Delayed readership

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. 

Do Quakers hide behind a wall of silence?

Do Quak­ers hide behind a wall of silence?.

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?

Hashtagging politics

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.

Elmer Swim Club: the heartbreak of autism parents

Elmer Swim Club
Fran­cis at his favorite place in the world: the top of the Elmer high dive

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?

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.

Hammonton Food Trucks

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

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. 

Three day walk to #protectthepinelands ?

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.

This is just idle spec­u­la­tion but it seems doable. Who’s in? Leave a com­ment below or tweet at me or even try email.