Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pacific Yearly Meeting

July 30 – August 4, 2007
Redlands, CA

I arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport a little later than I planned. When I tried to check-in on-line I was instructed that I couldn't and needed to report to a ticket agent at the airport. So, my nervousness increased when we arrived to find the airport was packed. The weather had caused several delays and cancellations the night before and was still affecting travel. I got into line. The ticket agent line was moving very slowly so I was not sure if I would make my flight. Especially since I still had security to get through. I saw the security line when we drove up to the drop off area, it was across the bridge all the way back to the hotel. As I stood in line observing the chaos inside the airport Barry walked up. Originally he was just dropping me off, but when he saw the lines he decided to park the car and come in.

I was very happy to see him. His presence helped reduce my anxiety. Everyone in the airport was tense. Frustrated passengers were trying to rebook and the ticket agents were just as frustrated. A woman behind me asked if I would let her in front of me because her plane was scheduled to leave in 15 minutes, since her flight was before mine I did. When she got to the counter she was told that she needed to call USAirways 800 number. The ticket agent next to her was just telling another passenger that she wouldn't get ticketed for the flight same flight because of her mother's inappropriate behavior. The teenager began to cry and the mother increased her nasty behavior. Now it was my turn. My flight was scheduled to board in five minutes. What was my experience going to be like?

Barry and I stepped up to the counter. The mother and daughter were still with the ticket agent beside me. I smiled, knowing that the agent was as stressed as I was right now. I explained that I was instructed to come to the counter when I tried to check-in on the internet. She asked for the credit card used to purchase the ticket. The agent then gave me some news that was both good and bad, my flight was delayed by 2 hours. Now I had more time to get through security and to my gate, but it also meant that I would now make us late for Jean's meeting 1:00 PM at Yearly Meeting session.

I arrived at LAX and was picked up by Jean and Cliff Lester, members of Orange Grove Meeting who drove me to yearly meeting. I was surprised to hear about the many tasks that had for me when I arrived. I was asked to work with Junior Yearly Meeting, middle school Friends, give an interest group and a presentation during business session. I had to do some quick thinking on my feet. I am glad that I brought my computer with me. I was able to put together a presentation for the interest group and print it out in the computer lab.

I spent an evening with Young Friends in Junior Yearly Meeting. The room was full around 60 Friends were present. I was sad to see that there was only one visible Friend of Color in the room. We had good conversations about race, Quakerism, and racism. I was surprised when they could not tell me who John Woolman was. One of the Friendly adult presences had to answer my question. I also felt sad to hear from these Young Friends that they did not feel comfortable talking about Quakerism to their friends. I did enjoy our conversation about race and racism. It was nice to see that almost all of the Young Friends raised their hands when I asked who had close friends of Color. I wondered what I could do to help them be more comfortable with sharing Quakerism with their friends. Our time ended quickly. They asked if I would be willing to return Thursday or Friday. I agreed to return, but they were not able to find a way to schedule another visit.

My interest group was well attended. I was surprised because two Friends from Claremont Meeting came to sessions just to hear my talk. I was surprised during my presentation to be confronted by a Friend who disputed a part of my presentation. She insisted that a quote I used from John Woolman could not have been made by him because he was dead during that time period. I informed her that I trusted my source and believed she was wrong. The next day at lunch a Friend came up to me and handed me a piece of paper. When I looked at the paper it showed John Woolman's dates of birth and death. The woman was wrong, he was clearly alive during that period.

There were two racial incidents. One for which I was support for the person of Color to whom it happened. The other one occurred when I told a European American woman that she could not join us when I met with Friends of Color one evening. We were having an affinity group meeting. Unfortunately, it was in a very public place, but there were no rooms other than our dorm rooms where we could gather. When the woman approached us, I told her that we were having a meeting and she could not join us. It was obvious that she was hurt. I am sorry she was hurt. I was hoping to speak with her the next day, but I did not get a chance to speak with her directly about the incident afterwards. I did see her the next day at lunch, but she was grieving the death of a close friend's daughter. It was clearly not the right time to speak with her then. Several other Friends did because she shared her hurt in worship the next morning. I was not there when she gave her message because I was with the middle school Friends.

Two Friends met with me one night during yearly meeting. They talked with me about coming to the Bay area and doing work with the three area meetings, the school and possibly AFSC this winter or spring. I am holding February and March open for an invitation. I expect to get a formal invitation around November or December.

I was not able to meet with my worship sharing group on the last day of sessions because I spent a second day with the middle school Friends. They invited me to return to continue our discussion about racism. I enjoyed my time with them. It made me wonder about having a youth version of our book, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship written. If I am asked to work with middle school Friends again I will be better prepared to share Quaker history with them.

I have received an informal invitation to return to Pacific Yearly Meeting next year.

The Lester's took me home with them after yearly meeting. We had a nice dinner, I dangled my legs in their pool (I forgot to bring my bathing suit) and enjoyed the warm, quiet evening. I went to bed around 10 because I had to be at the airport at 7:00 AM. The Lester's graciously drove me to the airport Sunday morning. I was sad that I couldn't say until Monday so that I could attend Orange Grove meeting with them, but I needed to fly to Dublin on Thursday so I wanted to return home. Thankfully my flight home was smooth and uneventful.


Johan said...

I think your posts are unique in letting us walk with you through the humble and earthy realities as well as the joys, uncertainties, distresses of being a traveling Friend. I'm not sure I could do it anymore, at least not at the pace I used to keep. But I love keeping you company thanks to your honest writings.

Allison said...

Hello Vanessa,
I'm glad to have found your blog and encourage you to keep up the good work and raising people's consciousness about racism!