Quaker Activism -- More Boots

From the SFGate/SF Chronicle: "Outside the Federal Building in San Francisco, 355 pairs of boots placed by the American Friends Service Committee stand in a memorial for Californians who have died in Iraq."

More photos here, or click on the thumbnail.


Quaker Activism - a quote from Dan Seeger

“To the extent that the blessing of peace is achieved by humankind, it will not be achieved because people have outraced each other in the building of armaments, nor because we have outdebated each other with rods, nor because we have outmaneuvered each other in political action, but because more and more people in a silent place in their hearts are turned to those eternal truths upon which all right living is based. It is on the inner drama of this search that the unfoldment of the outer drama of history ultimately depends.

“Knowing the subtlety of this, Quaker activism avoids making false muscular efforts in the hope of producing effects which are, in reality, beyond the powers of human manipulation, which are ultimately a matter of grace. Quaker activists avoid conceiving of themselves as 'social change engineers,' trying on technique after another to produce results which, when they fail to materialize, inspire yet more frantic searching for techniques…”

-- Dan Seeger, Practicing the Gospel of Hope in the Nuclear Age (Philadelphia: Wider Quaker Fellowship, 1983), p. 12.

I hope to post a few more selections from this worthwhile pamphlet, which I read during and after spring College Park Quarterly Meeting at Ben Lomond Quaker Center.

Only Connect

"Only connect..." -- E.M. Forster, Howard's End

I'm glad they sent me a pdf (I jpg'd it for blogger) and not an actual printed certificate. I don't need any more of those!


Housing Thoughts, a Preview, and Baseball Game Fame

I survived Affordable Housing Week AND the board meeting I staffed on Monday AND another one on Wednesday. Whew. It feels as if the week is finally over and I can relax. A little.

Do read Nancy's comment on my last post: is the problem with housing, or with the expectation that each (small) nuclear family will have an abode?

We went to Quarterly Meeting last weekend. It was Robin's last session as clerk of children's program. I thought she did a great job, and the State of Our Meetings report she brought to plenary on Sunday was the heart of the session for me. I do hope to blog about it unless Robin says all the good bits first.

I also read the 1983 pamphlet "Practicing the Gospel of Hope in the Nuclear Age" by Dan Seeger. I've already typed excerpts and copied them into a draft post. There's some really great, thoughtful material.

I'm looking forward to our meeting retreat at Quaker Center this weekend. cubbie is the assistant registrar: yay! I'm bringing a variety of gear because I want us to make our own Quaker t-shirts! I bought the iron-on inkjet paper at an office supply store today. I suppose I should buy a stash of organic cotton t-shirts but who knows if that will happen.

Baseball Game Fame:
Oh, and in case that all wasn't enough the last ten days, last night we went to see the Giants beat the Astros. We went with a group of about 200 people from the Friends School. Nine Year Old was chosen as one of a group of students to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballpark" on camera during the seventh inning stretch! Two people recognized Nine Year Old from the big screen, one on the ramp down and one on the Muni train back toward home, and said, "Hey, you were singing tonight!"

Here is a video taken by another parent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iYJKRXYYTA.

Nine Year Old is on the left, in the striped shirt -- which he had on inside out. I don't know if anyone else noticed. I loved seeing how much he enjoyed the moment.

He also did three "magic" tricks at family night during Quarterly. As one Friend said, "Hey, this is how they get comfortable standing up in front of everyone here. That's leadership development." Amen!


Affordable Housing Week day 2

Yesterday (Monday) we organized an executive briefing and luncheon for the Housing Endowment And Regional Trust, the HEART of San Mateo County. We reached our goal of 200 RSVPs as of Friday afternoon at 6 pm. We weren't charging, because we had a sponsor and enough budget to cover costs, so we anticipated at least a 10% dropoff of people not showing up, and figured 15% was quite possible.

As it happened, we had 22 people not show up, just over 10%. However, 14 people showed up who had not RSVPed. So we were down only 7 people or 3.5%! In other words, we had a full house. The energy was great.

And the San Jose Mercury News ran a great piece about it today! It's here, but you may have to do a free registration to read the whole thing.

Then I went to a groundbreaking event followed by an open house at an affordable housing development run by a wonderful nun. Yes, folks, it's Affordable Housing Week! (www.Home-Is.org).

Tonight we had an evening panel discussion on the state of the local housing market, with a banker, a Realtor, and a business journalist. I was the moderator. It was an interesting discussion. Still, I wish we had a better turnout than the 30 or so people who were there (that figure includes panelists, representatives of the corporate sponsor, and two of my coworkers). Turns out there was a basketball playoff game tonight with one of the local teams, so that may have taken a few people away. We set the room just right with 40 chairs, and so the 30 people who were there had room but were not too spread out and dissipated.

I'm grateful for my time in meetings for worship with a concern for business and also in presenting workshops on aspects of Quaker values or Quakerism to the Friends School. It has really given me a comfort level talking in front of a group.

I felt a little odd at the lunch yesterday when I did a brief slideshow presentation. I knew that the communications consultant who had coached me in making presentations was in the room, so I was remembering her advice as I talked. And then I made eye contact with a friend and board member at the very back of the room, who has encouraged me to step up and speak more powerfully, and I thought of that as I was stumbling over some of my words. Overall, though, the feedback I got was positive, so I think the training shone through the slips and hitches.

As an event organizer, I always focus on the slips and hitches so as to learn from them and do a better job next time. However, I need to remember the big picture: We had a good event with great energy, and there was a superb follow-up story in one of the two major dailies in the Bay Area.

There's still more to come.

Oh well, at least Quarterly Meeting is this weekend! It should be glorious. I will need my long underwear for camping under the redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains, at Ben Lomond Quaker Center.


That position would not have occurred to me

So when Five Year Old was still quite young, either a few months old or about 14 months old, I got a call from the Friend who was then serving as our meeting's clerk of nominating.

"I have two questions from Nominating Committee," she said. "First, we wanted to know if you would be willing to serve," she said, "as treasurer." There was an edge to her voice.

"That position would not have occurred to me," I said. "I don't think I can do it."

It was clear then what the edge in her voice was from: Barely suppressed laughter.

"Wait, it gets better!" she said. "Would you be willing to serve as clerk of meeting?"

We both laughed.

Even as she asked, she knew it was somewhat outlandish even to ask me to consider serving as treasurer or clerk at that point in my life.

This Friend is also the parent of two children, both in similar age brackets to my two. So she knew from her own current experience it was asking a bit much.

Anyway, fast forward to spring 2007. My boys are five and nine (as of yesterday!).

About two months ago, the current clerk of Nominating asked me if I would serve as clerk. I asked for time to consider. A couple of times on this blog, I mentioned being in a time of discernment for my meeting -- this question was the focus. Anyway, thanks to the many Friends who helped -- Robin M., Kathleen K., Stephen M., Patty M., John H., and more... It gradually became clearer, especially when Deb Fisch and Becky Phipps visited our meeting from the Traveling Ministries Program of Friends General Conference, I felt clear to say yes to the request. My name was brought forward a month ago for seasoning.

Today (5/13/07) the meeting for business approved me as clerk.

Lord, Thank you for this opportunity.
Grant me the mental acuity, the physical stamina, the emotional awareness and stability, and the spiritual strength to help the meeting in this role.
May I be of service.

In memory of Al Baez

The memorial service for Al Baez will be 5/24/07 at 4:00 pm at Stanford Memorial Church, on the campus of Stanford University. I believe it will be under the care of Marin and Palo Alto monthly meetings.

I met Al once, when he came to SF meeting to talk about Vivamos Mejor, the nonprofit he founded to promote interchange between California Friends and a small Mexican community. He was what you'd expect from an older Quaker who was doing a project to build bridges of material and spiritual goods across borders of politics, ethnicity, and class: kindly, gentle, caring, committed.

The SF Chronicle ran a nice obit for him: Albert Baez -- scientist, author, father of Joan Baez. Here are a couple of excerpts that stood out to me:

"Mr. Baez was a scientist, a physics professor and a pacifist who refused to use his considerable expertise to advance the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.

"But he was best known as the father of folk singers Joan Baez and the late Mimi FariƱa....

"The invention in 1948 of the X-ray reflection microscope vaulted Mr. Baez into the upper echelon of American physicists. When the Cold War arrived in the 1950s, he had to choose between a career in education or a lucrative career developing weapons of mass destruction.

"Mr. Baez was a lifelong pacifist who chose a career in education and humanitarianism....

"Cavener said, 'He was honorable. He led by example and, as a Quaker, he wasn't worried about anybody frying in hell.'"


New blog for Friends Committee on Legislation

Between the size of the "post-partisan" prison and jail bed building frenzy we're about to embark on here in California, and a variety of healthcare reform proposals that might win but not work, or work but not win, what's a Quaker to do?

Well, especially if you are a California Friend, please check out the new blog for the Friends Committee on Legislation of California (FCL):

Jim Lindburg's FCLog.

I helped Jim set it up, so let me know if there are changes we should make.

Heck, you could go ahead and subscribe to the RSS feed right now:


Thanks. -- Chris M.


Retrofits, compaction grouting and t-shirts oh my!

Thursday was the groundbreaking for San Francisco Friends School's new site: 250 Valencia Street, the former Levi Strauss & Co. factory. It was built in 1906 after the earthquake and fire destroyed their previous factory. It has amazing old-growth redwood timbers, which of course require extensive and expensive shoring up.

If you're a Bay Arean or Southern Californian, you're well aware of the practice of seismic retrofitting. Some of you may not be as familiar with compaction grouting. This is the pouring into the soil of seemingly endless amounts of some form of concrete-like substance to stabilize the sandy soil on which the building rests. There's an old streambed under it, and the edge of the bay used to be relatively nearby.

The highlight for everyone was when Bob Haas, the CEO of Levi Strauss, choked up just a bit when talking about the meaning of the building for him. He remembered when his father brought him there as a young boy to see how a pair of blue jeans is made, and to meet the workers. He talked about how they usually had accents, were recent immigrants, and were paid modestly but enough to support their families and move into opportunity in their new country.

My personal highlight was the six 3-foot-wide by 8-foot-tall banners hanging from the rafters, spelling out the words: simplicity, service, peace, integrity, community, equality. (SSPICE!) I was pleased that the school would place the values so visibly at this event.
- - - - -
Also Thursday, Robin visited Eight-soon-to-be-Nine Year Old's class to discuss the differences between Quaker decision-making and voting. They're in the midst of a unit on government, and recently held class elections. But she already wrote about it on her blog, so you've probably already read it there! I'm just impressed with how well-written the piece was for being only an hour or two after the fact. Good work, darlin'!

On Wednesday, she went to the community meeting for worship at the school. Someone let go of a blue ball, which rolled across the floor... stopping a couple of feet away from the kindergartners. Despite squirming and looking and thinking, they resisted the temptation to reach out and grab it. Cathy Hunter, the head of school, apparently talked about how much they've already learned in life if they can do that.
- - - - -
I have an idea for our meeting's Memorial Day weekend retreat: a Quaker Meeting t-shirt design festival! We're figuring out if we'll just work on drawings and words and lettering on paper, or if we should bring the laptop to design things online and we'll bring some iron-on decal paper we can run through the printer, or if we should set up a Cafe Press shop.
- - - - -
Inspired by that idea, today (Sunday) I taught a Firstday School lesson on clothing in the Bible, and we designed "t-shirts" traced on large sheets of butcher paper. It didn't go quite as I'd planned -- the fact that there were five males in the room meant we had lots of boy energy and lots of, um, "interesting" details in the designs.

Well, maybe if I hadn't used Psalm 22 (they cast lots for my garments) as one of the readings -- it's pretty gory in the Message version that I used. I'll post the lesson outline later.
- - - - -
Also today we went to the picnic for families of incoming kindergarteners at the Friends School. The kids get a school t-shirt. Five Year Old already had his, and he very proudly picked it out of his dresser this morning. He is excited to be going to the same school as Eight Year Old.


My first time YouTubing

I did it! Here's the Public Service Announcement for local cable TV that Comcast created for us for Affordable Housing Week 2007. As mentioned in my last post, our theme for the week is "Home Is: Family | Opportunity | Community," and the week's events are listed at www.Home-Is.org.

The page with the PSA is here:

Or just click on the embedded object here!

This was from the 3MB file Comcast emailed us... I'm hoping the DVD that's coming in the mail will be a little higher quality.

I wrote the script, and that's my voice on the narration. (Shades of my college-radio days. Still a pretty low-key, classic rock radio type of voice; not a very high-powered TV voice, which is okay with me.)