In October 2005 I moved to Aotearoa New Zealand to become Resident Friend at Wellington Quaker Meeting House for 18 months, a post for which I needed a missionary visa...
yeah well, Kate thought it was funny too and wanted to keep up to date with what was happening with me down under - hence this blog =)
Just discovered this in my 'drafts folder' thanks to the new version of blogger - can't quite remember if it got posted at the time or not but it still seems worth sharing. Worth sharing for several reasons - firstly I still believe it; secondly because I'm about to attend a course with my colleagues on peace in education that not only looks at working with the children but with their families and the community around them - acknowledging the voice of children and recognising them as being a valuable part of society now is key to achieving peace in any community; but thirdly because it makes me think of Natalie who whilst she never went into early childhood teaching after all once we qualified has raised her sons in such a way that they believe anything is possible, that they have a voice in the world and know how to use it, and are amazing people in their own right. If any children are going to cope with a mother in hospital for cancer treatment it will be these two.
So, from sometime during Semester 2, 2008:
okay, okay, it's been a while - but I've discovered that working part time and studying full time doesn't leave much brain space for anything else... strange huh? Anyway, before I get back to writing the best part (maybe that should be worst part...) of 7,000 words in the next three weeks for four different assignments here's something for you to ponder on.... (also known as Appendix III for Assignment 2, EDPROFST 621 - due in on Thursday, eeek!)
Notes on an unhurried journey
When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life.
A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question; ‘What are you going to be?’ Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face would say, ‘I’m not going to be anything, I already am.’
We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark, for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he or she is born.
Childhood isn’t a time when he is moulded into a human being who will then live life; he is a human being who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.
How much heartache would we save ourselves if we would recognise the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as their apprentice. How much would we teach each other… Adults with the experience and children with their freshness…, how full both our lives could be.
A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him; for, after all, life is his and her journey too.
This is true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my priviledge to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
This quote was used by Wendy Lee in her keynote address at an ELP 'Inspiration Day' I attended with the rest of our teaching team in Whangerei a few weeks ago. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud as I read it on the projector screen as it basically summed up the sermon Phyllis had been writing the week before which had obliquely been aimed at someone we know who then epitomised a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making [her] happy rather too well. I copied out the quote and passed it on - bringing some laughter to the day after another rather thankless visit to the aforementioned friend. Thankfully several trips to the doctors later the state of health and mind of this friend is much more positive, but not before it took its toll on several of her friends.
Picking up the pieces behind her made me look back on times when I know I've not been in the best of health physically and/or mentally and wonder if I was ever quite so negative about anything and everything. I'd like to think that I wasn't, but I know there were times when well meaning people have made suggestions that either I'd long since tried to no avail or just wasn't ready to hear yet (or in some cases simply couldn't afford). But in general my 'Pollyanna streak' has meant that I've always been able to see that things could be much worse and have been 'glad' they aren't. Also I know that half the time I've ended up like that it has been because I've taken the philosophy of GBS a bit too seriously and not left enough time and energy for looking after myself.
It is a fine balance, knowing when to look after yourself at the expense of helping/pleasing others so that you can still do other things for the greater good. This is something our Monthly Meeting has been grapling with over the last few months. Those of us still fit and able have many other committments, some of which being serving Quakers in other capacities (I think I have the set - MM, YM and international!). So others, who aren't really able have been trying to muddle through and are definitely feeling 'thoroughly used' up.
Just after I get back from Kenya a special joint Meeting is being held with our MM and the (much bigger) neighbouring one with a view to forming a new amalgamated MM. It will be large with the potential to be unwieldy, but also with the potential for future realignment of other MM boundaries to make more sense of the rather bizarre arrangement that exists at present. So it could be that our MM problems could lead to all kinds of growth in other ways that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. As long as enough people take the wider picture view of what is good for the community and not focus their own grievances....
The last few weeks have been a bit overwhelming, hence the lack of posts.
Tomorrow is the funeral of Annie. We were on the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage together as 17 year olds and went to many of the same Young Friends events over the next few years. She died of cancer and respiratory problems, leaving behind a husband and two young daughters.
So over the last couple of weeks or so emails and facebook messages have been flying around, sharing the news, trying to track down just which QYP Annie went back as leader of in the hope of then letting her fellow pilgrims and leaders know. Realising that whilst almost 25yrs have passed since our QYP and most likely 20 years since I last saw Annie that doesn't actually lessen the sense of loss. We hadn't kept in touch, but that didn't really seem to matter - we knew each other was there, news was shared through mutual friends and recently she commented on an old YFCC photo I'd posted on facebook. I was so chuffed to see it, responded to it but didn't follow it up. Just knowing she was there was enough. And now she isn't.
About a week after Annie died a close friend from uni (Auckland, not Newcastle) was diagnosed with lung cancer having been admitted to hospital struggling to breathe. I'm now swotting up on genetically mutated lung cancer cells and how apparently in the greater scheme of things these are Good Things To Have if you're going to get lung cancer. Again a mother of two young children, boys this time.
Part of me is half expecting news of a third but hoping like mad it doesn't come along.
So, another round of emails, facebook conversations etc etc etc. All I can say is thank heavens for the internet and the ability to share news so fast.
Amidst all of this came a request to help find someone to serve on the UK based QYP committee - again facebook to the rescue! A friend of a friend had contacted me to ask about it who I then put in touch with a friend of another friend who was interested - all in a few days. Try doing that by post between opposite sides of the world! So back to thinking about QYP again and my own experiences as a 17yr old meeting for the first time Quakers from other traditions and countries - all whilst packing and preparing for the World Conference of Friends in Kenya. Thinking about the effect QYP had on my life, on the friendships that started there, on the lasting links I see between pilgrims from other years too, on where many of them now are in life and the journeys they have taken.
The experience of such events can take you to a place of understanding and spiritual connection that are hard to explain to anyone who has never shared that sense of deep togetherness that has grown out of such a short amount of your life physically in the same place. Contact between meetings is great, but more often than not it doesn't really matter when you meet again and it is as if you saw each other just last weekend. Such friendships outwith Quakers are rare for me, but in Natalie I have just that, which is why knowing what she and her family are going through over in Sydney is so hard to take right now. It is so frustrating knowing that I'll be flying via Australia to and from Kenya and won't get a chance to see her.
However what I will be doing is making the most of the chance to see those other friends with whom time and distance is no object that will be in Kenya, and I'm looking forward to adding more names to that list.