At my house, we’re coming to the end of a long season of college application essays and other tasks related to my younger son’s approaching departure from home this fall. For one of these essays, Matthew, an artist, wrote, “I find myself as an artist wanting to make political and social statements. I want people to look at my artwork and think about it.… As I am Quaker, I am strongly opposed to violence and war. Consequently, the main focus of my most recent artwork has been America’s role in terrorism and warfare.… I have chosen, as a protest, to create pieces that will point out the flaws, hypocrisy, and evils of the American war machine.” I’m pleased that Matt is prepared to put his Quaker values right up front in presenting himself, and I’m intrigued by his protest through his art. During the past 18 months I’ve been moved by the vivid concern expressed by many young people as they rise to the challenges before us with creativity and fresh insight.
In “Visit to Vietnam” (p. 8), Brynne Howard, a freshman at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and member of Des Moines Valley (Iowa) Meeting, writes beautifully about her insights into the havoc and destruction that war wreaks upon all who participate in it—and about the power of love to overcome its bitter vestiges. Elizabeth Markham, a senior at Haverford College and recent Friends Journal intern, explores “A Different Kind of Force” (p. 23) in her analysis of a presentation on a global nonviolent peace force. “This type of work intrigues me because it is filled with hope,” she writes, “It does not leave people defenseless, but instead gives them something to satisfy the need to feel protected that was formerly fulfilled through violence.” We are very glad that several recent issues have carried articles by other young writers and we look forward to publishing more material from and about young Friends in the months ahead.
Glancing at the lineup of articles on the facing page, I’m struck by the recurring theme of love and grace that runs through most of them. Whether the subject is about a difficult relationship or providing support and nurture to elderly or infirm members of our meetings, graciousness, compassion, and a spirit of loving care for others is a cornerstone of each. “Forgiveness has released me to be a conduit of love,” writes Kat Griffith in “Forgiveness” (p. 13). “I feel it flow through me from a source beyond me,” she continues, “bigger and deeper than any love that could originate in me.” As we live forward into these uncertain times, there is perhaps nothing more important we can do than to strive to make our lives instruments of love towards others. Brynne Howard (p. 9) observes, “Standing in a small village called Nam Ding, the hatred and history of our two countries didn’t matter. We were experiencing something more important, a method for overcoming conflict: love.” As we Friends struggle with our nation’s rush to war, it’s worth reflecting at every turn in the road on what love would have us do and letting that be our guide.