I’m going to Indianapolis tomorrow to find out more about the Friends United Meeting’s Volunteer Service Mission project.
(Note: The year before, my Senior year at Scattergood Friends School, Al Inglis visited to talk about a new Friends United Meeting program to help Quaker meetings find meaningful things for young men performing alternative service to do. There were two projects in Indianapolis, one in a predominately black neighborhood on the city’s near north side, and another, that Second Friends Church supported in a near southwest side neighborhood, described as transient Appalachian white.}
We set out for Indianapolis this morning at about 8:30. Al Inglis and Jerry pickup up Dave, Carolyn and I here at the college (Earlham).
I think my first reaction to the (black) neighborhood was one of being uncomfortable and, of course, unfamiliarity. The house itself offered an initial shock, and a little bare–no stove, refrigerator, little furniture, etc. Gary, the first member of the mission, is very interesting. He also is from the unprogrammed meeting background and has studied engineering, computer programming and he has attend New Swarthmore-a Quaker young people’s community, I guess.
The board members were all very good, solid people. Woody and Jess spent most of the day with us, and Howard some in the afternoon. Les and Phyllis Paulson in the morning. In the afternoon we met Julia, secretary to a very good Congressman from that Congressional district. We also met Ben Bell, a leader of the new black part of the community.
We were also overwhelmed by some of the neighborhood kids, all about 10 years old.
The program seems very exciting. It has an excellent board, Gary is a good person, and people from the various parts of the community seemed interested in it.
Though cold and raining tonight, I felt called to take a walk, and was much better in spirit as a result. The cares of the world slipped away and I was cleansed by the cold, clean air, the clear, gentle water, and the darkness of the night.
I was anxious to learn of the board’s decision today. Al Inglis came over to talk to me about it.
Ben Bell pointed out that he thought I might get in trouble because I was rather inarticulate and you have to know how to talk in difficult situations that might come up. I think that was a good observation and appreciate his bringing up the matter, something I, too, had felt uneasy about. But they want me to decide if I still want to work at Neighborhood Friends, or whether I might not rather work in the white ghetto, connected with Second Friends. So, I will visit the Second Friends project next week.
This morning went to Indianapolis with Al Inglis to look at the Volunteer Service Mission of Second Friends (white inner city area). I think it really would be best to start in an area like this, rather than a black area, if I get a chance to do any of this type of work at all.
These projects seem to have such great potential, but would certainly be a challenge. Already I’m beginning to wonder if it might not be better to continue college for a while. But this is the result of wanting to have more answers, I think, and I’m not sure that continued college education is the way, or the only way, to find answers. That’s the purpose of these projects, I guess, to try to begin to discover some answers to some of these difficult questions.
[Note: It is interesting to be reading this 46 years later, after my recent experience with the AFSC program, Quaker Social Change Ministry and our partnership with the black youth mentoring community, the Kheprw Institute (KI)]
I was accepted at the Second Friends project with the agreement that I should at least begin by doing it as alternative service and when I decide to resist the draft, then we would all consider what should happen.
There are good and bad aspects to this. It would, most important of all, give me a chance to see if this is where my vocation lies.
But I feel extremely uneasy about starting this as alternative service. It seems as though I just get carried along all the way down the line. And, should I decide to resist, seems like a token gesture to me. And they would probably just forget about it, not that they wouldn’t otherwise, or that I’m greatly interested in going to prison, but feel, for some reason, that I have to make a witness against this thing.