Drawn to the Light
Wolves and hounds howl at full moons. Moths are attracted by flames. Fish and crabs rise to the surface when a flashlight dips its brightness into a muddy murky Chesapeake creek. Some flowers even bloom under night light. And untold millions observe sunsets, sunrises and the moon every day around the globe. Why? Because light awakens, beautifies and warms. Light awakens our world no matter what time it is. The light wakes us!
As a youth, my parents introduced me to my father's religion. And as I experienced it more and more, I was drawn to Quakerism. As I gradually matured, I discovered this unique worship encouraged my seeking my own unique inner light. Eventually, I became comfortable with this validating practice of silent reflection. It felt so real and meaningful to discover my own spirituality.
I found I could enjoy and devote one silent hour per week because the Quaker meeting felt so refreshing, revitalizing and natural. It introduced the power of silence and reflection. Personal testimonials also felt oersonal and authentic. Anyone could “take the floor" and share his or her point of view when the spirit moved him or her. All had the freedom to stand up and speak his or her peace or challenge. Consensus or majority rule seemed to respect each individual's being and voice. If one chose to participate, he had a voice in any matters, . Anyone in the congregation could share at Friends Meeting. Everyone who showed up at meeting was considered a welcomed friend.
Over the centuries, Quakers have believed that each individual has an inner light, no matter how dim or bright. For each, life is a journey within oneself. To uncover and discover one's personal light was how one chose to explore. Maybe turning it on, shining it on oneself and one's surroundings. Maybe sharing it with friends and family. Maybe even shedding some on a person's dearth or darkness. All topics were acceptable - triumph, failure, inspiration, poem, insight, observation, complaint, testimonial and more.
When I taught four years at a Quaker school - William Penn Charter in Philadelphia, the school devoted an hour each Wednesday to Friends meeting. And one of the most profound experiences of my life happened in their meeting room. With over 150 students and faculty in attendance one day brought the whole meeting of worship to tears. The seniors felt an obligation to stand and share sometime during their last year at this day school. So as the year progressed and Wednesdays became fewer, the seniors would fill the precious hour with a personal anecdote or story before the throng of their classmates and instructors.
One senior stood up and told everyone how nervous he was to be speaking. He told how he had been asked by one of his best friends to volunteer for a Special Olympics track meet the previous weekend. He had no idea what volunteering would entail, but on that Saturday, little did he know he was assigned a boy with Cerebral Palsy. His task would be to be a companion and coach for the day. Soon he was introduced to one of the competitors about his high school age.
At the end of the track meet, something amazing happened. The boy came up to him and said thanks, "You were a great coach. I really appreciate all your help today." Upon hearing these words, the senior immediately burst into tears totally ashamed of himself. His pre-judgements and shame just melted away. He could not believe how awkward he he had been around this boy who was also so awkward. But his awkwardness was internal.
At that Friends meeting as a high school senior, he confessed to the entire upper school that his experience totally transformed him. He not only thanked his best friend classmate for urging him to help a handicapped boy, but to the school for giving him one of the greatest educational experiences of his young life. Then he implored his classmates "If you want to have an incredible experience, get out of your comfort zone, reach out to those less fortunate. It will change their life and yours."
Each Friends meeting is always a sharing of observations, experiences, testimonials, thoughts and/or feelings. There was no minister, rabbi, priest, pastor. Just a member or spokesperson for the congregation. No two meetings are ever the same. There is no preaching, no sermon, no ritual or entertainment. Every Sunday service, wedding or memorial service becomes is a democratic experience and spiritual practice. At Third Haven Meeting it is a simple, peaceful communal meditation.
When I have set sail on my catamaran, I am often reminded of my Quaker roots and practices. When sailing into a sunrise or watching a sunset disappear I experience something akin to a spiritual experience. After all, peaceful beauty is easy to love.