By Laura Dixson
The summer I turned sixteen, I was a teenager secure in my life, antsy for my independence (and drivers license), and annoyed because I was single. Then, I was nominated by Northern Yearly Meeting to be a representative to Friends General Conference, and attend Central Committee. At the time, I was struggling to learn what I want to follow within my inner self as I moved into my future. The knowledge that my yearly meeting valued me and my gifts was incredibly affirming to me; it seemed to be exactly the encouragement I needed to try, not only to learn about myself, but to be a part of the future of Quakerism. This was the best possible affirmation for me, this proclamation of love and support from a body of people I respected enormously. It was not only a concrete affirmation, but an acknowledgment that I was already moving toward potential good.
Since then, I’ve grown exceedingly, and not only spiritually. I have taken on a position usually reserved for adults (with the support of both my monthly and yearly meeting), and have needed to be responsible, independent and mature. This was no easy task for me; I had been notorious for procrastination. As soon as I signed on to the Traveling Ministries Oversight Committee (TMOC), I was inundated by e-mails; I was overwhelmed by everything that was calling out to be done. Surrounded by people spending their lives doing this work, I came close to being over-enthusiastic and overextending myself. But working through my leadings, I met these difficulties, was forgiven my lapses, and am currently finding it easier to keep up with what I have said I will do.
This fall, when I attended the Central Committee, FGC’s governing body, I was moved beyond expectations. Surrounded by adults who, on average, were three times my age, I spoke out honestly for what I believe in, and wasn’t belittled because of my youth. I was able to offer my opinion about the state of racism among Quakers, my feelings on healing the gap of the split between two branches of Quakers, and my enthusiasm for the work I do. Friends that I admire, role models that have faith and work beyond my capacity came up to me, praised my direction, and offered their respect. I spent four days, from morning until night, in meetings and in worship with these people. I was never bored, was rarely uncentered, and was often always moved.
During this time, TMOC was struggling to discern the path we should follow, for ourselves (the members) and all of FGC. We took this concern to Central Committee, and I was able to worship on it with some amazing people. We took some of our precious spare minutes to sit in not-so-quiet rooms in early mornings and center ourselves on the problems. I came out of this feeling so deeply led, that I know I can go and help to breathe new direction into TMOC.
I’ve also been inspired by other Friends’ initiatives and faith. One seasoned Friend told me of his peace work in Belfast during the 1970s, and just hearing it made me yearn for the time I could single-handedly stop riots in exotic countries. There have been so many more, I can’t name them all, but someday, I hope I can give back to the community all the spiritual gifts I’ve been given.
To learn from the people on the committees I am now a part of has been a life-altering experience for me. I feel more secure in my own path and ability to speak for the changes that I believe must occur. I spend time loving my life, and appreciating those who don’t know how forcefully they have helped me shape it. Since last year, I feel I have blossomed in a way I didn’t know I could. Now, I’m seventeen, and know that I will continue on this cycle of bettering myself, and going places that I never would have imagined.