"Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one."
~George Fox, 1656
I teach at a Quaker school. As you might expect, we admire George Fox. The above quote is framed in our Meeting House. I like to read it every day. It also finds its way into our Mission and Core Values.
For many, the idea of God is tricky - difficult to discuss publicly and hard for some to accept. That said, I think Fox is using words that had meaning for him to explain and idea that most humans can accept - each person has something within that is beautiful, unique and unexplainable. Is that the same as "holy," "divine" or "godly"? You decide. But we all have it.
George Fox was pretty radical. He was vocal in what he knew to be right, stood up for equality and went to jail a few times. He reminds me of Dr. Martin Luther King, who's legacy and life we celebrate today, who had different ways to saying the same thing. "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
Finding that of God in everyone or choosing the light of altruism is easier on some days than others. When the students work hard, when the faculty collaborates effectively and when we are working towards a common goal, one can see God all over the place. But most of the time, it seems easier to choose the darkness of destructive selfishness. Students get in bad moods, they argue with us, they forget their homework. As teachers, we tend become frustrated by the demands of instruction and assessment or the behaviors of students. In short, we choose darkness and selfishness and ignore "that of God in others." All people are unlovable at times. We hurt each other and ourselves. We work hard to make it difficult for other to see our unexplainable uniqueness.
Dr. King said, "the time is always right to do what it right." And he was right. We all need people to see us for who we are and "answer that of God within." Especially on the days when we are at our most unlovable.
As teachers, as colleagues, as friends and as humans, we need to make certain that we choose the light of altruism, even when it is difficult and we would rather not. We must step back and remember that each of us is lovely and beautiful in their own, sometimes unexplainable way. And it is THAT person to whom we must respond. Not the one who forgot their homework or skipped out on the meeting. After all, "love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." (George Fox would have capitalized that last word.)