Friends Council on Education; the invited participants are all people who hold the same position at different Quaker schools. From yesterday noon until today at noon, I was with six other heads' assistants at Pendle Hill, a retreat center near Philadelphia. Our group was smaller than usual; some years we have had as many as sixteen or eighteen. Smaller, but no less powerful, no less meaningful.
Casual and comfortable is the setting, informal is the meeting. Last evening as we talked and shared, I hand-stitched the binding on this quilt for my upcoming sixth grandchild. And just now, as I was typing this, I noticed the mistake! Well, it is too late now . . . .
We did a lot of discussing of the work that we have in common. We took a field trip to nearby Swarthmore College to visit the Friends Historical Library and the Peace Collection. We ate delicious and nutritious meals, experiencing kohlrabi for the first time -- oddly enough, in a salad with grapefruit and mint. We talked. We talked a lot.
My partner was fine with that. She went on to talk about a time when she learned that she had to become uncomfortable in order to be comfortable. She does some diversity work, and the sharing that leads to growth is often uncomfortable. I listened and processed with her and then we walked along quietly. At last I decided that if becoming uncomfortable had made her comfortable, perhaps I should give it a try. I know that it is often easier to share something with a stranger than with an intimate, and so I told her my unwelcome paradox. She was terrific: she just listened and nodded, didn't ask hard questions, didn't try to "fix it." We walked along in silence again. Then my partner shared that my story was remarkably similar to a situation she was dealing with in her personal life, and went on to tell me about it.
When we returned to the group gathering, the leader had placed postcards with various images on the table and asked everyone to pick a postcard that somehow connected with the experience. I immediately went for one of a spiral shell, thinking that in our conversation, as we walked along, went around, we went deeper and deeper.