A Quaker educator recently told me he had appreciated something I wrote about the way Quaker culture plays out in Quaker schools. It was a 2012 blog post, Were Friends part of Obama’s Evolution?
It was a bit of a random post at the time. I had read a widely shared interview that afternoon and was mulling over the possibilities of a behind-the-scenes Quaker influence. This sort of randomness happens frequently but in the rush of work and family I don’t always take the time to blog it. That day I did and a few years later it influence spline on some small way.
It reminds me of an old observation: the immediate boost we get when friends comment in our blog posts or like a Facebook update is an immediate hit of dopamine — exciting and ego gratifying. But the greater effect often comes months and years later when someone finds something of yours that they’re searching for. This delayed readership may be one of the greatest differences between blogging and Facebooking.
Anthony Manousos on the hurt of dead silence:
After wards, I began to question my Quaker faith and practice. Are we Quakers creating walls of silence separating ourselves from our feelings and each other? Do we hide behind a façade of spirituality? Are we just pretending or are we for real about being friends? What is preventing us from acting like human beings?
I’ve been mostly sitting out the Hillary vs Bernie debates. I’m in a late voting state and I have better things to do than get into Facebook flame wars. I have a natural political bias toward Sanders, but I respect Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments and would rather see a centrist than any of the increasingly-insane GOP candidates.
With that said, I’m noticing a number of retweetstorms of anti-Sanders quips filling my Twitter feed. I’m sure the infamous “Bernie Bros” exist, but most of the dismissive posts I see are from Hillary supporters. A lot of them seem to simply be mad that he would run (and be running so well). Others attack him for things said or done by supporters with no connection to the Sanders campaign.
I don’t know if it’s my observer bias given my politics and/or the makeup of friends but my distinct impression is that my Bernie-supporting friends are excited by Bernie and his ideas while my Hillary-supporting friends are mad at Bernie and his ideas and followers.
But will Tweetbook allow us to poke friends?
Twitter To Introduce Algorithmic Timeline As Soon As Next Week
I was ambushed while leaving the Elmer Swim Club today by a guy I’ve never met who told me never to return, then told me he’s a vice president of the governing association, and then told me he had papers inside to back him up. Although it was meant to look like an accidental run-in as we were walking out, it was clear it was staged with the manager on duty.
The problem is the behavior of our soon-to-be 10 yo Francis. He is difficult. He gets overwhelmed easily and doesn’t respond well to threats by authority figures. We know. He’s autistic. We deal with it every day. There’s no excusing his behavior sometimes. But there’s also no missing that he’s a deeply sweet human who has troubles relating and is making heroic strides toward learning his emotions. We driven the extra distance to this swim club for years because it’s been a place that has accepted us.
People at Elmer — well most of them — haven’t dismissed Francis as our problem, but have come together as an extended family to work through hard times to help mold him. He’s made friends and we’ve made friends. The swim club’s motto is that it’s the place “Where Everyone is Family” and we found this was the rare case where a cheesy tag line captured something real. Family. You don’t just throw up your hands when someone in the family is difficult and gets disrespectful when they get socially overwhelmed.
The VP was a control-your-kids kind of guy, clearly unaware of the challenges of raising an autistic kid — and clearly unwilling to use this parking lot moment as a learning opportunity. I tried to stay human with him and explain why this particular community was so special. The swim coaches always cheered our kids on despite always coming in dead last — not only that, but even put Francis in relay races! There have always been lots of extra eyes watching him and willing to redirect him when he started melting down. Most of the time he needs a drink, a snack, or some quiet sensory time. To be in a community that understood this is beyond miraculous for autism families. The worst thing is to start to scream or threaten, which unfortunately is some people’s default. Some authority figures know how to earn Francis’s trust; others just make things worse over and over again. At Elmer the latter finally won out.
We first started coming to this pool for swim lessons in 2009. After six years becoming more involved in this deeply welcoming community, I had started to allow myself to think we had found a home. I’d daydream of the day when Francis would be 18, graduating from the swim team and people would give him an extra rousing cheer when his name was called at the end-of-season banquet. We’d all tell stories with tears in our eyes of just how far he had come from that 9yo who couldn’t control his emotions. And we were at the point where I imagined this as a central identity for the family – the place where his older brother would sneak his first kiss on the overnight campout, or where his younger siblings would take their first courageous jumps off the high dive.
Julie’s making calls but I’m not holding my breath. What happened is an breathtakingly overt violation of the club association’s bylaws. But would we even feel safe returning? Francis is easily manipulated. It only takes a few hardened hearts at the top who believe autism is a parenting issue — or who just don’t care to do the extra work to accommodate a difficult child.
Fortunately for us, for a while we had a place that was special. The Elmer Swim Club and Elmer Swim Team will always have a special place in our hearts. Our thanks to all the wonderful people there. Here’s some memories:
Update: Our post shedding light on the Elmer Swim Club’s trustee misbehavior and the board’s violation of its own bylaws has now had over 1800 Facebook interactions (shares, likes, comments) and the blog post itself has been read 9,970 times. Terms like “autism elmer pool” are trending on our incoming Google searches and the post looks like it will be a permanent top-five search result for the pool. Although our family will never set foot in its waters again, our absence will be a remain a presence. Discussions over what happened will continue for years.
I share these stats to encourage people to talk about misbehavior in the public sphere. It doesn’t help civil society to bury conflict in the tones of hushed gossip. Just as we as parents work every day to help our autistic son make better decisions, all of us can insist that our community organizations follow best practices in self-governance and abide by their own rules. Bylaws matter. Parking lot civility matter. Kids should be held responsible for their actions. So should trustees.
A Fantastic, Participatory, Quaker Meeting?. Wess Daniels is back with a participatory vision for our meetings:
This is what it means to be a participatory church. You are all co-creators. There is not master/servant scenario, there is no one exercising control over you, you are invited as friends of Jesus to be faithful to the living out of your faith through love in this time and place.
From the first Hammonton Food Truck Festival. Cool stuff but the lines are way too long for a single parent with four antsy kids.
One of our friends said the line waits were up to 1.5 hrs. I could just about have jumped on the expressway to Philly, gotten some Federal Donuts, and made it back in that time. I like that Hammonton has made then edges of a hipster map but this is a bit silly. We ended up getting frozen treats at the Wawa around the corner.
Dealing with a Meeting that doesn’t know what to do with you. Mary Glenn Hadley writes in Quaker Life:
You are not alone. There are many others who are or have walked this lonely road. This can be a time of growth for you. In my times of loneliness, God has taught me that I was too eager to turn to my friends when He had new things to reveal to me or new assignments He wanted me to do.
I’ve just learned that a bunch of New England Quakers and concerned friends are going to be doing a march across much of Massachusetts and New Hampshire along the route of a proposed gas pipeline they oppose. It’s a 12 day walk, which is pretty impressive.
What if all of the people and organizations incensed about the South Jersey Pinelands pipeline and the Barr nomination and the politics behind it did something like this?
A walk from Millville to the B.L. England plant in Beesley Point would take a long weekend. It’s 26 miles, which is three easy days if we want to stop to do cool things. It’d be easy to live blog it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Meerkat. South Jersey Gas has already mapped the route for us and the logistics of two overnight campouts and food should be relatively simple. Doing this would bring attention in a way that would cut through the political rhethoric to really show why this is a natural wonderland worth protecting.