In 1968, I was a high school student in Evanston, Ill., firm in my loyalty to the Chicago White Sox and firm in my belief that my country was on the right side in Viet Nam.
One day I walked into the public library. In the new books display I found a book with a dramatically designed cover dominated by one jagged word: "WAR." The subtitle also grabbed my attention: "The Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression."
“There is no greater agony than carrying an untold story inside of you.” – Maya Angelou
I spent a day with Pablo Paredes and a few of the courageous immigrant youth with whom he works when I was in San Francisco in December. Pablo is AFSC program director for 67 Sueños, a youth-led program that works to make visible the stories and dreams of undocumented youth who are often left out of the immigration debate.
“People can be transformed by being open and human. We believe that people have a need to be heard, but how they are heard really matters – if they take the risk of telling their story, it needs to make a difference.” – Denise Altvater
We all have a story of self. What’s utterly unique about each of us is not the categories we belong to; what’s utterly unique to us is our own journey of learning to be a full human being, a faithful person. And those journeys are never easy. They have their challenges, their obstacles, their crises. We learn to overcome them, and because of that we have lessons to teach. In a sense, all of us walk around with a text from which to teach, the text of our own lives.
When I was 14, my mother took me to a weekend-long Quaker work camp in West Philadelphia, one of the last before the program was closed in 2005. I painted a hallway blue, prepared simple meals, and slept in a sleeping bag. By Sunday afternoon, I knew that I had been transformed.
“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born.
We must move past indecision to action. …
Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”
Denise Altvater is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and has worked for AFSC for eighteen years. She has been instrumental in developing the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission between a sovereign Tribal Nation, the Wabanaki, and a U.S. state, Maine, to address hurts caused by the foster care system. The commission will be seated on February 12, 2013.
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.