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I Return to the Road

Posted on Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 10:00PM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in , | Comments6 Comments

Well, I’m in Fairfield, Iowa tonight, preparing to resume my walking in the morning. My feet are now healthy, but still very tender, so I’ve them taped up with athletic tape and gauze, and I’m going to be watching them carefully.

My new hiking pants are wonderful; I think they’re going to solve the abrasion problem on my hips, although of course the proof will be in the pudding. And I’ve found ways to lighten my pack a bit; it’s down under sixty pounds now. Things are looking good!

may 29-31.jpgMy hoped-for route these next three days is the one you see on this map.

If you’ve looked at my schedule, you already know that tonight was the night I was hoping to meet for discernment with the first Friends community on my route, Fairfield Friends Church. But this was the most total failure I’ve had, of all the Friends communities I’ve reached out to on my route. I’d written them a letter a month ago, asking for a called meeting; I’d followed up the letter with a phone call. But I got a phone call back from the pastor on May 8, saying that the church was flatly refusing to meet with me.

“I will be honest with you,” the Fairfield pastor said. “We discussed this and decided not to invite you to speak to us. We’re not sure we agree with your plight. We thought your journey was too expensive for the purpose.” He added, “Besides, this will be the graduation day at our local high school; we will all be at parties for our kids.”

I wanted to leave the door open to a change of heart, so I told him I would spend the evening in worship and prayer near his church, in case anyone did want to meet with me. And so I did, but no one came.

I am struggling to resist the temptation to be judgmental. No doubt they were doing what seemed right in their own eyes.

But let’s face it: the environmental problems that could all too easily ruin the lives of these kids graduating here tonight, cannot be solved if we pass up opportunities to work out meaningful responses, whether it’s because we have negative preconceptions about one another or because we want to party instead or for whatever cause. There are good reasons why Christ talked so much about not letting opportunities slip through our fingers when they come. We have only a short time on earth, and only a limited number of chances to do it right.

And it’s not that I think there’s anything special about me personally. But here I am offering to do this work of getting corporate discernment on this matter going across the lines that normally divide us. When is the next volunteer going to come this way?

And I keep blaming myself — thinking that there must have been something I did wrong —

Oh, well. Fortunately I have twenty more Friends communities on my route that I can meet with. And thirteen of them — sixty-five per cent — have already said that they’re looking forward to it. Given that I couldn’t offer any of these communities a choice of dates, that high percentage of enthusiastic acceptances is very impressive!

And I am continuing to pray for Fairfield Friends, even as I write this — I don’t know them, but I think they must be good people.

fairfield friends.jpgFairfield Friends Church

Well. Tomorrow will be the first night that I have to find a place to spend the night by knocking on farmers’ doors and asking permission to pitch a tent. I’ve had several letters from veteran cross-country walkers saying, Don’t worry about it, it’ll turn out okay. But of course my heart is still in my throat! I’m not used to depending on charity this way.

So I’m going to stop here, and pray a bit more for the Friends in Fairfield. And then I’m going to go to bed, so I can get up early in the morning. God willing, I’ll let you all know how the adventure unfolds from here.

Dear friends, my heart is with you all.

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Reader Comments (6)

Hi Marshall,

I caught up yesterday with your activities through this blogsite. I updated Community Meeting folks during announcements after worship today, gave your web address as the easiest way to get to this site, and promised them updates. Have you gotten any positive responses from Dayton, Yellow Springs, or Xenia meetings yet? My wife Deborah, myself, and our son Dylan would still like to walk with you for a day, probably somewhere in Indiana before you get to Richmond, assuming you are now picking up where you would have been prior to returning home to recoup, and following the same itinerary. We will be leaving town July 2 or 3 to go to the east coast, which is why we’d need to meet you prior to your arrival in Ohio.

For harmony with Earth,
Bill Cahalan

I’m holding you in the Light as you head back out on the road tomorrow, wishing you good health and rich experiences. I’m really looking forward to your inspirational effect on Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting folks this summer, as well as on BYM people, as each group’s summer culminates in yearly meetings which focus on our harmony with Creation. I’ll do what I can to keep people in my area tuned in to your experiences and progress as the days and weeks unfold.

-- comment posted by Bill Cahalan
May 28th, 2006 at 10:37 p.m.
Sep 2, 2006 at 04:15PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
RE: “I’m struggling with the temptation not to be judgmental….[and]But let’s face it….:: I’d say you lost the struggle, Marshall. You came off as superior. Look as your specious use of “party” for the Fairfield Friends celebrating what may be a once in a lifetime highschool graduation and family event event verses spending time with a self-absorbed, Quaker intellectual. I’m aware that I can now be judged as pot addressing kettle and bloggers are generally self-absorbed (”Here’s what I thought today….Here’s what I did today….”), but you do this lots, Marshall.

-- comment posted by Alan Palmer
May 29th, 2006 at 6:56 a.m.
Sep 2, 2006 at 04:16PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
Two very welcome replies!

Bill, I’d love to have you and your family walk with me for a day. We probably need to talk on the phone about details. You can call me at (402) 319-3934.

Alan, I appreciate the eldering. I need criticism like this to keep me on track! The specious use of the word “party”, though, was the pastor’s, not mine; I was just quoting his words.

My guess is that not all the families in the church had kids in the high school class of 2006. But even if they did, we could have arranged to meet a day before or a day after; this church knew I was walking slowly through, and not just flying in and flying out. It was clear, though, speaking with the pastor on the phone, that arranging a meeting at a more convenient time was not what the church was proposing. It was delivering a flat refusal. The bit about the parties sounded to me like an attempt to soften that refusal, but the pastor did call them parties.

The real reasons for the refusal to meet were given in the first part of what the pastor said (which I carefully wrote down as he spoke to be sure of getting it right): these Friends “are not sure they could agree with my plight”, and feel “my journey is to expensive for the purpose”. His very words in both cases. I feel these are honest pieces of feedback, and deserve to be heard and pondered. That’s why I posted them here. Myself, I’m still pondering them.

I don’t know how I could avoid “coming off as superior” when I post points of view like this congregation’s and then post my reactions. And I think it would be dishonest to conceal my reactions from you, my readers. I do think the way I phrase my reactions is an issue, though; and from what you say, Alan, it sounds like I did not do a good job of phrasing them here.

So. I appreciate this feedback. It’s good to have an objective reader like yourself tell me that I lost the struggle, so that I don’t kid myself. I’ll work on that wrongful sense of superiority and try to shed it.

-- comment posted by Marshall
May 29th, 2006 at 7:39 a.m.
Sep 2, 2006 at 04:18PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
Hi Marshall,
The lack of interest by the majority of our population is so frustrating for me. It is hard to understand why so many fail to see the consequences of our continued abuse of the earth.
The resulting weight of all those people and their non-conservative practices seems to overwhelm the little conservation we are able to do. I think of how little oil I am saving by not having an automobile, and how years of riding my bicycle are wiped out by the SUV driving past me.

-- comment posted by Jeff Kisling
June 1st, 2006 at 1:42 p.m.
Sep 2, 2006 at 04:19PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
When George Fox tells the story on himself about the time in that steeplehouse at Ulrome when someone gave him a push in the breast and bid him get out of the church and Fox replied “Alack, poor man, dost thou call the steeplehouse the church? the church is the people whom God has purchased with his blood, and not the house,” he does not say whether he was struggling to resist the temptation to be judgmental. He did decline to press charges.

-- comment posted by Brian Treadway
June 6th, 2006 at 6:44 p.m.
Sep 2, 2006 at 04:20PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

Jeff, the lack of interest frustrates me, too! I’ve spent some time praying that this journey I’m on will help me see how to address it.

It does help me to meet face-to-face with people who say they’re not interested, because in meeting them face-to-face, and talking with them about environmental matters, I begin to catch glimpses of the things that prevent them from feeling interested. And the more glimpses I catch, the better I understand how to respond.

Brian, that’s a remarkable story to be bringing up in this context! Actually, my own impression is that ol’ George never made any effort to avoid being judgmental — he judged freely and frequently (and usually, it seems to me, fairly accurately as well).

But those were times when religion was a matter of passionate concern to most people, and everyone seemed to feel free to judge everyone else. And the result of all that judging was that there was a lot of religious antagonism and persecution.

I’d like to avoid encouraging such antagonisms, if I can. But it’s hard for me because there’s a strong judgmental streak in me, one that often expresses itself before I realize what’s happening.

-- comment posted by Marshall
June 8th, 2006 at 9:53 a.m.

Sep 2, 2006 at 04:22PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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