Sunday, April 01, 2007


This morning when I walked into Quaker meeting, it was clear by the look on my friend Bill's face that his wife had died. Bill has a long white beard and a constant good humor, even last week when announcing that Lois Ann was back in the hospital. This was the first time I'd seen him look so exhausted.

We sat in silence for a long time. Surprisingly, the first person to speak didn't mention Lois Ann's death, but asked why the meeting hasn't done more work on peace and what we could be doing that we aren't. Over the course of the hour others stood and answered her: Lois Ann and Bill lived peace, because they embodied love. They were the kind of couple that makes me believe marriage as an institution really does work for some people despite all the people for whom it obviously doesn't work. Their love for each other and other people was clear wherever you saw them - in meeting, in the grocery store. He cared for her cheerfully during her last illness just as she waited cheerfully for him when he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector in World War II.

I think college activists and old Quakers could learn a lot from each other. Lois Ann may not have been agitating for social change at age 89, but her very presence in the world was a step in the right direction. Your politics can be as radical as you please, but if you're an unpleasant person and don't genuinely care about the people around you, everything you do feels hollow to me.

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