may choose to spend time together traveling. I know I’m going to be on the road, traveling to Quaker gatherings and enjoying some time with my teenage son, Matthew, who will accompany me to the Friends General Conference Gathering. On our trip home we will begin the summer odyssey of visiting potential college campuses. Perhaps because the summer often becomes a focal point for family time and more leisurely interactions with the young people in my life, I’m pleased that this summer issue highlights youth and families in a number of ways.
Harold Confer, in "A Lesson from the Ashes" (p. 6), tells the remarkable and inspiring story of Justin Moffett, a Quaker youth from Westfield, Indiana. At age 16 Justin felt led to organize a disaster response organization to rebuild Salem Baptist Church, a burned church in Humboldt, Tennessee, along with members of that congregation. The result of his caring and willingness to become directly involved with a real human need during one whole summer led to a brand new building and a revitalized religious community that found a new ministry for itself.
In "A Phone Call from Santa Fe" (p. 8), Arthur Harris recounts his mentoring relationship as an empty-nest father with a lonely ten-year-old neighbor boy during the after-school hours throughout a school year in rural Vermont. A dozen years later, his young friend looked him up and gave him cause for reflection on the gifts of being present to others.
Judy and Denis Nicholson Asselin share wonderful practical wisdom on parenting in "Simple Riches: Reflections on the Work of the Quaker Parent" (p. 13). I’m grateful for their exploration of elements they experience as key to Quaker parenting: "living simply, loving unconditionally, and having faith in the ongoing revelation of our divine potential." Their insights about the evolving nature of parenting, and the inevitable encounters with the imperfections of our children and ourselves, are encouraging along with their welcome reflections on how we can grow together, both as parents and as children. At one point, Judy uses a gardening metaphor to describe the experience of parenting, suggesting that everything needed to become a mature plant is already present in the seed, but how much and what kind of tending it gets will determine how well the plant will grow and how fruitful it will become.
These articles, taken together, cause me to reflect that we can never know the ultimate outcome of our acts of caring and kindness. When Justin Moffett was led to gather a group to help rebuild a church in Tennessee, I doubt he had any idea that this work would inspire the recipients of his caring to create a ministry to rebuild other burned churches. Nor, I imagine, did Arthur Harris suppose that the little boy who sipped hot chocolate in his kitchen after school might one day look him up from a college in the Southwest, nor can he know what the impact of his kindly interest so many years ago might one day be on this young man. Our acts of kindness and good will have the potential to flow far beyond our original intentions, and there’s something profoundly humbling and miraculous about this. In a world that is sorely troubled by acts of violence and hatred, its’s good to remember that quiet, everyday goodness has a ripple effect.