Nobody gets up on a soapbox and shouts about the comfort of his sofa and chairs. He just invites other people to sit in them.--Adam Gopnik, from "The Back of the World: The troubling genius of G.K. Chesterton" in The New Yorker, July 7 & 14, 2008
How are we comforted by having most of the people in our Meetings look, act, talk, eat and have professions like we do? What of our comforts keep others away? Is God calling us to be comfortable?
I love comfort. Big cushy chairs. Salty mashed potatoes. Public radio.
The other night, we got together from other folks on our block to plan our annual National Night Out festivities at an ice cream social. Our neighborhood is historically working class but some of young professional families have moved here. Some people are living in the homes their grandparents built because they inherited them and don't have mortgages outside of equity loans.
Among the many things we do, we always have door prizes, free stuff from local businesses. And there are enough things for everyone. But we also have to ask local businesses for stuff. One person said she didn't know anyone and was afraid to ask for donations. I started to tell a story about how I recently coached someone who said the same thing and he ended up having several options when we were done including having a particular public radio personality do the outgoing message on your answering machine and lunch and movie with a local well-respected movie reviewer.
As I told the story, I realized that this crowd wouldn't be nearly as excited about those donations as I was (and as my consultee was for his event). And I was uncomfortable.
These folks wanted free beer and smokes.
I can hear your sudden intake of breath, and see you squirming in your seats. No, you don't drink. Or smoke for that matter.
Nor do I. Though when I'm around my non-Quaker friends, I do drink. Not to get drunk. Usually.
So how would I feel if I were at an event with a couple of people who looked their noses down on me for drinking alcohol, or for getting tipsy, I asked myself.
Would I want to hang out with them? Go to their houses of worship? Consider taking up their beliefs?
The people on the block have looked to us to take up leadership of the NNO planning because we've showed initiative on the block. I started a pick-up recycling program on my block for plastics that the city doesn't currently recycle (but that I take to a place that does recycle them). Liz prompted our neighbor to put together Tuesday's planning meeting.
If we do become block leaders, I think we have a real opportunity, but I'm going to be uncomfortable, like I was Tuesday night. We could live into the belief we say we hold about believing there is that of God in everyone. We could live our testimony of equality. Even folks who smoke and drink and vote Republican and love Rush Limbaugh.
No, that's not shouting from a soap box, but maybe it's better outreach than we've ever done before.