The past two weeks have been unusually stressful for me, both in schoolwork and certain extra-curricular activities. There is nothing I dislike more than stress because nothing good ever comes from simply worrying about a problem. However, I consider myself a good manager of stress; I can plan my time well enough that everything gets done and I can stay sane. Recently, the stress has slipped through my fingers and I’ve become so busy that I might just forget to breathe. So much has been put on my plate that nothing at all is getting done, making matters worse.
One night I couldn’t fall asleep, instead worrying about the things I needed to do. I thought back to my high school. While I don’t consider myself religious, I went to Quaker schools for my K-12 education, and am in fact a Quaker. Before you ask, we are not affiliated with Quaker Oats, and we are also not Amish.
What I thought about was the weekly Meeting for Worship we attended. For those unfamiliar, Meeting is the Quaker religious gathering and is fairly self-explanatory. It’s a time when everyone gathers together in a Meeting House to worship. We sit on long wooden benches in such a way that there is no front. While we do have a facing bench, there is not one person isolated in front of many. Meeting in a silent occasion; there is no priest who leads us in song or prayer, but rather it is a time for inner reflection. Quakers believe that there is that of God in everyone, which is represented by what we call the Light. If, during Meeting, you feel moved to speak, then you are allowed to stand and speak your mind. It is the closest we come to preaching.
My younger self found this time to be quite boring. I would often sit and watch the old grandfather clock slowly tick until it was time to leave, not appreciating the time spent. But toward the end of high school, I welcomed the opportunity to have this reflection time. Life continues to become more chaotic, and with each passing day it seems to me that we lose time for reflection. There is always more to be done, and never time to stop and rest. It’s been two years since I’ve regularly attended Meeting, and at this point I truly miss it. Having an hour or so every week to sit and collect my thoughts had more of an effect on my life than I previously realized. Some weeks I would use the time to mull over problems or issues I was struggling with. Other weeks I would spend the time with an empty, open mind. Even now I can imagine what it is like to be in that Meeting House. There is a certain smell to a three hundred year old building. The benches all creak when someone moves, and passing cars can be heard from the street. While most people think it’s a bit silly to sit in silence that long, those who have experienced Meeting would say that it is profound. Coming out of Meeting left me refreshed and ready to take on the remainder of the week, and I miss it.
For a moment, I’d like to go back to the something I spoke about before; the idea that there is that of God in everyone. This is the Quaker value that I believe in the strongest. It is one that I carry with me during my day, and something that I try to use to guide my decisions. I know right now I am dealing with a number of people with whom I do not see eye to eye. I’m sure that you, reader, also could name an individual, or multiple, with whom you do not see eye to eye. Even if you are not religious, consider for a moment the idea that there is that of God in everyone. And if not God, then something that makes us all human and brings us together as a defining feature. When dealing with this person, consider that they are not all that different from you. We all have similar problems and struggles, and are all working toward a similar goal. Deep down, some much deeper than others, I believe that we genuinely want to be good. While a person’s intentions can be led awry, somewhere inside them they are good. Think about this as you go through your day. I know this thought process makes me strive to be a better person, and I hope that it makes you strive as well.