Sunday, May 16, 2010

Walk with me...

RantWoman is glad to hear from a message in Meeting for Worship that she is not the only one for whom the theme of the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference "Walk with Me Mentor Elder Friend" is having multidimensional resonance.

RantWoman's focus here is the Walk with me Friend part, a part not well covered in the reflection passages. RantWoman is also unclear whether it is even by any stretch of imagination appropriate to use the phrase with regard to a child she barely knows beyond saying Hi, a child for whom "Walk with me" can only be metaphorical at best in the first place.

RantWoman's point: sooner or later everyone's parents, even the best ones, are the biggest dorks in the world, but for some kids life is worrisome, confusing, scary and unsafe because of parents' problems--but not scary, confusing, worrisome and unsafe enough for everyone observing the situation to have grounds to do a darn thing. The problems are not the kids' fault. There are many ways a situation might have to get more scary or confusing or worrisome and hopefully not more unsafe before help can be had--and the scary, confusing, worrisome, unsafe parts of the story are one thing in the way of the connections that add up to help in the first place.

RantWoman spent all of Meeting for Worship seasoning a message about such a child, a child who could not be in Meeting today because of serious issues of safety and care among grownups. RantWoman's message never took words. Perhaps considering many other circumstances, that is just as well.

RantWoman must celebrate the message that did come from a Friend who grew up in Meeting. As the children wriggled into the room at the end of Meeting and settled in, Friend who Grew Up offered a wonderful message of hope that the children of this era will find our Meeting as receptive to their questions and seeking as she did. Ditto to the nth degree for the child who could not be there:

Neither RantWoman herself nor Meeting can do anything right now but acknowledge what is going on and hold the situation in prayer. RantWoman can hope the child has adults in his life, teachers, counselors, activity group leaders who can help this child think about concerns and choices, trusted adults he could ask questions of and feel safe with. RantWoman hopes that the teachers and counselors an activity leaders of the world can be listening for such even from kids who might be hiding their concerns really well. RantWoman also especially hopes that the child has language and adults to help him feel some kind of Divine presence or spirit of something larger than himself to steady him amid all the scary, confusing, upsetting, and unsafe parts.

RantWoman can walk no further except in prayers and has to trust that will matter.

IN the meantime, RantWoman's readers should also assume there are several grownups who most definitely need to be held in the Light as well.


  1. Holding the child in prayer sounds like one exactly right thing to do.

    But I wonder... does your meeting have a care and counsel committee, or a ministry and counsel committee? This situation should probably be discussed at that level.

    And as a mandated reporter (both as a teacher, and once upon a time, as a psychotherapist and teacher of clergy members) I wonder about the mandated reporting duty of a Quaker meeting; clergy in general must report even suspected child abuse to child protective services. I am not clear where the lines are drawn in a Quaker meeting, and you have not precisely described a situation as abusive, but the question is tickling at me and might need investigation.

    Of course, all of us who have ever had anything to do with child protective services, in any state, know how often it fails to protect kids. However, if you suspect child abuse, I encourage you to report, nonetheless. Few things are as sad as the experience I had over and over as a therapist, of hearing an adult who had been previously abused as a child say, "Yes, I was abused, and a lot of people knew... but no one even tried to help."

    (And again, I realize that my instincts may not apply in this case, and I am grateful that you are watching out for this child spiritually even where you are at a loss for more concrete helps. Sometimes, it is hard to know what to do.)

  2. As one Friend piquantly put it one time, you can't swing a dead chicken around most Friends Meetings without hitting a mandated reporter and our Meeting is no exception. I am aware of the mandated reporter issue because of sometimes being involved as an interpreter in information streams where I have to be VERY clear about the boundaries that make me not a mandated reporter and very focused on the mandated reporters doing their jobs.

    In this case, our Meeting's Oversight committee is the one that handles this sort of thing and the several issues entangled in the events behind this post are front and center on their agenda. There are multiple mandated reporters in the picture and they are clear that, although a parent's serious mental health issues suggest the phrase emotional neglect, the problems do not rise to a level our mandated reporters feel they are obliged to do anything.

    There are other Meeting community safety issues that have to be ahead of concern about the child in our Meeting's conversation. Hence the heads up to teachers and such and the recognition that simply having a steady school routine might help.

    RantWoman is seasoning thoughts about having difficulty living Friends testimonies, thoughts that even she recognizes are way too irreverent for a blog in this situation, particularly while some issues are live. Hence, Rantwoman will resume her practice of holding the child in the Light.

  3. In case it wasn't clear before... I get that it's a tough situation. In no way did I mean to imply that I knew the right answer and your answer wasn't good enough! Just, if you had not considered the question, it did seem important to raise it.

    Sometimes, it sucks to have insight without authority or the power to right the wrongs you can see... For the moment, I'm holding you in the Light, as you hold the child.


  4. THANK YOU for reading!

    1. RantWoman is trying to walk a very fine line
    about blowing off steam / seeking Light in a blog about matters that are complicated and still evolving and in any case probably not appropriate for immediate broadcast on numerous community and interpersonal grounds.

    2. RantWoman is, a good bit of the time, fairly self-centered. It occurred to me that one though not the only person RantWoman's comments are intended to take care of is herself, and at various ages at that.