27 August 2009

Of Dream Catchers and Drum Groups

This entry comes from a conversation I had with my 21 year old daughter this morning, about the wonderful facebook group, Quaker Hippie Children. If you haven't seen it, it's worth signing on to facebook just to read it. If you're in your 50s or 60s and raised children you will be rolling on the floor with laughter.

My kids didn't have the experience of Quaker Camp. I wish they had, and I'm thankful for the experience of Young Friends and Junior Young Friends, which gave my children the sense they were part of a larger community (and that they were not the only one with weird hippie parents!).

Our conversation this morning was about the sensibility that we take into the world as a result of our being Friends. Such a simple word, with such simple implications. We treat others as friends. We greet strangers as friends. We even treat rude people who are obviously having a bad day, as friends. If there is something like Light or that of God in everyone, even if they don't know it, we strive in our family to treat them like Friends. Sometimes it is a real stretch, but it is the benchmark we strive to reach.

I'm very proud to have raised a child with this awareness at such a young adult age. She teaches children how to ride horses, and she is ever aware that no one ever learned to enjoy riding a horse by being yelled at. Some people may think they have, but she tells me that the horse taught them, not the screaming teacher. She is a gentle soul. She is teaching me, that even in the crotchetyness of old age, I do not have the right to let God or myself down by treating another in a manner less than as a friend.

Children are so clear on these things. Once, when our Meeting was having a major conflict that threatened to split the meeting, the children wrote us a note from their business meeting that said something like, "We wish the adults would stop making such a big deal out of things they think are affecting us. We're the ones involved, and we feel perfectly safe." Wow. Clear enough? I'm beginning to think that as adults we need to seek clarity because our initial direct channel with God has been covered with layers and layers of acculturation.

So when I happened on this little facebook group, "Quaker Hippie Children" http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=2423821013&ref=ts
I couldn't help but smile, then laugh, then shed a tear. All the things that I thought were so important to impart to my child were there. You know you're a Quaker Hippie kid if (among other things):
*your threshold for weirdness, quirkiness, and everything avant-garde seems to be much, much higher than that of anyone around you

*you have a hippie bumper sticker present anywhere in your life

*you attend Quaker meeting (although not required; there are many of us who are QHCs at heart, but aren't actually Quaker...)

*you have ever been asked to use an "I" statement to describe your feelings

*you avoided bringing home your more mainstream friends for fear of subjecting them to your parents

*you have never been allowed to play with anything resembling a weapon

*you use eco-friendly products in your home

*you compost

*you remember attending protests from a very young age

*at least half the people you know are vegetarian (or vegan!)

*you know at least one person who doesn't eat eggs, dairy, wheat, refined sugars, or anything grown further than 50 miles from home

And my daughter's personal favorite :
*as a young girl, you read New Moon magazine and dreamed about becoming a woman (womyn?)

There are many more, along with references to the many songs, like Baby Beluga and This Land is Your Land, that we sang on car rides, and the essential Quaker games like Wink! Then our own quirky family things, like making dream catchers, drumming in the woods, putting on our "restaurant manners" like an invisible t-shirt, and stringing together as many idioms in a sentence as we could.

So what does this all have to do with me? It is a lightbulb, a snap on the side of the head, a reminder, of the awareness I carried with me when my adult children were wee babes; the gift their presence gave to me of wanting to keep their awareness tuned to the Light, in whatever forms I thought would "stick." Singing songs, making up crazy rhymes, praying silly prayers, eating whole wheat, talking to animals, going to demonstrations and being peaceful -- these are just a few of the ways Spirit spoke to us all. And every day was a gift of something new seen through a child's eyes.

I'm thankful that I can so easily call this state of being up, with a simple conversation. I'm even more grateful that my daughter so readily remembers. She's in a time where she doesn't really think she believes in God or praying or worship. But she definitely knows she's a Quaker, and she is happy to be one. She credits being raised Quaker with her own awareness of others, her peacefulness, and her joy of animals. When she was a mid-teen, and I was trying to impress on her the need to attend meeting for worship, she stopped me in my tracks one morning, when I went to get her from the barn, where she was tending her beloved horses: "There's more God right here in this barn, right this moment," she said, "than there is for me in that Meeting." I have to admit I couldn't think of an argument. I felt the truth she spoke.

For me, in those days, I was very busy contemplating, drumming, visualizing, and seeking contact with the Light in whatever way I could. I had the sense that I had to be tuned in as acutely as I could be, due to the responsibility of raising these children in the manner God would want me to. I hope the children benefited, but I know I did. I didn't worry about how theologically correct these things were in my own young adulthood, I simply followed my heart.

Over the years, as others, I have become busier and busier in my life. I find I have to set aside time for quiet contemplation, and often, no sooner is it done, than I am off to the rest of my life, the quiet calm swept away with the tide of the day. I'm not happy about this, and I don't really know how I evolved here. I've recently recommitted my life to the ministry God leads to me, and I can see already how this is the crux of some of my difficulties and unclearness.

I had a week at Baltimore Yearly Meeting's Annual Sessions, where each day I felt more and more refreshed and renewed in the Spirit. The first couple days home, I was basking in the halo of the Light I'd bathed in daily there. Gradually that halo grew dull, and by the end of a week, I was pretty much back to the daily rush. With the exception that I now carry with me this awareness. This morning I woke up and rushed off without even pausing for that quiet time. Thank goodness for children...I got on facebook and there was my daughter to remind me of the gifts God gives us in the smallest of moments.

We all have access to that Light. It doesn't take an hour of worship, it takes a moment of turning inward. That is the simplest gift we have to give to the world.

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