Ah, me of little faith.
I learned yesterday that Stillwater has provided for the family--a husband, wife and three young children-- who showed up in need a week ago with little more than a borrowed car to their names. Currently, they have moved from a motel and are living in Morland House, the Ohio Yearly Meeting's retreat center. That should be an ideal resting spot for them as it has three bedrooms and ample living space. However, since it's already booked for quarterly meetings, retreats, etc., they can't stay there permanently, so they are on the lookout, I'm told, for another home. In Barnesville that's an affordable prospect: A modest house can be rented here for less than $400 a month.
The husband may get a maintenance job at the Walton, the local Quaker retirement home, and the wife also may get work helping there and/or doing housecleaning. The children are enrolled in the local public school, so all is well at the moment for one family. There is, however, an undercurrent of grumbling by some longer-term Stillwater members about their own needs for job and money, their own dire straits, getting less attention.
I am impressed, all the same, with the kindness and generosity of Stillwater meeting. The issue of being aware of and sensitive to the needs of others who may be reluctant to ask for help emerged with the Fifth query, and the meeting answered it well, articulating a concern to notice people who may never step forward.
I do feel the cumulative weight of need all over and sometimes it feels overwhelming. But when I stay in that spirit of love and light described by early Quakers like George Fox, Isaac Pennington and Margaret Fell --what I (and they) would call the Holy Spirit--I am reassured, against all the visible signals to the contrary, that everything will be fine, and I should be at peace. However, it is easy to step out of that circle of light and witness a world that seems to be falling apart and a country that seems to be spiraling into decline. At these times, the story of Peter walking on water becomes a useful parable.
I also have to remind myself that I am not personally responsible for solving the world's problems. All of us are simply ordinary people with little to no control over the larger destinies of nations. As the Abbess implies, we do what we have to do, one person at a time. (However, I do support a strong government safety net, am willing to pay taxes for it and hope our country will maintain, improve and strengthen it.) One family in need doesn't mean a thousand families behind them will suddenly appear, all lining up at tiny Stillwater, clamoring for help. And I have to trust, were that to happen, resources would emerge. Here, I can lean into the story of the loaves and the fishes.
What other spiritual touchstones might there be for finding our way through economic times that are hard on many people? And since people need practical resources, not just temporary charity and well wishes, what else can we do?
Such a good reflection, Diane, as well as good question at the end. Yes, we act individually, but also as community. I see that in your thoughts here. We need each other to really know how to best help someone or some family. Deb and I have tried to help and wasted time and resources in doing so, because we did not act with the best wisdom.
And I agree it should not be an either/or. The problem here is that there is such division, that a good safety net for those in need is not easy to come up with. So churches and private organizations will have to keep working at helping the inevitable human fallout which will only increase.
Thanks for the update Diane. I am glad things seem to be looking up for that family.
One of the things that springs out for me is kowing each other. Are we actually a church if we don't know who is struggling to pay their bills and get good nourishing food on the table? If we are a spiritual community we work and pray together over and about the daily stuff. That is how we know each others' needs. Without the intertwining of lives, it is much harder to know each others' situation. I think what we really need - what Jesus invites us into - is intimate community, where we know and join each others' struggles and sorrows. Pretty countercultural in this age of fossil-fueled individualism and isolation.
Perhaps this situation can bring light and air to those others who have also been ground down by the struggle to live and who have not yet been relieved. God is bringing the issue to light in the meeting: I hope that everyone who is struggling will be relieved, as God lifts up those who are downtrodden and rebukes the proud. Blessings to all of you.
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