at meeting for business this month, we were encouraged to think about some queries about what we need to change. i don’t remember all the details. i should have posted then. but anyway, it was a worship sharing i guess, and people spoke about a variety of things, and at some point i said something. i spoke as an outsider coming in and how there is always so much work every group needs to go through and that’s good and self-critique is good, but so far, the truth for me has been that no matter what, i know i will find love at the meeting.

that is true. there is so much love for me in that group of people, it’s amazing. i know that there are people who will hug me or give any type of help they can if i ask for it. and i’ve been asking for it. i’ve got a place to stay when i need to be by myself for awhile, i’ve got a friend with a truck who will help us acquire storage furniture, i’ve got listening ears. and i feel called to give it back in ways that i can, and also, i feel like i am able to give back. that whatever i can do is enough. it’s amazing.

but, even before i said it, i thought a lot about people who are not me, and their ability to find love there. i thought about the guy who came in and caused a fuss when i greeted, and about the person who had spoken not long before and had been cut off by the clerk, and about the way that we are in the tenderloin and all of the people in the neighborhood who we would not welcome with open arms. i am struggling with that so much. do we open them with closed arms, folded over our chests, “come in but don’t get to close, and you are welcome to leave whenever you’d like… please”? that’s what it feels like. i am told that everyone is treated with respect, and i see a lot of trying to treat people with respect, but i also see myself in the place of those people– me with less social skills, a few more obvious crazies– being treated the way these people get treated, and i think it would hurt.

and so, when the person who had been told to be quiet spoke in hurt and anger, i felt it. i felt the hurt and anger, and i felt the guilt for all the ways i am distant.

and yet… there is a history of the meeting that i know little about. and there is a history of me that is about me putting so many people ahead of myself that i get tired and angry and defensive and broken. these walls protect us somewhat. this is our sanctuary. but. but. but. we are talking about how to get more people through our doors, and i’m for that, but i’m still not totally comfortable with how we treat those who are aleady coming in.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. 1.

    Part of respecting people is clearly setting the boundaries of how we expect to be respected in return.

    This is never very comfortable though. We’d rather that people all came with the same assumptions and expectations and that we’d never have to be explicit about where the boundaries are because people would already share them. But if we are open to different people with different backgrounds and different personal boundaries, we have to be ready to say these are the limits of our community.

    Comment by Robin M. — February 22, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

    how do the limits get set?

    Comment by cublet — February 22, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  2. Oh cubbie I wish I’d read this when I first started coming! It echoes everything I worry about too! I always have to go back in my head to my first Quaker Meeting when I had a profound experience and remind myself they are doing something right even if it’s not all perfect, and that I have to turn “they” into “we”, embrace Quakerism as not the perfect religion but the perfect fit for me, and evolve with it for all its bumps and joys.

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