[This letter was abridged from a longer original, which you can find at: https://westernfriend.org/letters-marchapril-2022]
It’s that time of year when many Friends are meeting in committees to plan the events and gatherings for the coming spring and summer. In many cases, these gatherings have been postponed or greatly altered since the beginning of Covid. Some Friends are ready and eager to meet again in person. Some Friends are not yet willing (or able) to risk an in-person gathering. And many Friends are somewhere apprehensively in between. In my experiences in planning and attending Quaker events post-Covid, I’ve seen how collisions among those different perspectives can cause damage. I’ve also seen Friends express great kindness and grace.
I believe we would do well to take time to consider each other’s perspectives before we meet again in person. By doing so, we’ll be better prepared to approach each other in ways that can bring us closer together. With that intent, I offer following points for Friends to consider:
Remember that the difficult process you have gone through – discerning the level of risk you feel comfortable taking – is a process every Friend has also gone through. Trust each other. Respect the individual boundaries that each Friend sets. Try not to perceive another Friend’s boundaries and acceptable risk levels for themselves (or their children) as judgments about your own discernments.
When you see someone in your Quaker community not wearing a mask or not being socially distant, that behavior might seem to communicate that the Friend does not consider (or value) the health and welfare of others. Instead of first viewing that Friend’s behavior in terms of “necessary precautions,” try to begin by considering the importance of being in community with that Friend.
Conversely, it can be difficult to encounter a hand pushing you away when you reach out for a hug. Or to be asked to put your mask on before a Friend will greet you with a hello. Consider expressing gratitude for such boundary-setting actions. Thanking someone for caring about your safety can be a powerful form of community building.
– Mim Coleman, Salmon Bay Friends Meeting (NPYM)