When do we stop calling ourselves the society of Friends?
Like all Utopian creations, we come up against the failure of our community when the diversity of human condition intrudes on the core statement of faith.
Time and again, I see Friends simply not let go of an issue, and argument, and refuse clearness. We will never all be in unity on everything, but the Friends who remove themselves from the process of coming towards if not to unity, might ask themselves why they don't declare themselves a new thing, a society of Friends and Enemies.
I wrote about an incident that makes this clear to me. Here is chapter two. First, there was this nazi woman, a Ukrainian who came to the US after the fall of the pro-Hitler government of occupied Ukraine. She would yell "Jew Boy" at me, every time I walked down the street as a youth. So, I ignored her, wrote her out of my appreciation of the universe, and in this silent way, I sinned against her. I did not know that it was atonement, when, passing her the other day, I saw her stranded at the bottom of steep steps with a heavy cart. I walked passed her then knew I could not keep going, so, I walked back and offered to carry it up the stairs.She said someone else would come along, but I said, no, and took it up the stairs for her, and she touched my arm and said "God bless you... ". Well, I didn't tell the mum.
Chapter two... My mother and I are walking yesterday and she tells me the story from the point of view of the woman up the block. She told me that the woman was aware that she had offended me and would ask her son, ( who is my age, and a gentleman, who I always said hello to, and still do... ) what could she do, that the boy, then the man, down the street looks right past her. He said, don't worry about it. Well, for some forty years she did. She told my mother about me lifting her cart and said it made her feel good, so good ever since.
The good we do, the forgiveness we give spreads.
The opposite is also true.
Justified or not, the forgiveness we withhold spreads. Friends who refuse to come to clearness, who allow fear to divide them, spread the disunity throughout our society. It is always the other persons fault that they will not attempt clearness, unity. Well, maybe this is the way. I took forty years to realize that forgiving this woman her nazi past, was not enough. I had to offer her to drink from the well of the water of life... and my fear of her began to fade and my love of her began a small garden of light.
PS As I wrote this, I did not capitalize the name Hitler. I withheld in my heart from him that small recognition, and kept him and keep him in my heart as symbol of perfection of evil. In that objectification of him, I sin. Replacing the capital H... starts an atonement. Atonement for sin against Hitler the man... the thought shocks me... but I am so trying to be a member of the Society of Friends.