John Livingston News

The Voice Within

Today I am a proud Catholic, but I grew up for the first 5 years of my life being raised in the Quaker home of my grandparents in Philadelphia. My Mom was a nurse assigned to the Navy and my father was deployed to Korea and later Japan during the Korean War. My grandmother had a greater influence over my life and religious formation than any single person including my parents and several close friends including Catholic Priests.

There is no dogma or doctrine in the Quaker Church. Traditional Quakers are able to create their own theologies which is in my opinion very dangerous, but the one concept that my grandmother taught me was the idea of “the voice within”. Some would call it the idea of conscience. Many Catholics like me believe this is the Holy Spirit. Giving quiet time each day in a busy world can be hard, but because we are so busy it makes it even more important to set a special time each day to pray and listen to “our voice within”.

My grandmother taught by example. When I was in Jr. High school she flew 800 miles overnight after talking to me over the phone and hearing that I was going to quit football because my 1st experience with 2-a-day practices was tough. The lesson: Never quit anything that you start. She changed the direction of my life with that lesson.

When I was 3 years old she always used to leave out a cookie on the kitchen counter with a hole in it. If I ate the cookie and saved the hole I would get another cookie when she came home. Many times I couldn’t control myself and I would eat the whole cookie, but one day I saved the hole and she gave me two more cookies. The lesson: Self-control.

My grandmother was a devout Quaker and proud of her faith. She was proud that her ancestors—and mine, that had participated in the Underground Railroad, and her mother that had been a women “suffragette”. She was proud of her Quaker Ancestors who had worked at the Carlisle Indian School.

She was proud of the Quaker tradition for civil disobedience reminding me that a requirement of such actions was that one must be quiet and not in a crowd so that they would be informed by “the voice within”. Violence was never to be a part of any form of civil disobedience.

The majority of Quakers historically have been conscientious objectors, but my grandmother had a son—my uncle, who was a Navy fighter pilot in the Korean War. My grandmother was very proud of him and his service. She suffered shaming in her own Meeting (church) from those fellow Friends who were conscientious objectors.

By the mid ’60s my grandmother had taken a position at Swarthmore College that was—and remains today—a very liberal institution. It was located adjacent to the headquarters of the American Friends Service Committee that had sponsored Jane Fonda’s trip to North Viet Nam. My grandmother—the mother of a Navy pilot, picketed all by herself in front of the two adjacent buildings (Swarthmore College Administration and AFSC) on the Swarthmore Campus. After three days her job was threatened by “do-gooder” administrators. She persisted and voluntarily resigned her position—as any true Quaker would do.

The weekend that these events transpired in Philadelphia, I was a sophomore in College in Ohio. I received an urgent phone call from my grandmother asking me to “come home’ and attend Meeting with her that Sunday. I immediately drove the 9 hours in my 1964 Rambler Classic that was barely able to traverse the Allegheny Mountains to Swarthmore.

That Sunday when I walked into Meeting with my Grandmother people purposefully dropped their eyes and turned their backs to her. She walked ahead and sat in the same pew where her family had seated themselves for generations—proud and at peace with herself. All was quite. All were praying to be informed by their own “voice within”. When we walked out 2 hours later it was a completely different atmosphere, people were more at ease, but the contempt that we felt going in was still in the air.

A couple of years later I asked my grandmother why she had requested my presence that day. She told me that it wasn’t to give her courage, but rather to teach me that the very people who preach and profess tolerance and acceptance, are the same people who when they disagree with you will shun you—even your lifelong friends. They refuse to see “the log in their own eyes”.

This is exactly what is happening today in our country. Those who profess tolerance, and acceptance, and feign embracing fellowship with those who differ from them, are the ones who continue to drop their eyes and turn their backs on the 75 million “deplorables” who still have the audacity to cling to our Bibles and guns. The emotion today that I am having the most trouble dealing with is HATE. Not my hate, but the hate I hear on the Senate floor coming from the House Managers. The hate I hear from Maxine Watters when she tells people to get in the face of people who support Trump. Tonight I realized for the 1st time that the hate today that appears to be directed toward Donald Trump—is actually at this point in time really a hate for the people that supported Donald Trump. They hate me and you. My prayer is that we may all be able to circumvent this barrier of hate and somehow be above it all—just like my grandmother showed me how to do when she walked out of that Meeting. Nothing is ever accomplished by hating so let’s not hate back. In the end, the hater is always the one that suffers most. Let’s focus our energies figuring out how to kick their butts next time around and while they are hating we can be planning and training for a great victory.

When they speak of “unity” they are not referring to coming together around shared values that are Fundamental to our founding and my way of life. I cannot come together with people who openly profess a hatred for the very principles upon which I have tried to live my life and teach my children and now my grandchildren. In the end my battle and I hope everyone on our side realizes this, is not against the haters, but rather for our principles.

It’s not time to eat the whole cookie. It is not time to quit.

It is a time for focus, and determination, and self-control.

It is time to listen to the “voice within”

2 replies on “The Voice Within”

Very good message. Your Grand Mother is a very wise person. Thank You for sharing that message, I needed to hear that. It made me take pause and think.

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