Recently, we discussed our peace and justice work at my Quaker meeting. I explained my vision of creating a Mutual Aid community to guide our justice work. And included examples of what the meeting is already doing that are Mutual Aid.
I felt we had a good discussion. I didn’t have answers to some of the questions raised. I believe those questions would be answered as we got experience with implementation. But the meeting is clearly not ready to begin working on Mutual Aid.
As I was preparing for this discussion, I knew it would be difficult to distill my more than three years of experience with Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA).
Mutual Aid represents a paradigm shift in Quaker’s thinking about spirituality and justice work. How can I help people make this shift happen? What is the Spirit asking of us?
I have no doubt that the Spirit leads me to continue with my involvement with Des Moines Mutual Aid. My friends there know I hope to bring spirituality into the work of Mutual Aid, so I’ll give them an update on our meeting at Bear Creek.
One paradigm shift from my past comes to mind. In the early 1970’s I moved to Indianapolis and was horrified by the foul air from auto exhaust. I was led to live without a car as a result. But I had no success in convincing anyone else to give up their car. So here we are now, facing ever increasing environmental chaos.
During the years’ long struggles with my meeting about cars, which was difficult since many meeting members lived in rural settings, one Friend asked if I had invited the meeting into my concerns about cars. And I realized I had not done so. When I did invite the meeting to join me in our common concerns about fossil fuels, one thing we developed was a concept we called Ethical Transportation (see below).
So, I applied that idea to invite the meeting into Mutual Aid work. I often share my experiences at Des Moines Mutual Aid with the meeting. Our discussion this past weekend is another step that will lead to Mutual Aid. As more communities and people are impacted by environmental and social chaos, we will naturally turn to the idea of Mutual Aid for disaster relief.
I am impressed with the Great Plains Action Society’s Mechanism of Engagement. Mutual Aid is one of the Methods in the model. I wonder what such a model would look like for Quakers. Maybe that is part of the way forward, for my Quaker meeting to become more oriented toward Mutual Aid.
Ethical Transportation Minute
Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles. We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult. This is even more challenging in rural areas. But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.Ethical Transportation Minute. Approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017
Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.
Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems. These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.
Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help. We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc. We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.
One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation. Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles. Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness. This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness. We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths. We can repair and recycle unused bicycles and make them available to those who have the need.