Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) is an eleven-month service program for people aged 21-30 who are ready to enter into an experiment in community centered on Quaker values. Fellows have full-time social justice employment and participate in an intentional program of spiritual deepening. We are in our eighth year and have houses in Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, Portland OR, and Minneapolis.
When I was a kid, I told my little sister that we were forming a club. The two of us held a meeting to discuss possible club names and what kinds of things we would do as members of this club. We decided we would call it “The Do-Gooders Club,” and we would do good things. Creative, right? I’m not sure where things went after that.
As a hospital chaplain, I met Mrs. Corrigan in an office adjacent to her oncologist’s office. She had just been talking with him about her terminal illness and about non-curative, comfort-care plans. Mrs. Corrigan was facing the end of her life from a metastatic form of cancer. As a patient now living at home, she had previously undergone many surgeries, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy.
Like many others, I was drawn to the Religious Society of Friends by its compassionate work with people in need. As an undergraduate in the 1960s, I witnessed that compassion first-hand by participating in several AFSC projects, including visiting mental-hospital patients in the Bay Area and working with disadvantaged children during Freedom Summer in Memphis, Tennessee.
A friend of mine bicycled 2,700 miles this summer along the Continental Divide. In an article she wrote for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner (8/12/2018), she said, “When doing endurance races, I have a question I ask myself when I want to quit: ‘Am I in danger or just uncomfortable?’ If I’m just uncomfortable, I tell myself to keep going. Things will get better.
Presence is something I cannot fully describe or understand, informing my life and experience even though it is beyond words. It is a grounding, a solace, a push and shove, a challenge to the status quo. My call to dwell in Presence makes me one of the “peculiar people” and may set me apart even from others who call themselves Quaker.