Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Search: New Beginnings

In the spring of 1970, I was offered a teaching associate position leading to the PhD at Ohio State U. We decided to end our work at Jamestown Friends and in the fall began a search for new connections. We became involved with a Mennonite church and for the first time I was deliberately choosing to look at guides within a non-Quaker framework. I joined a small group of seekers from the church who met for breakfast one morning a week. One of the most meaningful aspects of this group was that we were all serious students of other disciplines, as well as serious students of the spiritual pathways and intent on understanding our spiritual life as individuals and as a group.

It was at one of these small meetings that I participated in “communion” for the first time. One of the group had brought some juice and rolls and suggested that we have communion together. As we shared together I made the comment that it was good that it was orange juice since if it had been grape juice I was not sure I would have participated. The person who brought the juice said that he had thought about it and knowing my feelings about “communion ritual” decided to bring orange juice since it really didn’t make much difference in the meaning of communing together. That sharing did not seem to me to be a rite or symbol but a time of community with one another and Christ. We shared no formal words but rather a personal feeling of sharing in a life that was a real presence among us. The more I shared of myself and grew in the group, the more meaningful Friends became to me.

In the spring of 1971 when there was much unrest on college campuses, I experienced one of the most intense tests of my beliefs in my life. I have described this experience elsewhere and will state that it was because of this experience I changed from being a pacifist because I didn’t think I could kill some one to being a pacifist because I knew I might be able to kill someone.

Two major tests of our marriage and family were experienced in my last year at OSU. In working on my PhD dissertation I placed a great deal of stress on the family as Judy was typing the dissertation and retyping the corrections which often required the retyping of several pages due to even a minor correction on an earlier page. In retrospect I soon realized that in many ways the dissertation had become a “mistress” which took time and energy from wife and family. The other stress was that we had taken a foster child, Terri, in the fall with the intention of adopting her. Terri was almost two years old and we were told that she had been treated much like our own children had been. That is, that she had been taken everywhere with the family, was used to social settings and had been eating from the table for a while. However, much of what we attempted was met with apparent stubbornness and “tantrums” when we tried different foods, took her almost anywhere and in many other situations. Our social worker took a leave of absence soon after we got the child and returned after about six months. Upon the social worker visiting our home for the first time after her leave, she expressed real concern with what she saw and heard about our family. She began to ask questions at work and of us. What she learned was shocking to us at to her. She learned that Terri, a biracial child, had been with a “white” foster family that did not take Terri anywhere, not even to the homes of extended family where she would not have been accepted. In addition she had been completely bottle fed up until the day she came to us. She had never eaten solid food nor sat at the table, something we had expected her to do. After some serious discussions our social worker recommended that Terri be placed with another family. We reluctantly agreed with the proviso that Terri not be returned to the family she had come from. We later learned that she had been placed with a loving family that adopted her. One of the other positive outcomes from our experience was that Social Services decided to change their policy. Their policy had been that the social worker and family of the “old” placement could NOT share information with the social worker and family in the “new” placement. This was changed, largely due to our experience, so that information was required to be shared between the social workers and the families.

Upon graduation in 1972 I was offered a position by two different schools. Due to the fact that I had the PhD and was determined to work and teach in public secondary schools where I felt my talents and calling lay, my job search had been limited to schools in the “East” where they were willing to hire a teacher-supervisor. My choice was between a well established school that was looking to develop newer programs and a brand new high school that was literally building a new school from the ground up, including facilities and program. The deciding factor for me was that in the latter school, Holmdel, NJ, the intent was to develop a small group of leaders in secondary schools from various disciplines who would operate on a cooperative basis approaching a consensus model.

Thus we moved to New Jersey from Ohio. Judy had never lived more than about an hour’s drive from her hometown of Tipp City, Ohio. It was then that she saw the ocean for the first time. The fall of 1972 marked the beginning of several experiences that influenced the rest of our lives in a major way.

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