Forum, February 2016

Working one-on-one for change

As a public librarian in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia, I see how much one-on-one contact can impact children who might otherwise struggle (“Talk Less, Do More,” FJ Dec. 2015). Sometimes their parents are absent, sometimes overwhelmed, many times under-educated. The support of a welcoming teen or adult who listens and tries to provide whatever assistance that child needs can turn a child around. Public schools with classes of 25 or 30 students cannot provide individualized instruction or mentoring, and many families are not well equipped to do so.

We need to weave social fabric from one neighborhood to another. Adopt a program, a library, a group of children or adults. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find reading tutoring for adults? If you feed the parent, you feed the child. It follows. Teach chess, teach sewing or gardening. Whatever your skill set is, share it.

Marsha Stender
Philadelphia, Pa.

J. Jondhi, do you have some favorite examples of “creative projects that will actually change the way hundreds of families within a 20-block area think and live”?

I ask because I struggle to find good examples of projects that provide transforming access to resources and opportunities in a sustainable manner on a large scale like a 20-block area. Having good examples would be helpful to me personally and in terms of considering the merits of various proposals that get floated for different Richmond neighborhoods.

Laura Goren
Richmond, Va.

The author replies:

There are so many small things that can be done that have a wonderful and long-lasting impact. The tutoring of children is foremost among them. When you take a few hours out of your week and devote it to shaping the mind of a child, you have no idea how profound an impact that can have. It is hard to know what is going on inside the mind and life of a child, and often they don’t or won’t say. But love, time, and attention cause children to blossom and reach out toward their potential. The John B. Kelly School in Philadelphia, a school in your neighborhood, an after-school program—all are places in need of kind and considerate efforts and the time of volunteers.

Teaching a child to read, teaching a child to think, opening their minds to the greater world around themselves is a thrilling job. Volunteer, you may love it!

J. Jondhi Harrell
Philadelphia, Pa.


What about poverty?

This issue on poverty looks good in many ways, but it’s mostly about justice—and not “economic justice” (FJ Dec. 2015). I would not take out anything, but I would rename it, and then plan one on poverty: How do we work on more than soup kitchens and programs that only help at certain times, giving shelter and food?

It will mean commitment to reducing the military budget. It will mean getting involved in neighborhood advocacy for treatment of mental illness, family failures, foster care: in effect working to mend the very broken educational and social institutions in our midst.

Yes, I am grateful for the focus on talking less, doing more; in ‘outing’ the shame of our prison system; in all the articles shared. And I am sure you’ll come up with a good one on poverty and how we can change it.

Joan Broadfield
Chester, Pa.


Safe tech

Thanks so much for the interview with Sue Gardner, “Consensus in Tech” (FJ Nov. 2015). I am a techie, trained in Microsoft speak. In most tech companies the staff are so competitive that they are ugly to work with. So glad to hear that at least one tech working environment has created a quasi-safe place that doesn’t destroy its goals to enhance the world. I use Wikipedia a lot and have donated to assist in their mission.

Nyla Dartt
Port Townsend, Wash.


Speaking more in meeting

I have been speaking at meeting, and I am more than tolerated (“Why Traveling Ministry Is Vital for Quakers in the 21st Century,” Nov. 2015). Eventually I sort of dried up and moved to handing out copies of the Quaker peace testimony on the streets of Dublin and its suburbs. Given that we are part of the European Union and the EU’s increasing involvement in Syria, it seemed appropriate.

A by-product of this is that I target young people, university students, and Ireland’s increasing immigrant population. What has always impressed me about QuakerSpeak is the diversity of racial backgrounds in the United States, which like ourselves stems from a small group of people from the middle of the UK.

Steven Cleary
Monkstown, County Dublin, Ireland

A biblical look at climate change

We tend to reveal “truth” by investigating both sides of the issue thereby reasoning the matter out (see Isaiah 1:18) to gage a sustainable outcome (“Climate Change Is Our Lunch Counter Moment” by Shelley Tanenbaum, FJ Dec. 2015). Those who study the Bible (see 2 Timothy 2:5) and study climate change understand that this phenomenon is not new but had its beginning during the creation of this world.

The Christians have precedence mandating that they do care about people in other lands, the future, and preserving other species! Look at Noah who preached the gospel to other people, preserved other species, and looked out for the future by preserving mankind. Remember this happened because of climate change.

For those who do not understand, God is telling His people to work within the body of Christ to solve the problem of climate change. This means that with humility, living by necessity, conveying the knowledge you have acquired about climate change, and applying that knowledge along with asking God to guide you in your endeavors with this problem will help bring about a change in His climate.

Charles Brown
Charlotte, N.C.

Cross-cultural work with veterans

Thanks for Zachary Moon’s wise words on community and connection (“Cross-cultural Work with Veterans,” FJ Aug. 2015). I was a Friend first and served in the army. If we make the effort and look beyond the superficial differences, we can see shared values. Rather than dismissing those we do not know for making us feel uncomfortable, we should instead draw them closer. It’s much easier for a Friend to speak at a Bernie Sanders rally than a VFW meeting, but community and service can make strange bedfellows.

Carl LoFaro
Lakewood, Colo.


Quaker and Catholic?

Coming from a strict Catholic upbringing and embracing Friends as still a teenager (in the 1960s), I can appreciate John Corry’s thoughts (“What Quakers and Catholics Might Learn from One Another,” FJ May 2015). But reading what he thinks “Quakers might learn from Catholics,” I wondered if he forgot the core of Quaker worship. It is less “a time of personal meditation and reflection but also a communal sacred event” than it is a time for us to get in touch with that of God within us; not through scripture, readings, sermons, or even prayers, but through deep listening to that still, small voice within, as well as the messages of others. I recently attended a Catholic Mass and am still a hundred fold more moved by the silence in Quaker worship. I still find the Catholic church sexist—Francis talks the talk, but not much has really changed in this area—shamefully tolerant and unashamed of its pedophile priests; homophobic (Francis met with Kim Davis!!!); and it still believes that truth comes from without (i.e., the church), not from within. While I miss the pomp and ceremony of my youth, I celebrate every day my union with God and fellow men and women through Quaker faith and practice. Forgive me for saying this, but I sense some regret in Corry leaving Friends. Peace.

Jim MacPherson
Ann Arbor, Mich.

I was raised as a Catholic, but my family left the church before I was confirmed. I come from a family of peace activists, and I naturally found my way to the Quakers through American Friends Service Committee as a young adult. When I became a meeting member, I was open about being raised a Catholic and was not required to relinquish that. I loved the acceptance of the seasoned elders who were grounded in the Christian roots of Friends and silent worship, as well as in kindness and love. For two decades I served on almost every committee in the meeting. I raised my child as a Quaker, and she went to a Quaker high school.

Over time, people and circumstances in meeting changed; something seemed to be lacking to me. I started going to a nearby Catholic Mass. I had a life-changing encounter with the forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ. A few years ago, it was with great joy that I answered the inner call to be confirmed. I was very open about being a Quaker and intending to continue attending meeting. That was fine with my parish and priest. However, when I told the Friends that I was also going to Catholic Mass, I was rebuked in meeting and criticized by several people. This was pre-Pope Francis; perhaps by now some folks have softened their stance. However, I have scarcely been back to meeting since that time, and have been grateful to have a welcoming spiritual home in the Catholic Church.

I completely agree that Quakers and Catholics have much to learn from each other.

Alyce Dodge
Honolulu, Hawaii


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