Teaching tool for vets
I would have never thought that Friends Journal would be a teaching tool for a group of combat veterans but the August issue made a great impact on the group I attend for post-traumatic stress disorder. When I first read the entire issue (three times) a couple of weeks ago, I was greatly affected and shared in Friends meeting, not realizing that Friends Journal’s senior editor was in attendance. I showed the issue to my counselor, Jeff Beck, at the Veterans Administration, and on a recent Friday, he read excerpts at our weekly session. Everyone agreed the sections read on moral injury were right on. Everyone wanted an issue to read completely, so I picked up a dozen from the Friends Journal office and they will be distributed shortly. Maybe we could figure a way to get reprints out to the thousands of Veterans who could find this useful. Glad to help in anyway I can.
Francis (Fred) Melroy
Medford Lakes, N.J.
Another way with Hiroshima?
There must have been another way to convince the Japanese government to surrender than dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (“Memories of My Father’s Memories” by Ralph G. Steinhardt, FJ Aug.). However, I am the child of a paratrooper bound for the invasion of Japan. The chances of my father surviving the drop onto mainland Japan were not favorable. I am glad my father survived, that I am alive, and I can only grieve with the Japanese people—and continue to promote the Quaker testimony of peace.
I have been contemplating what it means to “hold someone in the Light,” especially since I have been reading and studying the Beatitudes, maybe not with the discipline of Gandhi but at least weekly. One evening as my wife and I were discussing the relevance of the Beatitudes in today’s world, she said something that I take as an epiphany. She told me that it is easy for me to visit and teach those in prison, or to feed or clothe the homeless. She suggested that the “least of these” for me were those at the other end of the political and theological spectrum.
I am struggling with what that means and how I minister to these folks. As I hold them in the Light, I find my mind cluttered with their actions and words, and it is difficult to center. But occasionally I am reminded or aware of something they have done or are doing that is, to my mind, good or positive. I think that the more I hold them in the Light, the way will be illuminated for me, especially if I can refrain from judgment and have patience that G-d will show me the way.
Queries on refugees: who are our neighbors?
Refugees applying for asylum in my home state of Maine are in a difficult limbo status: unable to work with their ability to receive government general assistance being questioned. I wrote these queries to help an interfaith group explore the spiritual questions underlying our efforts to provide support outside of the normal government channels.
What happens to our golden rule when we see the need around us as huge and our own resources as very limited? How can we keep giving when our support of those around us may act as a magnet, increasing the need that we see, while not increasing the resources?
How do we overcome fear of those who are different, whose language is a barrier to us, and whose situation may be hard for us to understand or accept? When we believe that the needs around us can and should best be covered by other people or institutions, how can we find clarity to expend our own (possibly limited) resources?
Do we experience a line between simple compassion and excess generosity? How do we find clarity about what we have to share? How can we come to understand those who are different from us as family, and accord them the warmth and compassion we understand belongs in that relation?
Peaks Island, Maine
Moral injury or soul injury?
Many thanks to Kristen Richardson for her August article on “Moral Injury.” The trauma experienced by thousands of veterans has been responsible for the increase in veterans’ suicides, domestic violence, and drug abuse. The Veterans Administration has chosen to label this condition as “moral injury.” However, many authorities refer to it as “soul injury,” and the healing process as “soul repair.” This stems from a belief that moral injury might imply wrongdoing and possibly carry unwelcome religious connotations.
Clearwater (Fla.) Meeting’s experience with the topic of moral/soul injury started in April of this year when we set up a booth in the theater lobby of a performance called “Telling: Tampa Bay,” which was part of an ongoing series sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council for veterans to tell their stories to their local communities. Our booth had printed literature on moral injury provided by Quaker House and a sign-up sheet for anyone seeking an opportunity to learn more. Even those who had never heard the term recognized what it meant to them and their loved ones. Because of this response, our meeting felt led to raise public awareness of moral injury and reach out to our veterans at the same time. We decided to organize a public forum, called it “An Open Conversation on Moral Injury” and invited Lynn and Steve Newsom of Quaker House to Clearwater to give the opening presentation and guide the discussion.
This effort is still having its effects on our meeting. To our surprise, a comfortable 70 participants filled the seats. Not only did Lynn and Steve give a deeply moving, effective, and informative presentation, one of the attenders, Deborah Grassman, spontaneously became part of their presentation. Deborah, co-founder of an organization called Opus Peace (opuspeace.org), has personally worked with over 10,000 dying veterans as a hospice nurse for the VA and brought the perspective of how unresolved trauma resurfaces at the end of life.
We are encouraged by what they are doing and shall continue following our leading to help bring peace to veterans and their families. We acknowledge the soul in moral injury and hope to do more to aid those seeking repair.
Are parental options getting worse?
In the Viewpoint column by David Hadley Finke in the September issue, he described how he and his wife were able to share a position about child rearing. When I was a young teacher and mother in the 1980s, I believed job sharing, flextime, and other options would be common by now. Instead, such flexible options remain rare, and I believe the situation has deteriorated rather than improved.
When I was a young teacher, teachers could (and did) take a year or at least a semester for maternity leave. They received no pay or other benefits—just the surety that a job would await them when they returned the next year. Since they were off the payroll, the district could hire a fully certified teacher as they could offer regular pay and benefits. Usually, they got recent college graduates, who used a temporary position to get their foot in the door. If the recent grad was successful, a permanent job was usually the result either through attrition or due to a mother’s decision to remain at home. The children in this classroom had a year or semester with a young enthusiastic instructor. The mother had an extended period of time with her new baby and could easily nurse, which is the most nutritious choice.
Now we have family leave, and new parents may use sick leave during their 12 weeks at home. Since they are still on the payroll, the replacement teacher is paid as a substitute and receives no other benefits. In the best case scenario, a qualified person is found and stays the entire 12 weeks. Then the mother/permanent teacher returns. Often the baby is not sleeping through the night, so the instructor may very well be tired and stressed. Nursing is a difficult option in this situation. I do not see how this is an improvement for anyone: the baby, the students, the replacement instructor, or the regular instructor.
I wish today’s parents had the type of options I envisioned and that were described in the column. I wonder if we really value children and/or families when we do so little to ease the work-family balance.
While I greatly enjoyed reading about the diversity of book discussion groups in the November 2014 Friends Journal, I was disappointed that a discussion group with a focus on Quaker history was not noted. For the past two years, around ten members of Lehigh Valley Meeting in Bethlehem, Pa., have been meeting once a month at the home of a Friend to discuss assigned readings in Quaker history. This past year we completed Thomas Hamm’s recent publication Quaker Writings: An Anthology, 1650–1920. We look forward to studying the sometimes acrimonious debates among Quaker historians as recorded in replies to articles in The Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society. We have begun to realize that there is no end to books and articles about Quaker history and look forward to our book discussion group continuing through future generations.
Aaron Hughes, the subject of Jean Grant’s August artist profile, “A Cup of Tea,” has contacted us with some corrections to the piece. The updated version can be found on our website: Fdsj.nl/fj-tea.