On the first day of the Iraq War, singer-songwriter Linda Allen penned the lyrics and music for “I Believe that Peace Will Come.” At least that’s the story Tom Rawson told as he led us in singing the song at North Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Annual Session in mid-July. It was a fitting choice for the gathering’s theme “Practicing Hope: Living and Witnessing Our Testimonies,” and the timing was perfect as it preceded the address by our Friend-in-Residence, Bridget Moix.
Bridget, the director of the Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict Program at Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), titled her talk, “An Ocean of Darkness, An Ocean of Lightness, y un Barquito Grande.” It was Bridget’s two-year-old son, Pablo, who provided that image of a “big little boat,” and it became a metaphor for Bridget’s inspiring message. She kept coming back to the idea that when we put our faith into action (no matter how big or little), it brings about hope, which leads to more positive action and more hope.
We know from George Fox’s journals the grief he experienced, the “ocean of darkness,” as he confronted the pain and suffering in the world, in his time. There’s no doubt that remaining hopeful in these times is a challenge as well. “There are days I turn on my computer at my desk and cry,” Bridget said. “An ocean of darkness is literally rising around us.” Some of the many examples she cited especially struck me:
· War is becoming a common state of affairs.
· 70% of the Afghan population is under 30 years of age, and they can’t remember a time of peace.
· We’re funding war at the expense of our country and the planet.
· As always, the poor and marginalized are hit the worst.
I often weep, too, for these and other signs of suffering around the world and in my own community.
Fox wrote of experiencing God’s infinite love as the “ocean of light” overcoming the darkness, and Bridget related evidence of this light she’s seen in her work at FCNL:
· Now, there are conversations about the prevention of war.
· $50 million have been earmarked in the federal budget for efforts to prevent war.
· The new Civilian Response Corps already has 1000 members working around the world to support overseas reconstruction and stabilization operations.
Examples like this keep me going day after day when I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems in our world and of my limited capacity to change them. When the knowledge of the pain in the world sears me, my unrealistic yearning to “fix it all” immobilizes me. I focus on all the things I’m not doing to bring about peace, reverse climate change, end injustice. Chastising myself for not doing more requires energy—energy that could be used sharing my gifts and following the calling I have.
“Practicing hope is a big job,” Bridget said. “But we’re not alone, and we only need to do our little part. That’s the power of community, to uplift and multiply each other’s gifts.” That was the part of Bridget’s message that I most needed to hear, and that I believe many of us Friends need to take to heart. I know very few Friends who talk of their work for peace and justice as a joy or as in just the right proportion to what they feel they can give and do joyfully. Rather, what I typically hear from others and feel for myself is a sense of being over-stretched, over-committed, frazzled by long “to do” lists.
Bridget’s message gave me much to think about related to what my little part is. Her words cast light once again on my belief that whatever I do, it’s never enough, isn’t good enough. Perhaps some people need and respond well to challenges to do more, are motivated by admonitions to work harder. But the message I need to hear is to slow down; remain open; don’t plan and fill every moment with doing; beware of outrunning the Light I’ve been given.
Doing my little part seems so inadequate in the face of so much suffering and destruction. Yet I think that’s what being faithful, and hopeful, is all about—putting my energy into facing the suffering of the world squarely, listening carefully to what I’m called to do, and then being faithful to that call.
For Linda Allen, it’s writing songs. For me, writing stories is my little part. And if I’m faithful to using my gifts to write, to tell some of the stories needing to be told, I must trust that my faithfulness will result in action that will bring about hope and promote more action, and more hope. Maybe even peace.
I’ve sat with drafts of this posting for two weeks, writing through my questions and understanding about what it means to do my part. Now as I read it one more time, doubts remain about whether I’m on the right track. Is my little part really enough? Is Spirit calling me to do just those things I can do joyfully? What about all those hundreds of needs and problems I’m aware of that I’m not doing anything about?
I hope that those who read this entry will share their experiences and will embark on a dialogue about putting faith into action.