By Christen Higgins Clougherty
As educators at Friends schools or as Quaker educators, the common denominator between us is the influence of Quaker values on our teaching. After graduating from a Friends school, I later discovered one Quaker value I had misunderstood: the true meaning of the Light in each of us. As a student at a Friends school, I and many of my peers, came to understand implicitly that being “different” was more acceptable than being the same. As my school community encouraged me to express my inner Light, I was misinterpreting that to mean that my individualism was of greater value than that of community. I have come to realize that this is not an accurate understanding of the practice of Friends’ testimony to equality. It is true that Friends believe there is an inner Light in each of us, but what is more important to this understanding is that the practices of Friends center around a community of believers. That each of us holds a piece of the Truth, and when we come together we can test and discover the way forward. In a way, the powers of our Lights become both clearer and stronger when unified.
I am reflecting on the idea of the power of our Lights today as I celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.
I have a three and a half year old, and last night at dinner I was trying to explain why he didn’t have school on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I explained that King was a man who reminded us to do two things: to be kind to others, but also that by coming together we can find courage and clarity in how to make change in the world. Two quotes from King resonate with me today:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
The meaning of this second quote has power with both a lower case “friends” and an upper case “Friends.” I read the subtext as a responsibility of those in positions of power to stand up when we see injustices. It is a reminder that we must do this everyday. And for Friends, we confirm our position on injustices and find our way to respond to them through our silent practices. It is out of silence our Lights reveal the Truth.
For those who might be interested in learning more about King’s relationship with Friends, here is a link where you can learn more: https://afsc.org/story/afsc-history-martin-luther-king-jr