In the dream, it’s 1777, and a Quaker minister named Scatterwell gets a burning concern to visit the decadent city of Vienna, to preach the gospel of love of God and neighbor. He’s particularly moved by reports of the tens of thousands of poor Austrians and others huddling there in the shadow of the luxuriant indifference of the imperial court.
When Scatterwell arrives in the bustling capital, he heads straight for the nearest low-life tavern, figuring to plunge into the depths and confront the Devil’s work head on.
I’m long since used to being a stereotype: straight white male, heterosexual; middle class. Of course, I can put an asterisk and a “Yes, but –” after each of these; yet, at the same time, they’re useful: they ease the quick categorizations I think most of us make many times every day.
Sure, they are also hooks for prejudices, mine and others; but while broad-brush, none of these is actually inaccurate: I AM all those things, more or less. So mostly I don’t sweat it.
My, how time flies, when you’re having fun. (And even when you’re not.) This month, December 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of my coming among Friends. And much of that whole ongoing adventure can, for this purpose, be boiled down to four things:
A knock on the door; Getting “The Letter”; Riding the bus; and Getting on with it.
Memorial Minute for Katharine “Kat” Royal: January 28, 1982 – October 23, 2015
[Read at her memorial service in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, October31, 2015.]
I’m a Quaker, and at our memorial meetings, Quakers have a custom of preparing and reading what’s called a Memorial Minute. These sound in one way like biographical sketches, and so they are.
But there is a deeper dimension to them for us than simple chronology or the succession of dates and facts. That’s because of an advice that has come down to us from our founders; that advice is to “let your life preach.”
A Facebook Friend said he was writing something about the death of RFK (Bobby Kennedy), and did I have any thoughts or memories? Here’s what came up:
When RFK was killed, June 6, 1968, I was in suburban DC with my first wife & 3 buddies, working on a book about the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). It was planned to be a pictures-and-text thing; everyone else was a photographer; I was the writer.
I said no to Chris Olson-Vickers. Chris was a mild-mannered social worker in Richmond, Virginia. She was also a Quaker, who in August of 2001 had agreed, perhaps rashly, to host an impecunious co-religionist in need of shelter during the mid-Atlantic Quakers’ regional assembly, called Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
That impecunious co-religionist was me. Laid off and low on cash, I was too strapped to stay on-campus nearby, where our sessions were underway. I was packing lunches and avoiding the cafeteria.