New Beginnings and Gratitude

Every New Year arrives with its promise of things to come, fresh starts, new opportunities. In reality, we are always standing in that place, yet somehow we choose threshold times to remind ourselves that it’s time to start over. As I write this, snow is falling outside my window and the tree branches there are bare. Yet the woodpecker who searches for his sustenance on that tree knows that there is life beneath the surface, that things are not exactly as they appear to be. So often, I find myself making that same observation—that so much of what transpires in this world is invisible to the naked eye, not easily observed regardless, but has its own place in the mystery of being nevertheless.

Two articles in this issue discuss thresholds for their authors. In "Clearness Committees at the Crossroads of Our Working Lives" (p.6), William Charland discusses the way that an unexpected clearness process opened him up to a new path as a writer—a gift of way opening, when he thought he was seeking something else. Robert Neuhauser tells us in "Quaker Peacemaking Put to the Test" (p.12) about an encounter with an angry gunman that required him to act upon his values to find a way to defuse a difficult situation, taking him from theory into direct action. Behind each of these stories, for me, there is the Great Mystery—the amazing way that we are given what we need at the time we most need it. Way opens.

One of the immense blessings of working for Quaker organizations, I’ve found, is to be privileged to see way opening in regard to our work. This happens in so many contexts, it would be impossible to cite them all. But a recent example may serve: Associate Editor Becca Howe experienced a sudden health crisis this past August. It became clear that she would need to take extended time away from her job, leaving a substantial gap in our editorial workforce. We posted a notice on an Internet website, searching for temporary editorial help—and former Associate Editor Melissa Elliott appeared, able to fill the gap beautifully. She’d gone to the Internet site looking for work, knowing nothing of our opening. You can see both of them on the facing page in our holiday greeting to our readers. We experience small miracles regularly.

Actually, the Journal itself is a miracle each month. With the abundant flow of manuscripts offered to us, and the hard work of 13 regular volunteers and numerous interns, and the dedication of our 13 staff—7 of whom are only part-time, we manage to publish this magazine and do the marketing, ad sales, and fundraising needed to keep it solvent. Today I chatted with a former staff person from another religious periodical, one of 40 years duration and recipient of many awards, which went out of business a few years ago. I reflect on our comparative circumstances and the remarkable way Friends pull together to keep this important vehicle of communication alive and strong—and I’m amazed, and grateful.

While on the topic of gratitude and new beginnings, I encourage you to have a look at our redesigned website at Web Manager Peter Deitz has put countless hours into creating an interactive new design for us, one that will permit you to post comments on articles on the site, e-mail them to friends, or search through our Indexes all the way back to 1955. Have a look and send us your comments about the site. We look forward to experiencing this new vehicle of interactive communication with you.