Quakers use queries in different ways to encourage self-awareness for individuals and the community, to gain clarity, and to guide decision making. The first query of the year for the Lower Schoolers at Westtown School focused on the Quaker testimony of peace. For several days, students reflected on the query through class discussions and journal writing. Below is an excerpt from the minutes of a special Meeting for Worship called a Meeting for Business where students and faculty shared their thoughts on how to describe peace and how to work through conflict respectfully.
Lower School students believe that peace is something to strive for. They describe peace in many different ways, such as:
Peace is joy, peace is friendship.
Peace is respect.
Peace is stars and fireflies at night time.
Peace is taking care of promises you have made to the people around you.
Peace in your heart is acting with kindness, patience, and empathy for all.
Peace feels calm, kind, and quiet.
Students shared that Meeting for Worship and Quiet Time are good times to find peace while at school. Several students spoke of the importance of helping others and sharing feelings openly with friends. By acting this way, you will feel warm and fuzzy inside, and not cold and prickly. Another way of sharing and spreading peace is to help people who are in need, the way the Lower School is by collecting food for the Kennett Food Cupboard.
It is clear that Lower School students know that conflicts will arise and that words spoken without consideration for their impact on others can be hurtful. They also know that conflicts can be settled in many ways, such as walking away, yelling into a pillow, journal writing, going outside to run around, or finding a quiet place to sit and reflect.
Students shared that when we experience conflict, it is important to listen to the other person with your heart and mind, remembering that everyone has feelings and everyone has the Light of God in them. Only by listening with your whole body can you understand what others are trying to say.
Lower School students also understand that being inclusive and understanding of others is an important way to bring peace to the world. By inviting others to join in, you are saying, “We accept you for who you are, quirks and all.” Others stated that we can be inclusive and celebrate diversity by not making fun of people who might be different. By being open to differences and learning from people with different cultural backgrounds, we gain empathy for others.
Students in Lower School care deeply about nature and the environment. As one student shared, “We need to treat the world with love because it is our home. If we do this, people will have what they need and will not have to fight over resources.” It is clear that the Lower School community feels that each of us has an obligation and the ability to make our world a better place for all. We can make the world a more peaceful place by letting the inner Light, which is in each of us, shine for all to see.