I know the Spirit leads us to what we are supposed to do. Resist the draft. Don’t own a car. Work in a children’s hospital.
The Spirit also leads us to people, to each other.
Raised in the Bear Creek community, I didn’t think about how all these people came to be there. As a child I just thought things had always been the way they were. But attending Scattergood Friends School, community was the major part of our education. We were taught to pay attention to our own community, most powerfully because the school functioned as a community. And, because of that, we developed deep bonds with each other that we carried throughout our lives.
Then we began to create our own families, biological and/or not. The most intimate communities, besides the families we grew up in.
Many of us became involved with university and workplace communities. Each not as organized and focused, because those communities usually involved many more people, few of which we spent significant time with. I was blessed to experience an exception to that rule, because I was able to work for decades with the same people in our Infant Pulmonary Function Lab at Riley Hospital for Children.
Beyond our family and workplace, we often created communities related to our interests.
Those who are led to have Spirit led lives join or develop faith communities. And/or expand the faith communities they were raised in.
My experience is faith calls us to engage with other people and communities. But there is often a struggle to find those people and communities. Part of the reason is there are usually small numbers of people doing this kind of work. That is in part because this work can be so frustrating that people too often give up trying. I’ve often found myself to be impatient and frustrated by the difficulty, and the length of time this can take.
But if we pay close attention to the Spirit, we will, eventually, be led to these people, and/or they will be led to us. Finding such people and communities is hampered because there usually isn’t a specific place to find them.
Whatever you think about social media, it has been very helpful in my search for people and communities. I first learned about the Kheprw Institute community I was blessed to become part of via the Internet. I learned about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance via the Internet, and in turn used the Internet to recruit people to join us in the Resistance. And similarly for the Dakota Access pipeline gatherings.
It was via the Internet that I learned of the work of my now good friend, Reza Mohammadi. He posted a video he had created related to his work with the American Friends Service Committee. I contacted him about that via Facebook, and we wrote back and forth. I am really glad that he is now living here in Indianola where he attends Simpson College. I believe the Spirit had something to do with that.
One of the reasons it was so difficult to move back to Iowa three years ago was leaving the friends I had worked so hard with on justice and faith issues. I had to basically start over to develop a network of activist friends and organizations. I primarily used social media to do that. I did have my Quaker faith community in Iowa to help with these efforts as well.
I faced another hurdle when I was led to learn about Indigenous ways to live and protect Mother Earth. That wasn’t something that could happen via social media. There are large barriers of distrust between Indigenous and White peoples. Somewhat ironically, there were additional barriers because of Quaker’s efforts to forcibly assimilate native children into White culture, which thereby erased their own culture. That is ironic because Quakers and those of other faith communities, were doing what they thought would be helpful to native peoples. Instead, tremendous damage was done, the traumas from that have been passed from generation to generation. What has been called “an open wound” among native peoples today.
The way things developed for opportunities for me to connect with Native Americans over the past three years is another story, or series of stories. I’ve written about all of that on many blog posts. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/?s=first+nation+farmer
My intention today is to share how Ronnie James and I were led to meet and become friends with each other. I wanted to share this in hopes it might be useful to you to make similar connections you are led to look for. And to share about the very good work he does. Work that I have been led to do begin to do as well.
At the beginning of this year I had begun to learn about the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en peoples to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline (Coastal GasLink) through their pristine lands in British Columbia. Bear Creek Friends meeting sent a letter to the BC premier in support of the Wet’suwet’en and donated money.
Several of us, including Peter Clay and Linda Lemons, were led to hold a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en on February 7, 2020. I posted the event on Facebook, but doubted anyone else would come, because the Wet’suwet’en were never in the news here. But Ronnie James did, saying he was surprised anyone else had heard of the Wet’suwet’en.
We became Facebook friends, and have had many conversations via Facebook. I began to learn of the things he is involved in, and also found him to be an excellent writer. He wrote, for example:
“I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”Ronnie James
I asked, and he gave me permission to use that in a few blog posts. Another time he wrote:.
So I work with a dope crew called Des Moines Mutual Aid, and on Saturday mornings we do a food giveaway program that was started by the Panthers as their free breakfast program and has carried on to this day. Anyways, brag, brag, blah, blah.
So I get to work and I need to call my boss, who is also a very good old friend, because there is network issues. He remembers and asks about the food giveaway which is cool and I tell him blah blah it went really well. And then he’s like, “hey, if no one tells you, I’m very proud of what you do for the community” and I’m like “hold on hold on. Just realize that everything I do is to further the replacing of the state and destroying western civilization and any remnants of it for future generations.” He says “I know and love that. Carry on.”Ronnie James
When I shared this recently, a question made me realize some might think “Just realize that everything I do is to further the replacing of the state and destroying western civilization and any remnants of it for future generations” might think this is about violence, when it is not. It’s about supporting Indigenous ways to help build a better future for our children, for us all.
Ronnie was just who I had been looking for, to help me begin to understand Indigenous ways of living. And to show me how to begin to engage with these efforts locally. I am blessed to have a number of native friends now, from whom I am also learning many of these things.