In October 2009, I joined the Friends Council SPARC Program 2009-2011 cohort, along with two colleagues who also served on Lincoln School’s Quaker Life and Education Committee. Over the course of two years we traveled together in the fall and spring to join the members of our cohort on retreats inspired by the work of Parker Palmer. The first and last of our journeys were spent at Pendle Hill, amidst the beauty of the arboretum and embraced by its Quaker community. The seashore at Cape May, New Jersey was the setting for the retreats in-between. For me, these days were filled with many gifts. The natural world has always nourished and inspired me and the gift of time, devoted to reflection and learning surrounded by trees and ocean song filled my heart and engaged my spirit. “At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world. Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening.” These words of Annie Dillard became my meditation.
During our retreats we were called upon to look at the varied dimensions of our lives as human beings, as teachers and as learners and to be cognizant of the many experiences that contributed to our life’s compositions. Our group represented a range of disciplines and grade levels taught. I was excited to meet others whose work like mine, had been inspired by the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. We were invited to share teaching practices and to co- construct our SPARC experience with each other and our facilitators. Threading through all of our encounters was mutual respect and our communal desire to find ways to bring to life the Quaker testimonies in our lives and in those of our students. Over time, members of our group also introduced us to such things as the Harkness Method, the Jewish practice of sacred text reading known as Hevruta, Mindfulness practice and the research of Harvard’s Project Zero. Our days were filled with opportunities for quiet, solitary contemplation, focused and thoughtful conversation, exploration through poetry and art materials, worship sharing and Meeting for Worship. Together, we grew as a learning community bound by our shared love of our teaching profession, for the children with whom we spend our days and for the Quaker values woven into the tapestry of our individual schools.
Giovonne Mary Calenda
At a Friends school, one may often hear community members speaking about SPICES. Upon hearing this, you may wonder if they are sharing recipes using cardamom or nutmeg and the like or discussing a cooking class on campus. They may very well be, but at a Quaker school, conversation about SPICES most likely refers to the acronym for the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Service and Stewardship of the Earth. Testimonies refer to the ways that Quakers "let their lives speak" by putting put their beliefs into action in daily life.
En francais Epicess
Service aux autres
Below, are some thoughts for contemplation and inspiration.
- 'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
- 'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
- And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
- 'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
- When true simplicity is gain'd,
- To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
- To turn, turn will be our delight,
- Till by turning, turning we come round right.
- ~Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett
"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary
so that the necessary may speak."
"Live simply that others may simply live."
"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."
"I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men."
"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak."
"How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment: we can start right now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make a contribution toward introducing justice right away."
The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour. ~Japanese Proverb
"Perhaps community is a constellation. Each one of us is a light in the emerging collective brightness. A constellation of light has the greater power of illumination than any single light would have on its own. Together we increase brightness."
"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."
" The I that is we."
~translated from the Italian
"Io che siamo."
"When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share peace with neighboring communities."
~The Dalai Lama
" Depth of understanding involves the ability to experience the curiosity, passions, joys
and angers of others with a process, not of passive acceptance but, indeed involves the
process of empathy, of perception and identification, of human understanding. Always
intersubjective, human understanding requires openness, sympathy, generosity. The
children, the women and men of today, more than ever, need understanding on the
part of other people who have open hearts and minds, people who know how to
recognize their own personal and cultural limitations."
“Learn to be quiet enough to hear the sound of the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in other people.”
~Marian Wright Edelman
"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has."
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world"
"The only gift is a portion of thyself."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
"I shall pass through this world but once.
Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
~Etienne de Grellet
Stewardship of the Earth
"In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world."
"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."
~Crowfoot, of the Blackfoot Nation
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
21 SEPTEMBER 2011
This year we joined schools around the world to celebrate the International Day of Peace. All members of our community were invited to make colorful pinwheels with messages of peace written on them. When the pinwheels were completed, they were put out on the front lawn of Lincoln to send the words of peace out to the world. Our entire school community gathered together in silence for this event and then sang Simple Gifts. It was a beautiful, shared experience for us all. Below, you will find the words of peace shared by the children of the Oak, Ginkgo and Kindergarten classrooms.