Center Yourself

My journey through my Quaker faith and education all started in nursery school. I went to a small Quaker nursery school. It’s the kind of place where I sat on my teacher’s lap, and the room was filled with worn wooden blocks with a certain cozy smell I can still remember. There’s a beautiful meetinghouse on the property, and a couple times a year, the meeting would invite the children at the school to join them for meeting for worship. I don’t remember what I felt the first time I walked into the meetinghouse, but today, I walk in and am consumed with a warm feeling, seeing the old benches and wood, smelling the history that has existed there for hundreds of years.

The first time I sat through a meeting for worship was rough. I was fidgeting, looking around the room at everyone multiple times, and not able to center myself. My mom told me to center myself, but I didn’t even know what that meant.

We gradually kept coming back to meeting, and eventually became regular attenders. The meeting was very inviting and open to us, which made us feel comfortable there. After nursery school, I went on to attend another Quaker school, and that is when I really started to understand Quakerism. I came to understand the proper meeting behavior, and I really embraced being there.

The meeting that my family attended varied from the one at school. In school, people were whispering during worship, even the seventh and eighth graders. At the meeting my family attended on Sundays, it was always very quiet and no one talked unless they stood up. I noticed my own behavior was different, too. At school, my best friend whispered to me, and of course I whispered back. We got in trouble, but we were so inseparable that it didn’t matter so much to us, because we could not stop talking to each other for even half an hour. At the meeting my family attended, I was really silent, besides some very soft whispers to my mom. The whisper to my mom was always something relevant in my mind, even if it seemed like the most irrelevant thing to anybody else.

When I was in fourth grade, we started attending Philadelphia Yearly Meeting annual sessions. Every person there was very welcoming, and more than willing to help us out. I was with a group of kids that were kind and fun to be around. We also started to go to the quarterly meetings, and we liked attending those, too. Third grade was when I learned the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. After this, I tried to weave these things into my way of life. I started to live more simply, realizing all of the stuff I didn’t need, which I donated to kids that need it more than me. My family started to participate more in helping out the community. I am very grateful that Quakerism has taught me to see the light in every person, regardless of what their race is, where they come from, and who they are.

Now that I am older, I do my best to incorporate the Quaker testimonies into my everyday life. I do not know where my future is headed, but I do see Quaker faith being a big part of my life to come. Now when my mom tells me to center myself, I know exactly what that means. In fact, my mom doesn’t say it to me anymore, for I have learned to center myself on my own.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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