Articles & News

Tips for Writing for Friends Journal open issues 

Friends Journal - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 12:43pm

Fast Facts:

Since 2012, most of the monthly issues of Friends Journal have been set aside for specific themes. Every eighteen months or so we poll readers and dream up ideas for future issues. Sometimes we’ll be inspired by a particular article that struck a chord with readers; other times we’ll look at a topic that Friends aren’t talking about enough. There are some relatively perennial themes (race, art, finance, social witness, outreach), but even with these, we try to find hooks that might bring fresh voices to the conversation.

We also keep two issues a year open: no theme and no expectations. Most of our unsolicited articles go into a “General Submissions” list that we hold for these issues. Sometimes a choice is easy: we’ll get a blockbuster article that we know we just have to print. But just as often we’ll run some quiet piece of Quaker life that is offered us without regard to our schedules. 

Since we get a fair number of submissions that don’t fall into an upcoming theme, I thought I’d give some tips for writing unsolicited general articles for Friends Journal

The first bit of advice is to give our editorial submission guidelines a good once-over. Two of the most common problems we see are:

  • Length: Articles should run between around 1200 and 2500 words. We can sometimes adapt shorter pieces for our Viewpoint column and longer pieces can be edited down, but it’s never a good sign when something comes to us that so obviously doesn’t fit our format. 
  • Previous publication: Submissions should not have been published elsewhere. We don’t want readers opening our magazine and realizing halfway through that they’ve already read the piece. This includes publication in online forums including personal blogs. We realize ideas sometimes get a first threshing in blog posts but successful articles are almost always written from scratch with print publication in mind.

The next thing to ask when writing or pitching an article to us is “why Friends Journal?” There are very few places where someone can write on the Quaker experience and see their work published. This scarcity weighs on us as we select an open issue’s mix. Authors don’t need to be Quaker but the piece should have a strong Quaker hook. I’m not above doing a control-F on a submission to see how many times “Quaker” or “Friends” is mentioned. If it’s just a tacked-on reference because you’re shopping a piece written for another publication, it probably won’t work for us.

When you’re ready to send us something, please use the Submittable service so that we will have all of your information on file. “General Submissions” is the category for material that we consider for non-themed issues. Do be aware that we only select for these issues twice a year and that our editorial response time is consequently longer for these.  

Do you have a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Please let us know. I keep a running log of suggestions, many of which become themes months or even years later! We’ll be starting our next round of theme planning in late summer 2018.

Submit a General Submission Learn more general information at Friendsjournal.org/submissions We’re always looking for new voices and perspectives from our community. Is there a side of the story you think isn’t being told or heard among Friends? Contact senior editor Martin Kelley with questions or ideas at martink@friendsjournal.org or message on Facebook or Twitter.

The post Tips for Writing for Friends Journal open issues  appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

May 2018 Full Issue Access

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 3:05am
Members can download the full PDF or read any article online (see links below). Fifth Annual Student Voices Project: For this year’s project, Quaker-affiliated students tell stories of Quaker testimonies acting in their lives. Features: “Powerful Quakers” by Lukas Austin; “The Value of Loss” by Emily Weyrauch; “Selling Quakerism” by Tom Hoopes; “The Quaker Value of Testing” by Asha Sanaker. Poetry:  “Respite” by Karen
Categories: Articles & News

Among Friends: Meaningful Values

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 3:00am

If you google “what are quaker values,” a document from Connecticut Friends School we published on Friendsjournal.org in September 2010 will be a top result. In fact, this page, titled “S-P-I-C-E-S: The Quaker Testimonies,” is consistently among the top three most-visited on our site, with an average of 1,200 views every month. It’s not so surprising that the content came from a Friends school. Friends schools have to communicate their core principles in order to attract prospective families. Listing the SPICES is a nice shortcut to getting there, but it’s not the full answer, of course.

Many Quaker groups have long used the shorthand “Quaker values” as part of their brand, which led us to pose this month’s issue topic: “What are Quaker values anyway?” And in an age where thousands of curious eyeballs are landing on your page looking for answers, it’s worth talking about what we mean when we use this term. How do Friends create meaning from the words of our values and testimonies?

Listing peace, community, and equality as part of your founding mission is a feel-good, head-nodding way to attract followers and customers in a competitive environment. Friends school educator Tom Hoopes explores this “mission–market tension” further in his article “Selling Quakerism” and asks “How do we sell the Quaker ‘brand’ without selling out?” He accepts the challenge and suggests some new ways to more consciously use the unique vocabulary of the Quaker faith.

When we’re done talking about words, what does it look like to actually live out these testimonies in the real world? Emily Weyrauch and Asha Sanaker both agree it requires a lot of effort and intentionality, but it helps to practice in a supportive community. Sanaker recently returned to Quakerism after many years of questioning her own clearness around the peace testimony; she’s now grateful to be a part of community of seekers “who take responsibility for continually investigating the Light and how it can best be lived into the world.” While living in community in a Quaker Voluntary Service house, Weyrauch discovered the value of letting go when she decided to leave behind the uglier parts of herself in order to live in the world more fully and with integrity.

For our fifth annual Student Voices Project, we asked students to consider how Quaker testimonies work in our lives. A generation whose voice is getting louder and more powerful responded with inspirational stories. (The deadline to submit for this year’s project was Monday, February 12, two days before the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., whose teenage survivors have led a mass movement for gun control laws.) Baltimore young Friend Lukas Austin speaks to this kind of new empowerment in their feature piece on “Powerful Quakers”: “As long as people remain silent about what distresses them, the problem will continue.”

The student voices this year tell tales of “Quaker values” in motion: learning to center, embracing diversity, understanding peace, struggling with simplicity, marching for stewardship, and fully accepting those who are different from ourselves. Looking at the whole picture, “Quaker values” is simply an entry point. For the people who are searching, I see it as an invitation. And it’s up to Friends to put in the effort and intention to provide a more meaningful answer.

In peace,


Gail Whiffen

The post Among Friends: Meaningful Values appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Student Voices Project

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 2:30am

Our fifth annual Student Voices Project brought in writing from 163 middle and high school students representing six U.S. Friends schools. We selected 20 honorees whose submissions are featured here. However, due to space limitations in our print issue, we’re unable to showcase all honoree submissions in their entirety. Some have been excerpted on the following pages with the rest of each story appearing in our online edition available at Friendsjournal.org, where you can also see a full list of all 163 participants. This year’s prompt:

Tell us a story about how one of the Quaker testimonies was made real t you in your life. We’re looking for true tales that involve you somehow and illustrate how a testimony went from abstract concept to real-life presence.

Also:

  • Center Yourself My journey through my Quaker faith and education all started in nursery school. I went to a small Quaker nursery school. It’s the kind of place where I sat on my teacher’s lap, and the room was filled with worn wooden blocks with a certain cozy smell I can still remember. There’s a beautiful meetinghouse …
  • Our D.C. Family Signs passed by as we continued to drive on the bumpy road. It was a dreary, dark, foggy day. The weather seemed to relate to the type of day we were soon going to have. The lightly tinted windows were open, and I could feel the spring breeze. Cars honked, and lights changed. The silence …
  • To Build Is to Love The stairs to the vast, rustic house creaked as I lugged my teal trunk up the steps. The bright sunlight emanated onto the thick wooden bunks, creating lines of radiance. Duffle bags and suitcases lined the perimeter of the room. Feelings of doubt crossed my mind, and I looked at my parents with big, worried …
  • Comfort in Diversity This is my first year at Westtown School. I am a proud Christian who goes to church and worships God. At my church we sing, dance, cry, and mostly make noise! I am comfortable in this environment because in my culture, we recognize that God deserves all the praise. This is a strong aspect of …
  • All Teammates Deserve Respect Five years ago, I tried out for a new hockey team. When I walked through the glass doors of the ice rink for tryouts, I saw a girl trying out for the same team. I instantly recognized her as I had played against her in years past; I knew she was a tough competitor. In …
  • Finding My Community I grew up going to a Quaker meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. I never truly liked going to meeting because it always felt way too long. My family and I moved to Pennsylvania about four years ago, and we continued to attend Quaker meeting. One day my mom told me I was going on a …
  • From the Circus to the Community “So, Rosie … do you want to go to the Ringling Brothers Circus for their final show?” my dad asks happily. “Of course, I would love to go! Can you tell me why you’ve always loved it so much?” I ask, thinking he might not tell me. “Sure,” he says. “Well, I proposed to your mom there. …
  • Community or Competition I shakily stepped out of the car. I had to grip the door for support. Even though it was a calm, sunny day, I was freaking out. Carefully I pulled my ice skating bags out of the car. I could’ve sworn the bags had gotten heavier. I slowly walked into the rink and started to …
  • Family Is Family I am adopted. Both my mom and my dad are white. Both of my sisters are also white. My brother and I are from Ethiopia, and we have brown skin. I love my parents, my sisters, and my brother. Even though we don’t all look the same, we’re still a family. I live in the …
  • Would You Still Love Me If I Were a Boy? I remember the night I told my mom I wasn’t exactly a girl. I was so worried about telling her. I can’t talk to my parents about regular things much less something this close to my heart. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I considered not telling her. I considered running back to …
  • The Imaginary Box I was different in third grade. Some of my classmates thought antagonizing me was cool; they used it as a badge of social acceptance. I saw many of them as complicit when they witnessed my antagonization. While it only happened occasionally, it stuck with me. What I’ve found to be true is that the people …
  • The Art of Loving Yourself “I love myself.” I speak into the mirror, my voice cracks into a barely audible whisper, the embarrassment squeaking through just ever so slightly. I am close enough to see all my pores, all the smeared residue of makeup, all the bumps and edges of my skin. I can see all of the tiny lines, blemishes, …
  • Different Opinions, Same Community Last year I attended an all-girls school in Southeastern Pennsylvania. This school’s community consisted of some diversity geographically, but most of the girls were the same racially and economically. Sometimes it was hard for the students to accept views different from their own because they were not open-minded or they were not able to comprehend …
  • Teaching Equality When I was about three years old, my family hired a babysitter named Chelsea. Chelsea was quite the culture shock for my white, “Hi, we’re the Griswolds!” family. My sister and I were quickly swept up in Chelsea’s sea of musical talent, sewing, crazy personality, and general affection. We hung around her like thirsty puppies, …
  • Finding Simplicity in My Life As many people’s lives become more cluttered with events and activities, we become more and more reliant on physical items. I spend a large amount of time thinking about this during the summer. My family spends about a month on Southport Island in Maine. We stay in a cottage that my dad’s grandparents purchased during …
  • The Realization Simplicity is something that everyone needs. It’s something that makes life easier. It made my life easier. It adds a glow and a breath of fresh air to our world. But the strange thing about this is that if you don’t have simplicity in your life, you aren’t properly cared for. That is what happened …
  • Peacefulness in a Chaotic World Peacefulness has been a common theme throughout my life and my journeys. My mother and father have been through so much growing up under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Many of my dad’s friends have been imprisoned during the occupation, and many have died from the military violence and shootings that occur. Still my …
  • Stewardship Brought to the Streets of Our Capital I’ve been surrounded by Quakerism since I was about three years old. From preschool through fifth grade, I attended Goshen Friends School. Then I started attending Westtown School, another Quaker private school, where I’m currently in ninth grade. Quaker values and SPICES were always integrated into both of my schools’ curriculums. At Westtown, I attend …
  • Soft Soap and Doom “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” —C.S. Lewis My breath was icy and gave off white puffs in the air. The wind was like …
  • A Simple, Silent Moment Our feet danced in an inch of water, and the wooden benches beneath us were worn from use and age. Anchored in the middle of the lake, my grandpa and I sat in the rowboat that had first belonged to my great-grandfather prior to his death. The boat’s blue paint was chipped and its hull …

The post Student Voices Project appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Center Yourself

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 2:15am

My journey through my Quaker faith and education all started in nursery school. I went to a small Quaker nursery school. It’s the kind of place where I sat on my teacher’s lap, and the room was filled with worn wooden blocks with a certain cozy smell I can still remember. There’s a beautiful meetinghouse on the property, and a couple times a year, the meeting would invite the children at the school to join them for meeting for worship. I don’t remember what I felt the first time I walked into the meetinghouse, but today, I walk in and am consumed with a warm feeling, seeing the old benches and wood, smelling the history that has existed there for hundreds of years.

The first time I sat through a meeting for worship was rough. I was fidgeting, looking around the room at everyone multiple times, and not able to center myself. My mom told me to center myself, but I didn’t even know what that meant.

We gradually kept coming back to meeting, and eventually became regular attenders. The meeting was very inviting and open to us, which made us feel comfortable there. After nursery school, I went on to attend another Quaker school, and that is when I really started to understand Quakerism. I came to understand the proper meeting behavior, and I really embraced being there.

The meeting that my family attended varied from the one at school. In school, people were whispering during worship, even the seventh and eighth graders. At the meeting my family attended on Sundays, it was always very quiet and no one talked unless they stood up. I noticed my own behavior was different, too. At school, my best friend whispered to me, and of course I whispered back. We got in trouble, but we were so inseparable that it didn’t matter so much to us, because we could not stop talking to each other for even half an hour. At the meeting my family attended, I was really silent, besides some very soft whispers to my mom. The whisper to my mom was always something relevant in my mind, even if it seemed like the most irrelevant thing to anybody else.

When I was in fourth grade, we started attending Philadelphia Yearly Meeting annual sessions. Every person there was very welcoming, and more than willing to help us out. I was with a group of kids that were kind and fun to be around. We also started to go to the quarterly meetings, and we liked attending those, too. Third grade was when I learned the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. After this, I tried to weave these things into my way of life. I started to live more simply, realizing all of the stuff I didn’t need, which I donated to kids that need it more than me. My family started to participate more in helping out the community. I am very grateful that Quakerism has taught me to see the light in every person, regardless of what their race is, where they come from, and who they are.

Now that I am older, I do my best to incorporate the Quaker testimonies into my everyday life. I do not know where my future is headed, but I do see Quaker faith being a big part of my life to come. Now when my mom tells me to center myself, I know exactly what that means. In fact, my mom doesn’t say it to me anymore, for I have learned to center myself on my own.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Our D.C. Family

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 2:10am

Signs passed by as we continued to drive on the bumpy road. It was a dreary, dark, foggy day. The weather seemed to relate to the type of day we were soon going to have. The lightly tinted windows were open, and I could feel the spring breeze. Cars honked, and lights changed. The silence on our bus stopped, as we went around talking over each other.

My minimester group for We Are Family (a small organization that helps senior citizens in D.C.) had been working for a couple days. I had chosen this minimester because it seemed like it would be a fun experience to talk and interact with people in our community. However today we were going to be doing tough physical work: delivering boxes of food to a seniors’ apartment complex. We began transporting boxes and boxes. There were some kids outside retrieving the boxes, and others moving the boxes into the building. We were like a machine unable to stop, and we wondered what was next. After finishing with all the boxes, we headed to another next apartment complex down the street that also worked with We Are Family.

“Everyone, we are going to split into groups,” our teacher Mr. Merlin says.

We quickly split up and begin our visits with the seniors. We go to the first room, knock on the door, and wait. A minute later we knock again. Soon after we hear a creak in the door, and a very skinny man appears.

“Hello,” he says very softly.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Merlin, and these are my students. We’re here to talk with you about We Are Family and how it has impacted your life.”

“Oh yes, yes, come in, come in,” the man says a little louder than before but still raspy.

Our group walks in and sits down. We offer the man help with anything before he sits down too.

“No, I’m fine. Thank you though,” he responds.

He starts to talk about his backstory. He went to Hampton College. He met his wife a little while later. He seems to not want to talk about her much so he quickly moves to a different subject. He talks about how We Are Family has helped him ever since he was diagnosed with cancer. I start to wonder if that is why this man is so skinny. I knew before that chemo can make you very sick and make it hard to digest food. With all his costs for treatment and housing, We Are Family helps him have a place to live and by providing a certain amount of food each month. He tells us about how We Are Family is the reason he is healthy and sheltered. He speaks softly so we are all silent. Then he asks if we have any questions. He answers them one by one.

This man put so much love, passion, and heart into everything he said to us that day, mostly because this was such an important issue to him. Listening to him made me realize this was an important issue not just to him but to me as well. I discovered a side of me I wouldn’t have found without this incredible experience. At this point I realized that it’s up to my generation to fix this issue. I’ve always hated going through the streets and seeing the saddened eyes of people. It’s so hard for me. I have two sides. On one side I don’t want to help because I’m scared of something different sitting there. On another side it’s too much to watch people suffer right around me in my own community.

Later that week, as I passed by people on the street, I felt more self-aware. I remember trying to look at people in the eye and say hello. I had done this before, but this time I said it with heart and compassion because that’s all someone needs. Before my minimester experience I always acted like people on the streets were invisible. But I know if I was in a position like that, I would want to be acknowledged by the people around me. This is how community is formed: helping people in need. In the end we are all humans and deserve respect from one another, no matter what religion, race, identity, or creed. I’ve learned that these are the people who are part of my community, and it’s my and future generation’s jobs to help these community members in need.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

The post Our D.C. Family appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

To Build Is to Love

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 2:05am

The stairs to the vast, rustic house creaked as I lugged my teal trunk up the steps. The bright sunlight emanated onto the thick wooden bunks, creating lines of radiance. Duffle bags and suitcases lined the perimeter of the room. Feelings of doubt crossed my mind, and I looked at my parents with big, worried eyes. I felt comforted by my mother’s reassuring touch. “You’ll do great, sweetie,” she said softly. “We love you,” my father said delicately. The mesh screen door shut with a loud slam as they left me in a cloud of tentativeness and fret. Questions circulated through my brain, filled with inquisitiveness and uneasiness. The answers to these questions were embedded in the campfire pit, the plywood porch, and the cool, crisp Maine air.

“Welcome to Hidden Valley Camp’s Teen Program Community. We have so many goals for the summer, and we’re so excited that you’ve decided to participate,” one of the counselors, a middle-aged woman with hiking boots and a tan bucket hat, informed us.

I picked at a hole in a cushion of the blue-and-red striped couch. As I glanced at the unfamiliar faces of the nine fellow campers around me, I felt as though the summer had a sense of potential that was within my grasp. The possibilities rested in this very living room, in the kitchen, and in the flourishing garden.

“Throughout the month, we will be building community within our small group, at the main camp, and communities around Maine. We will cook all our meals in the house, and every day we will do community service work around Maine. We want you to develop leadership skills and learn how to be a better community member. There is also an aspect of self-sufficiency in the program,” she explained.

Another counselor, a blonde haired women with multi-colored friendship bracelets and strappy sandals, added more: “The aspect of self-sufficiency is that this house has no electricity. We have a small generator that we are planning to activate for ten to fifteen minutes in the morning and in the evening. Every day we will go to a different community to complete service work. For example, we will do trail work at Acadia National Park, harvest vegetables at farms, assist at animal shelters, and visit nursing homes.”

My legs jittered with excitement, and my thoughts transformed from tentative, worried ideas to hopeful feelings. Little did I know the people around me and activities planned would be the essential figures and experiences in the development of a community that I would cherish, value, and admire.

That first night, after a hearty meal of baked ziti with fresh vegetables from the garden outside of the house, we played “get to know you” games and completed ice breaker challenges.

The unfamiliarity and awkwardness still pervaded through the old farmhouse. During the month, through communal activities and shared spaces, memories were made, and the layers of ice melted. The ice melted in the kitchen, where we recognized the power of connection through communal activities, and in the rooms, where whispering and giggling led to the creation of reminiscences. The living room transformed into a friendship bracelet factory, and the porch converted into a dish washing station. The house was the foundation of connection: the place where we fostered our sense of friendship, the place where bonding occurred and laughs were shared.

The nursing home was the first community service site. There, games of bingo and art activities with elderly people took place. Stories of the past were shared, songs were sung, and pictures of children and grandchildren circulated. The first person we interacted with was a woman  named Bernadette. “What beautiful young ladies you are,” she whispered quietly when she saw us. “I was once like you,” she stated, launching into a story filled with nostalgia and sentimental feelings about her childhood in France. Vincent, an elderly man with a passion and love for boats and ships, educated us on his experiences visiting many different countries. Cherie, a bedridden elderly women, was talkative and inquisitive. Her curiosity inspired us to develop an enduring friendship. “The best thing you can do in Maine in the summer is swim in Lake George. I used to swim there everyday and ride my horses, too. I hope you girls get a chance to swim … to swim in Lake George,” she commented. That night, we insisted that the counselors take us to the nearby lake. We swam for Cherie.

At various farms, we harvested vegetables and pulled weeds from the ground, knowing that each piece of produce would be transformed into a filling meal for homeless people. As I squatted on the ground and bits of dirt seeped through the straps of my sandals, I realized the importance of having an interconnected and dependent community. Every piece of produce that our group harvested from offsite farms was sent to a local soup kitchen, which then made hearty meals for people who are struggling. It was at the farms, with the sun casting on my back as I harvested produce and chatted with my friends, that I realized there is an inherent ability and opportunity in the world to impact the lives of others. Glimpsing at the clear blue sky, I envisioned a young girl, a girl like me, with curly blonde hair and blue eyes, eating her first meal all week, a slight smile crossing her face. As I harvested the last of the tomatoes and carried the buckets of produce to the transportation truck, I could see that girl, her eyes filled with naivety. I enlightened her with the notion that there is hope.

At a soup kitchen in Portland, Maine, I scrubbed and washed a plethora of potatoes while heavy knives gracefully cut through vegetables, pans of mac and cheese entered the oven, and smells of freshly baked bread wafted through the air. “Oh, the lines will start soon,” the director of the kitchen advised us. Long lines of hungry people formed. A homeless man with a yellow tinted apron volunteered in the kitchen with us. “Our lives are precariously balanced on the streets out there. Coming here … coming here is all the security we’ve got. It must look different for you girls though,” he said. His message resonated with me as plates were distributed to people of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Children, adolescents, middle-aged and elderly people took their food promptly, knowing this meal and time would be their solace for the day, their light in a place of darkness.

As I peeked out the window, I noticed that chunks of glass and dirt lined the streets. People moved slowly down the streets as grief and sadness emerged on their faces. My attention was redirected back to the kitchen as I cleaned with the homeless man. He explained how the kitchen operates, and I listened attentively. He asked me about the community program, and I explained what I’ve learned. “This program has taught me that a person can make an impact in a community and learn the process of community building.”

He smiled at me in response and nodded his head in affirmation. His actions suggested his true feelings more than any verbal expression could. As I examined the room, I recognized the connections created among the people in the soup kitchen. I noticed the atmosphere of the room transform from possessing a solemn nature to a space where people gained a sense of comfort. The aura changed because a sense of hope was instilled in a group of people that struggle to find optimism. The room, volunteers, homeless population, and hopeful feelings cultivated a sense of community. People bonded through cordial conversations and appreciation for the provisions of food and service. I admired and ruminated on the power of human connection and the meaning of relationships. I perceived that understanding other people, regardless of their background or culture, leads to the development of a resilient community that holds the ability to change the way in which the world views the power of people to love, to learn, and to grow through connections.

From the conversations with the man at the kitchen, to learning about the elderly folks in the nursing home, to building connections with my fellow campers and counselors, I now understand that there is a sense of strength that is present within the action of truly comprehending people in the world around us. Community is power. Community is connection. Community is change.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

The post To Build Is to Love appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Comfort in Diversity

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 2:00am

This is my first year at Westtown School. I am a proud Christian who goes to church and worships God. At my church we sing, dance, cry, and mostly make noise! I am comfortable in this environment because in my culture, we recognize that God deserves all the praise. This is a strong aspect of the African American experience. Through religion, I am constantly learning more about my history and my present.

Then I came to Westtown. Everyone at Westtown was so free and loose, I became afraid to share that I was Christian. I thought people wouldn’t like me because of my religion. The school welcomes all religions, but in sharing about my Christian religion, I would become even more of a minority. Most people at Westtown are spiritual, atheist, or agnostic. While I am not one to shove my religion onto others, I became worried they wouldn’t like me. I became worried they thought that I was going to whip out the Holy Bible, read scriptures, and throw holy water at them. There are many stereotypes about Christians. I was also afraid that people would make fun of and mock me because I am a Black Christian—you know, the good old stomping-on-the-ground, screaming “hallelujah” kind—or that people would say we are “ghetto” and wear “extreme” clothes.

I am used to people assuming things about me that are quite offensive. However, as my knowledge of Quakerism developed, I found a sense of comfort. I like that Quakerism holds a spot for community. This made me realize that no matter what people think, I am apart of this diverse community. I can live life, be Christian, and have friends all in one. The people that make up Westtown today have formed this sense of community, and I feel more comfortable to be myself and express my religion. I like that the SPICES all relate to the world in huge way and that people who follow them are choosing to contribute to a better world. Quakerism has the power to change the world, and as a full-time Christian, I am on board to help!

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

The post Comfort in Diversity appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

All Teammates Deserve Respect

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:55am

Five years ago, I tried out for a new hockey team. When I walked through the glass doors of the ice rink for tryouts, I saw a girl trying out for the same team. I instantly recognized her as I had played against her in years past; I knew she was a tough competitor. In fact, I vividly recalled the intense game in which she checked me on a breakaway that would have enabled my team to take the lead, had I scored. Fast forward five years after the tryouts, Grace is still on the Valley Forge Minutemen with me, and she has turned out to be one of my best friends and a great hockey player.

When Grace and I started playing hockey together, we clicked on and off the ice, quickly becoming friends. Grace was the only girl on the team surrounded by 16 boys. This proved to be very interesting, to say the least. Many on the team were used to an all-boy locker room, so when Grace joined the team, we made some minor modifications. Additionally many tried to avoid being paired with Grace during drills because they somehow thought it was better to be with other boys. Deep down I think they knew how good she was and they were afraid that she would beat them (and she did). I made sure I paired up with Grace, as I knew it would make me a better player, and boy, was I right.

As immature behavior continued from some of the boys on the team, it really started to wear on me and made me upset. I knew I had to be a leader and leverage the values I learned at home and at my Quaker school. I knew I needed to support all of my teammates, including Grace, and ensure all were treated equally and with due respect. I would purposely seek Grace out on partner drills in practice and regularly sat next to her on the bench and in the locker room. Some of our team members would have get-togethers and, many times, did not include the whole team. I caught onto this pretty quickly and would always include Grace by inviting her over to my house with other teammates. I really enjoyed hanging out with her. The fact is that Grace and I had a lot of the same interests and ideas which made her a really easy person to talk with and get along with. We would watch the Flyers and play hours of knee hockey in my basement. These knee hockey games were always close, competitive games that usually ended with a nail-biting finish. I have never seen Grace as a girl on our team, I have always seen her as a teammate, a friend, and a formidable hockey player. I could easily see that she made me a better hockey player and person.

By the time Grace and I became teammates, I had finished four years of Quaker education. Throughout these years, I learned that everyone is equal no matter their race, religion, gender, or place in society. Growing up with this Quaker value taught me to treat everyone fairly and to stick up for others when they were not being treated well. Being a good teammate to Grace created a prime opportunity for me to live these Quaker values and testimonies.

Grace and I have shared many great memories together over the years. At times, we have been fondly referred to as “Will and Grace” based on the popular sitcom. We also played on many of the same hockey tournament teams, including Team Pennsylvania. On that team, Grace and I participated in a huge hockey tournament called the Brick. Grace was one of three girls out of 224 total players at that tournament, which is a huge accomplishment. We enthusiastically acknowledge and celebrate all of her awesome accomplishments. There is something indescribable about watching your friends succeed.

Last year, Grace participated in a tournament in Quebec on a team called the Hershey Bears. Sadly, we were not on the same team in this tournament because I played for the New York Rangers. Grace again was the only girl on that team, and she again made a huge impact on her team’s success. One of the highlights was when she made the game-winning shootout goal for Hershey, helping her team advance to the next round. Grace has often demonstrated the best forehand to backhand moves in shootouts. Even though this was a remarkable accomplishment, Grace did not brag about it to others, being the humble person that she is. Her humility is something I will always admire.

It is true that girls do not typically advance and make it this far in AAA ice hockey. However, with Grace’s work ethic, talent, physical ability, and mental toughness, she continues to rise to the top of the AAA talent pool. Grace remains one of the best defenders on our team, scoring and assisting consistently. Luckily, her assists are often to me, because Grace and I have developed a great deal of chemistry over the years due to our friendship. Not only does she have a tremendous impact on the ice, but also off the ice with her positive demeanor and attitude.

For many years to come, I will no doubt be one of Grace’s biggest supporters. The day that she makes the U.S. Olympic hockey team, which I am certain she will, I will be the first person to book a flight and buy tickets to cheer her on (hopefully Grace can help a friend out with the tickets part). I will be by her side every step of the way and continue to be her biggest fan. From my friendship with Grace, I have learned that regardless of a person’s gender, race, or religion, every person deserves respect no matter what. We are not all that different. On game days, for example, we all wear the same skates and the same team jersey, we use the same sticks, and we play the same sport.

Today, our team locker room is very inclusive of every member of our team. It is rewarding to think that I may have had a positive impact by rightfully supporting Grace as much as any other teammate on our team. Kindness is contagious. I believe people pick up on these positive actions whether they are willing to admit it or not. No matter what, all teammates deserve respect. I am very proud to call Grace my teammate and, more importantly, my lifelong friend.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Finding My Community

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:50am

I grew up going to a Quaker meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. I never truly liked going to meeting because it always felt way too long. My family and I moved to Pennsylvania about four years ago, and we continued to attend Quaker meeting. One day my mom told me I was going on a Quaker retreat. I remember staring her in the eyes and telling her “no.” We had just moved. Quaker retreats were not new to me, but the people here were. I did not know any children or teenagers my age, and I did not know if any of my current friends were Quakers. On top of not knowing anyone, this retreat was in the middle of nowhere. She proceeded to tell me all about how exciting it was going to be and how I would make some amazing friends and great memories. So I decided out of the willingness in my heart that I would go. The retreat was from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. I thought by Saturday morning I would want to be gone, but then I got there and my entire perspective changed.

I was greeted by a very nice woman. She introduced me to her daughter and some of her daughter’s friends. I could tell they all knew each other, which made me nervous because I thought that maybe they would not want to add another person to their little group. The girls started showing me around and told me where to put all my stuff, then we all went outside to go meet the others. Looking back I realize how dumb I was to be nervous—they were the nicest group of people I had ever met. We all hung out like we were old friends, yet it was our first time meeting each other.

Later on, we did team-building activities and played some get-to-know-you type of games. I learned all about how people became Quakers. It was so interesting to hear everyone’s story and to relate to them. It felt like I really knew these people and that I could connect with them on a deeper level. We talked for hours and hours until we finally fell asleep. Then the next day we did it all over again. It felt like no matter how long we had been talking we could still talk for hours more. It was amazing to be able to connect with these people like friends and to relate without truly knowing each other that well. Everyone treated each other with such respect and friendliness, it was absolutely insane.

When we all sang songs around the campfire and talked all night long, I realized how much I appreciated this tight community and how much I appreciated the individuals I was with. I did not need to be on my phone the whole time or talking to my best friend because I was already with a great group of people. I am glad my mom made me go on that trip because it gave me a deeper appreciation for those around me and for the community I have.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

From the Circus to the Community

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:45am

“So, Rosie … do you want to go to the Ringling Brothers Circus for their final show?” my dad asks happily.

“Of course, I would love to go! Can you tell me why you’ve always loved it so much?” I ask, thinking he might not tell me.

“Sure,” he says. “Well, I proposed to your mom there. It was perfect. When it started, the lights were at the perfect angle, the clowns were blowing kisses at her during the show, the lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” He pauses to see if I’m still listening, which I am.

“So is that it?” I ask, sort of regretting my question.

“No,” my dad says. “At intermission, it was amazing. The clowns came by in white and gave her a bouquet of flowers, and I gave her a ring that I made. I was so happy with what she answered. Of course she said yes. Then as the show went on, the clown that blew her kisses swatted his hand at her like she was nothing. He’s not getting my lady!”

My dad recounted the story with a sad twinkle in his eye.

Growing up, my family did a lot of volunteer work with our neighborhood. My uncle Barry was in charge of town watch; my dad did the tree planting in the neighborhood; and my mom organized an activity every month. It could be a bus trip to New York or Longwood Gardens, Christmas caroling, or craft fairs. My mom was a friend to everyone, whether they were rich or poor, black or white.

When I was three years old, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. Our community was amazing. They made us food and helped take care of her. They had a fundraiser so that my dad didn’t have to work and could spend all his time in the hospital. They also did it so we wouldn’t lose our house. People also watched me when my dad was at the hospital late. My mom died a few months later. This impacted my life a lot. Without a mom, my dad is so awesome to help me and still work. Even though I was very young, I love the community. It helps me every day when my dad works late so I can go to school.

My dad and I have a very strong connection and will always be there for each other. We still help out in the neighborhood, and everyone we know is very supportive. We also went to the last Ringling Brothers Circus together. It makes me sad that the circus that made my life isn’t here anymore, but it will always be in our hearts. The community is part of me because it has always helped and supported us. Also the community sometimes lets my dad leave early just so I don’t get lonely or so he can bring me to a place. Sometimes he even says no to work to spend time with me. I try to have a positive impact on other people even though they don’t know what I’ve been through. I miss her a lot, but since my dad is so awesome, he’s basically like two parents. He is very supportive when I’m crying about her, and he understands me. My dad and I are very supportive to families that have a family member with cancer because we have been there. I am happy that cancer treatments are getting better and better. This is why I love community.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Community or Competition

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:40am

I shakily stepped out of the car. I had to grip the door for support. Even though it was a calm, sunny day, I was freaking out. Carefully I pulled my ice skating bags out of the car. I could’ve sworn the bags had gotten heavier. I slowly walked into the rink and started to jog around as a warm-up. I also stretched and jumped rope. I was totally exhausted from nerves and the running and jumping to stay warm. I looked at the clock, and to my dismay, my warm-up had only taken five minutes.

The clock hands seemed to inch slower than usual, and I grew bored, so I grabbed my ice skates and started to lace them up. The worn laces were rough on my hands as I pulled them, so hard that my fingers were on the verge of bleeding. Slowly I stood up. I was extremely scared. I pulled my jacket around me and stepped forward. My skates teetered with every step; it was as though I had forgotten how to walk. I looked around at all of my competitors. We stood there in silence; nobody said anything. After all, we were competing against each other.

Time suddenly seemed to zip by as I realized it was my turn to do my routine. I was about to step onto the ice when a girl who was competing against me whispered, “Good luck! You are going to do great!”

I pushed off onto the ice with a little more confidence. What she said had meant the world to me. At that moment, I truly understood the meaning of community and realized that we were not just competitors trying to be better than one another. We were all a community of people who had the same passion. We all worked extremely hard to get to this moment. Even though I was wearing a short sleeve dress, I felt a sudden warmth spread across the rink. I heard the music start. There was a steady beat, and I looked up. This was exactly where I wanted to be, with a few new friends on an ice rink. A smile stretched across my face, and I skated my best.

I finished the routine with the final position, and glanced at everyone around me. After I stepped off the ice, I tried to take the time to say, “Good luck!” and smile at every person. The smiles seemed to be contagious, and suddenly everyone was laughing. Once we had finished competing, we walked out together. Even if we were all competitors from different parts of the United States, we could still be friends who loved ice skating. Being competitors was not meant to separate us; it was meant to bring us together. In that moment I did not care about the results. We had skated our hardest and deserved a chance of doing well, and even though we all wanted to win, the competition was never about winning; it was about bringing people with the same hopes and dreams together.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Family Is Family

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:35am

I am adopted. Both my mom and my dad are white. Both of my sisters are also white. My brother and I are from Ethiopia, and we have brown skin. I love my parents, my sisters, and my brother. Even though we don’t all look the same, we’re still a family. I live in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, an educated and diverse community. Although incidents of racism don’t happen very often where I live, there have been times when people have questioned whether we belong together.

Last summer, when I was walking around with my sister at a baseball tournament, we saw a boy about my age whose team I had just played. He came up to us and said, “Are you boyfriend and girlfriend?” We thought he was just being weird and said, “No, we are siblings.”

“You can’t be siblings. You are not the same skin color!”

That made me feel terrible. I guess because of where and how I have been raised, I did not realize people could be so foolish.

I went home and sat in my room, trying to read, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this incident. Why do people assume that people of different skin colors can’t be related? The more I thought about it, the worse it made me feel, but it also made me think how lucky I am to be mostly surrounded by accepting people who know that I belong.

Believe it or not, this same thing has happened to me several other times: twice at school, twice at baseball tournaments, and even once walking down the street to the grocery store. (That time, it was actually a neighbor.) Usually, it is kids that make assumptions about my family because they just don’t know any better. Once when I was in kindergarten, we had a substitute teacher. At the end of the day, my mom came to pick me up. When she came into the classroom, the teacher was hesitant to let me go home with her because we do not look alike. I was young so I don’t remember it very well, but my sister recently reminded me of this moment. I was shocked that a grown-up could think that.

These stories make me think about the importance of equality and community. Although people aren’t calling me a mean name or something, they make me feel like I don’t belong. When this happens I think for a while about the effects of racism. It makes me so sad, but at the same time happy that, for the most part, my classmates and friends understand that people of different skin tones can be family. In many ways my community is amazing. I hope that in our changing world people and communities can accept, welcome, and appreciate every variety of family.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Would You Still Love Me If I Were a Boy?

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:30am

I remember the night I told my mom I wasn’t exactly a girl. I was so worried about telling her. I can’t talk to my parents about regular things much less something this close to my heart. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I considered not telling her. I considered running back to my room, living in the dark for the rest of my life. I have some stress issues, which helpfully decided to show up; my body felt like it was locking up. I was feigning tears. I finally brought up enough courage, or stupidity, to tell her. I blurted out my question, “Would you still love me if I were a boy?”

I seriously almost cried right then. I almost let the powerful waterfall of sadness consume me. Time seemed to freeze. She said she would love me no matter who I was, and we left the conversation at that. The next night we had a little follow-up talk. I don’t remember what was said, but I do remember crying. But that night I felt peaceful; peace seemed to flow over me. But at the same time, brewing behind that sense of peace, there was also fear.

The second time I told somebody was in a test essay in fifth grade. I wrote about how life is a maze and everybody has their own challenges. I put my “challenge” at the end. What made me nervous about the essay was that one of my classmates had to proofread my essay. After my classmate finished reading, he got a kind of panicked look on his face, told me my essay was fine, and almost ran off.

Later that day my teacher, Ms. Dufour, came up to me while we were walking on the track and said, “You can come talk to me if you ever need any help.” I was very grateful for these words, and she was the first person to call me brave.

I realize some people are hated for being transgender or gay or anything else. Other people are afraid to tell their own parents these things about themselves. And when I hear about people being hated for something they cannot control, it makes me furious.

Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I don’t know how many people have had to grow up different from the norm, oppressed like grass under a heavy snowfall. But grass will spring back up, stronger, smarter, and kinder. I don’t know how many people have been hurt or died because of something about themselves that they could not control. But I do know that I am fortunate to grow up with people who love me with no end, no matter who I am. For what I am some have been called horrible slurs, but I have been called brave. I do not think I am brave. The oppressed are brave; they rise again like grass after you step on them. Why can’t we be at peace? Why can’t the world be at peace?

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

The Imaginary Box

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:25am

I was different in third grade. Some of my classmates thought antagonizing me was cool; they used it as a badge of social acceptance. I saw many of them as complicit when they witnessed my antagonization. While it only happened occasionally, it stuck with me. What I’ve found to be true is that the people who found antagonizing me fun or enjoyable just didn’t understand me.

As the antagonization continued, I began to show more and more of myself. I dressed in leggings under my jeans; I wore a flowered undershirt under my larger, long-sleeved t-shirt. Of course, it didn’t stop anything, as nobody could see the articles of clothing. None of my friends even knew. Even though it satisfied my conscience, it just wasn’t enough to make my conscience, or myself, actually happy. So I began to shy away from anything viewed as traditionally masculine. I was stuck in a gray area of sorts.

In this gray area, I made many discoveries about myself. I learned things both trivial and meaningful. Not only that, but I also learned about integrity. It was the theme of the year when I was in second grade, so I knew something about it. But, in that gray area, I learned integrity wasn’t just on the outside, but it is possible to be truthful to yourself as well.

I proposed a hypothetical question to myself: What if you didn’t shut yourself away in an imaginary box of sorts? This question sparked some very deep thinking. It also brought up other questions: Are you going to tell anyone? If so, how? What will people say, and what will they think? Will my friends be mad because I didn’t tell them earlier?

My mind swarmed with these questions for the next two weeks. One by one, the answers became apparent to me. All of them, except for one: Will my friends be mad? Countless scenarios ran through my mind; many of them were of my friends turning their backs on me and walking away, their chins held high. Now, looking back on it, it seems quite stupid, but it almost made me not want to step out of the imaginary box. Nevertheless, I did step out, but it was a gradual process. It started with me telling my best friend that I am actually a girl.

It seemed as though I had only put my finger out of that box, but I soon realized that it was more like my head and torso. It certainly felt like a risk to me, even though I knew she would keep it a secret until I was ready to announce it to the grade. I was scared and unsure of what was ahead.

My parents knew that I was a girl even before I officially came out. I dressed in traditionally “feminine” clothes the entire summer of 2015. Then, that very same summer, I told my parents that I wanted to come out to the entire grade.

On the first day of fourth grade, my anxiety levels were very high, higher than usual. On that day, my mind was perturbing me with more scenarios, even stranger and more unlikely ones, at that. All I was thinking about was how everybody would react. Until, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whipped around, but before I could see the person that the hand belonged to, I was pulled into a hug, one that was warm and welcoming, a hug that made me feel safe and happy.

I made the announcement to the whole grade almost as soon as the school day started. After I made the announcement, I felt lighter, like a huge proverbial weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was happy that I confronted myself; if I hadn’t, I have no idea where I’d be today. Truthfulness and integrity are an integral part of everyday life. It just goes to show, if issues, whether they be monumental or trivial, are ignored for too long, they can build up, until one is left with a sizable quandary with an uncertain outcome. One is left with not only a crossroads with two lanes, but a crossroads with a thousand lanes, and more often than not, the path one chooses leads to more quandaries. Those quandaries lead to their own respective crossroads, culminating with a downward spiral. However, if one knows oneself, and is truthful to oneself, then peace and happiness are within reach.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

The Art of Loving Yourself

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:20am

“I love myself.” I speak into the mirror, my voice cracks into a barely audible whisper, the embarrassment squeaking through just ever so slightly.

I am close enough to see all my pores, all the smeared residue of makeup, all the bumps and edges of my skin. I can see all of the tiny lines, blemishes, gaps in my teeth, and holes in my skin that I don’t like. All of my flaws are in plain view. Usually, my hands would be poking at a single red blemish on my face, my eyes glaring. My next step would be to backup and look at my body, my eyebrows knitting together in a look of confusion, like how do I still look like this when I wish every day it was different. That I was different. If you could just change one thing about yourself what would you change?

As I stand in front of the mirror, I remember the first time I was self-conscious about my body. I remember my little steps up to the damaged old white scale.

I was in fifth grade when the gym teacher told us we had to weigh ourselves for PE class. My face turning a bright pink when my number seemed to be a little higher than the rest. One hundred and eighteen. It felt as if the number was a thousand times that size, and it felt as if there were double that amount of eyes staring at me, taking in what felt like my huge, bulking frame. Suddenly all I wanted was to be someone else, someone tiny and, most of all, invisible. Why are we trained to feel this way? And how does it creep in without us knowing?

It wasn’t a huge number, but when I sat in the locker room, girls with tiny bodies that were still able to fit in clothes from Justice left me feeling so out of place. By no means was I fully grown—instead, I was in the awkward phase of puberty, with baby fat still clinging to the curves my body was growing into. I felt shame for being bigger. I was too young to feel the embarrassment for something I thought didn’t even matter, but I did feel a sort of resentment for being in this body I seemingly couldn’t control. Today, I try and do all I can to control it. As if my body is its own force and I am just a caretaker—a begrudging and desperate but loyal caretaker.

I went home that day and the hands that were placed on my hips right now were gracing the purple, long marks all over my hips back then. Staring at the scattered stretch marks around my arms in little crevices, I tried to pinch them together. I felt like I was bursting at the seams.

It’s not that I am full of hate; it isn’t even that I look at myself with disgust. I know who I am, but I can’t help getting frustrated over small things, obsessing over parts of myself or my features. I can’t help but pick these pieces of myself apart.

As I stand in front of the mirror, my hands gently land on my hips. My head tilts, and my reflection stares back at me as I look at the pale skin that stretches across my bones for what seems like for miles. My eyes beg me to see anything but beauty. My head goes to war for me. My heart is caught up and flips around. Will I ever just be happy when I look at myself? Is this the eternal struggle of being a teenage girl? There has to be more.

Today, I look at my stretch marks with less horror, and I’ve started to develop a respect and admiration for these marks. By no means do I adore them, and it has taken me years to not despise them. My relationship with my skin and body is a work in progress. One that has me realizing that these marks have made me who I am and have grown with me in ways people haven’t.

My immediate response to feeling the initial horror was to cover, layer, hide, and shrink into myself. I didn’t like the way my legs looked when I stood in the sun because it wasn’t like other girls who didn’t have the dreaded word, that damn cellulite. So I would only wear leggings or jeans, never shorts. Oh, and I wouldn’t expose my chest in anyway. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was growing into a woman, as if it was my fault they were getting bigger before anyone else’s.

It’s hard, but as I stand in the bathroom, head tilted, and take in all that makes me, me—physically—I am starting to realize that I am a whole. I am a project. I am so much more than dissected body parts and the whispered rumors of boys and girls behind my back.

I tell my eyes to put down their scalpel. I tell myself to stop looking for all that I would change. I let my hands wrap around my chest, the cage built for my heart. I stay here, until my pulse slows down and I have stopped imagining the horrible moment in fifth grade and all the times I have seen models on Instagram who I will never resemble. Instead I remember my legs are strong enough to keep standing back up on the volleyball court, my chest has withstood about 1,000 pounds of heartbreak and still keeps beating, my thighs control a horse and aren’t meant for people to look at or judge, my face represents who I am and what I stand for—and I won’t stand to let myself be judged by my hardest critic. I put down my microscope and pick up my hairbrush. I let myself close my eyes and get lost in the feeling of brushing out the negative energy I’ve cultivated in the small space of this bathroom.

I put the guns down.

I put the brush down.

I open my eyes.

I answer my own question.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Different Opinions, Same Community

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:15am

Last year I attended an all-girls school in Southeastern Pennsylvania. This school’s community consisted of some diversity geographically, but most of the girls were the same racially and economically. Sometimes it was hard for the students to accept views different from their own because they were not open-minded or they were not able to comprehend another perspective. But when the whole school got together and tried to resolve these issues, we all benefited from seeing other points of view that felt hidden before.

The 2016 presidential election was a stressful and delicate topic that was argued about every single day of the 2016–2017 school year. Even in the first week of school, this subject was spoken about in classes and in a school assembly. In these talks, teachers stated that students are more than welcome to discuss this matter, but they must do so politely and kindly. That is easier said than done. Starting in early October, things started to get out of hand. For instance, one girl came to school with a Trump sticker on her computer and was called a “neo-Nazi” by her fellow classmates. Another example was when two girls were having a debate about the election and they started to scream at each other, finally resulting in violence. To my surprise, I was called a “racist narcissist” for sharing my opinion. Along with many more instances, these micro-aggressions produced tension throughout the student body and even created divisions between friends. My friends and I were not on speaking terms for a few weeks because of the ways we acted toward each other. We were rude, mean, and frankly, immature girls who had no idea what we were talking about.

After a long talk in my history class, we finally realized that the debate the students were having contained false information about both parties. We were not discussing to learn about the opponent’s view, but instead speaking in order to rant or judge the other side’s opinion. So we went to the school staff and presented an idea to help bring our student body back together.

The basis of our idea was to create a day where all of our classes had different workshops about the election and the candidates. The school board loved the idea. We agreed on a compromise: to have a school assembly about the election, and have a few classes talk about fake news, the candidates, and how to have a proper debate. This solution had a positive outcome and actually helped solve a lot of the tension throughout the school. It also allowed for students to have conversations and arguments without tensions getting too intense. From this experience, I learned that even in bad situations, coming together and trying to find a solution is always the best option. I also learned that being open-minded will allow people to connect and to see the world through a different lense. It can be hard, but seeing both sides of a conversation can be an eye-opening experience. I know it was for me.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Teaching Equality

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:10am

When I was about three years old, my family hired a babysitter named Chelsea. Chelsea was quite the culture shock for my white, “Hi, we’re the Griswolds!” family. My sister and I were quickly swept up in Chelsea’s sea of musical talent, sewing, crazy personality, and general affection. We hung around her like thirsty puppies, trying to soak up some of her creativity and spunk. From sewing some of the best Halloween costumes, to highlighting my sister’s hair when she was in seventh grade, everything Chelsea did was the coolest. I credit Chelsea the most for my personality of acceptance and open-mindedness, and I will never forget when she taught my family the most important lesson of equality.

When I was six years old, I remember overhearing one of Chelsea’s phone calls with her friends. “I met someone,” she said. “They’re a girl but not really. They’re gonna be a boy. I think I love her though.” After she hung up, I remember asking Chelsea, “Are you gay?” To six-year-old me, being gay was not necessarily bad, it just wasn’t normal. Both of my parents were socially and politically very liberal, but talking about homosexuality and race just was not a regular conversation back then. However, Chelsea’s new boyfriend was the change of that. I remember meeting Eli, and my mom and Chelsea sitting me down and telling me how Eli was born a girl, but in his mind he always knew his body did not match his brain. He felt like a boy and was going through hormone therapy that would make his body align with his brain. Eli became a regular figure in my life, taking care of me along with Chelsea. His easy-going attitude and impressive gallery of colorful tattoos made him almost cooler than Chelsea. When I was younger, I never understood why, when I explained how Eli used to be a girl, to my close friends at school, some of them reacted in disgust and confusion.

Growing up with Chelsea and Eli and carrying my relationship with them into my teenage years has been such a blessing to my life. From the time I was ten, I became passionate about race, gender, and sexuality equality. Chelsea taught my family and me the importance of educating oneself and remaining open-minded to all people. I think often of how far we have come in advocating for transgender rights. Recently, Chelsea and Eli were married. Eli got his name and gender legally changed and is scheduled for top surgery soon. Much justice, however, is needed for the transgender community, especially within legislation. The cause is dear to my heart, and I believe if a six-year-old can be so accepting of another person, then the whole world can. I urge everyone to educate themselves about different causes and people, because I learned from Chelsea the first step to equality is understanding.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

Finding Simplicity in My Life

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:05am

As many people’s lives become more cluttered with events and activities, we become more and more reliant on physical items. I spend a large amount of time thinking about this during the summer. My family spends about a month on Southport Island in Maine. We stay in a cottage that my dad’s grandparents purchased during the Depression. It has electricity and running water, but we have no access to the Internet, and we are forced to spend time away from our electronics. As a result of this, we are kept away from the clutter caused by our digital lives.

I am rarely thrilled to put down my cell phone and spend time outside, but once I get over the initial shock of being separated from my electronics, I realize how much more we are able to take in when we aren’t looking at the world through a screen. It makes life simpler to only be interacting with people in person and be out of touch with everything that is happening everywhere except for what is right around you. It is hard not to enjoy the simple and straightforward life I am forced to live there; it is always a very refreshing month for me. I think a lot afterward about what I could do to change my day-to-day life to make it more similar to my time on Southport, but I find with school and other activities it is hard to live without many of the things that previously thought were essential. My parents grew up in a time when people were not consumed the way we are by portable electronics. I think about how they got on just fine without it all.

I have found that to reduce my usage, everyone around me would need to as well, and I think that is something that we can’t just do overnight. I love the simplicity of living without my phone, and will continue to look forward to that month every summer.

I feel that simplicity is a testimony that is not particularly clear as others. What is meant to be
more simple? I find that my digital life is the most complicated part of my day-to-day life. This might not be true for everyone, but I think for the majority of people I know, especially people my age, it is a big, complicated aspect of their lives. This is easily the testimony I think of, and struggle to practice most in my life.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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Categories: Articles & News

The Realization

Friends Journal - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:00am

Simplicity is something that everyone needs. It’s something that makes life easier. It made my life easier. It adds a glow and a breath of fresh air to our world. But the strange thing about this is that if you don’t have simplicity in your life, you aren’t properly cared for. That is what happened to me. I fell apart.

I have fine physical health. I have my mother to thank for that. I take plenty of showers, brush my teeth, and eat right. It was my mental health that maybe wasn’t as perfect. I did not know how to love myself, to not always be working to make things better, to not be fighting with myself and come out bruised in the end. At nights, I wouldn’t be sleeping. I’d be kept awake by my fears of failing. And I forgot who I was. At the end of each week, I’d wonder what I was doing wrong.

This had started the summer after fourth grade. I don’t remember why, but I know it was at the end of school. Maybe I was worried about having less work to fill up my day. I remember crying to my mother, asking her what was wrong. I saw the tears in her shirt, and only cried more. But I didn’t know the half of it.

Fifth grade started in a few months. I was at the same school, with children that I had been with in school for a long time—the same shoal of fish. And before, I was part of that shoal, but now it felt like I was a newcomer—a different colored fish. Suddenly I felt like I had to push myself to extents that I never felt like I had to do before. I worked twice as hard as I had the year before. What did I get out of it? All I got was this feeling like I had done something wrong, like I hadn’t done enough. It wasn’t worth all the work.

At first my family pushed it to the side as me going through mood swings, but that didn’t explain why I wasn’t sleeping at night, why the world seemed to blend into one grey, straight line—something with no end, just continuing to run until I got tired. Something needed to be done.

Part of the problem was that I was always working on something. During school, I was doing too much extra credit work. I was in as many clubs as I could, and I was always on task and paying attention in class. After school I was doing an extracurricular activity—whether it was active, like ballet, or because of my religion, like Hebrew school, I was always working.

I realized that I had to do something about this. So I took a deep breath one day, and decided what was actually making me feel happy, and what I was just doing for other people, what I needed to do, and what I did just for extra credit that probably wasn’t worth it. Nothing like that is worth it, especially at my age. I wasn’t even in middle school yet. I was just pretending like what I was doing, all of the hours of work that didn’t make me feel good inside, was doing something for me.

I couldn’t figure this out on my own. I had help from my mother and the therapist I went to. I think that the reason it took me so long to realize what to other people is an obvious fact was because I didn’t want to accept that all of this work that I was doing wasn’t paying off. I was lost. My mind was twisting against itself, arguing constantly with itself, what I should do about it. I knew that I had to make my life simpler, and to enjoy how simple it was. To relax, and truly realize that there was more to life than just working all day.

I made the tough decision of no longer doing ballet. Ballet took a lot out of me and made me have low self esteem if I didn’t do a step right. I had been doing ballet since I was three, and my mother loved ballet and I loved it. I just didn’t love to do it. I thought in my head how it would make my mother feel bad, and how it would make me feel bad, because now I didn’t have an active thing that I was doing. So I continued to do it until I couldn’t stand the sleepless nights and horrible one-hour-and-thirty-minute classes of ballet twice a week. I told my mother that I had to quit.

Quitting ballet may of seemed like a small move, just a step down a long path of hard work, but it made a giant difference. My mother wasn’t mad, and was, of course, understanding. She even was a little relieved because she had seen how miserable I was each day after doing ballet.
Middle school had started for me and life only wanted to get more difficult. My homework amount doubled and I went from being in a grade with 40 children to 90. I wasn’t doing very well socially either. But quitting ballet made me quit doing a few more after school activities, and made me not want to try and do an overly big amount of work. I now had more time to myself. Some room to breathe. I was a lot happier. Life wanted to get difficult and bring me down, but I somehow made it more simple, and I benefited from it.

Simplicity is something that everyone needs, and I have realized this fact now. And now I’m a lot better when it comes to dealing with complicated issues. There will always be people that will tell me that I do need to work more. But I’ve found a happy balance. And I know that when school gets harder and there is even less time to myself, I’ll manage. I know this because I’ve thought long and hard about simplicity and its meaning, even if it does mean no longer doing things that I had been doing for a long time. I know that simplicity is something beautiful, that everyone should have the privilege of having.

 

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

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