by Gracie Griffin in KidSpirit's The Nature of Truth issue.
Interfaith Connections is a column for teens to dialogue about how their faith or wisdom tradition influences their view of life’s big questions. In each issue, three teens from different backgrounds respond to a question posed by the Editorial Board, based on the theme. This quarter the Ed Board asks:
Is searching for truth an important part of your faith or spiritual tradition?
Gracie Griffin responds.
Truth. It is something you can wear emblazoned on your chest with a cape flapping in the wind behind you. It is a true superpower.
We think of superpowers as unattainable, as figments of our imaginations. However, these gifts are available to all of us. The other day, a speaker at my Quaker meeting told us that we each have a gift, whether big or small. Some of these gifts are not as noticeable as others. One of my gifts is my religion.
I am a Quaker. Twice a month, I sit in a room surrounded by windows and a ceiling fan that spins lazily. The only audible noise is traffic rushing outside, yet the room is filled with people of all ages. We sit in chairs facing the center of the room, so there seems to be no front or back. No minister stands at a pulpit, reading from the Bible. In fact, no one speaks at all until someone is moved by the Spirit to share a message. Messages can be stories, quotations, or even questions. Here in this space we are equal in spirit and in mind. There is no one telling us what to do. We sit in utter silence except for the sounds of the lazy fan and the cars outside.
This silence provides time to reflect and discover the gifts inside of us. While sometimes that quiet gets drowned out by messages or even by internal whines of boredom, we can find silence in other places. There is a quote on my refrigerator at home:
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is not noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” – Unknown.
Quakerism has helped me discover my superpowers. It supplies the tools and values for not only leading a happy life but a fulfilled one, especially if you contribute your gifts to the wider community. Quakerism is a religion that encourages:
The SPICE mantra keeps me grounded. It gives me the tools to access my gifts while I seek the truth. Some people spend their whole lives looking for truth, the ultimate superpower. Why? Truth can take us places. It can lead us to conclusions or back to beginnings. Truth can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Truth can slap us in the face and leave us spinning, unsure where to turn next. Yet, through the power of reflection, we can find truth right beside us. The power of reflection is something that continues to astound me, and I hold it very close to my heart.
Whether by attending an organized meeting for worship or simply the act of standing back and observing, Quakers revel in the personal evaluation. Silence helps us access our inner light, which is a place of clarity and purity. Through this reflection, gifts become clear as you see yourself from the outside. You can see your actions undiluted through Quaker values. Was that simple or peaceful or honest? Did I do that for the greater good of the community? Everything seems to fit into a section of the SPICE mantra.
This inner light can be accessed with finding peace in the body and heart, and clearing the mind. Though this light can be hard to find if you are feeling conflicted or stressed, settling into a time of reflection can open your mind to truth. Here in the silence, I have muddled over the nuances of high school, fought internal battles of right and wrong, and mused over scattered poetry. It is here in the silence that I have discovered more of myself. I am not being told who I am; I simply see the parts of me that have been quiet and observant. I have seen myself grow as I become comfortable with my strengths and weaknesses. I have become more giving and kind, more honest, driven, and fearless, if only for a moment. I have discovered joy in helping others and learning from my mistakes. The silence has opened my heart and I continue to change for the better. I am becoming my own superhero.
Truth may be the ultimate goal, but it can be difficult to admit because of the way we conform to normalcy. We can’t seem to admit that we want to be more than what we seem. The struggle to fit in can sometimes make gifts seem like burdens. Being Quaker in a small Maine town can be hard. I remember correcting my seventh grade teacher on the history of Quakerism and getting glances as if I had two heads. I have learned to avoid phrases like “meeting for worship” or “First Day school” around those who would question me with an almost resentful tone in their voice. Saying “church” or “Sunday School” doesn’t feel natural to me, but it is not argued about or questioned by others. It is simply accepted. Part of me wishes that my gift of being unique and Quaker would be as readily accepted. Certainly, as I grow older, my friends mature and realize the importance of Quakerism to me.
Little experiences with my quiet gift give me the greatest joys. One night as I rode in the car with my friends after a lacrosse game, we began to talk about Quakerism. It was liberating to share something with people who had minimal knowledge of the topic. They weren’t wondering what it meant for our political views or how Quakers felt about controversial topics, such as abortion. They just wanted to know if Quakers were connected to the Quaker Oats guy, and why, since they thought Quakers were Amish, I had a cell phone. To see my religion from an outsider’s view gave me the ability to see why I am who I am today. Quakerism affected me in more ways than I had seen before.
Being accepted by a group of people who didn’t share the same beliefs showed me that I had nothing to fear. During that time in the car after the lacrosse game, it was so easy to sum up my religion. I hadn’t felt scared to expand on my usually brief explanation. I trusted in my friends’ curiosity. I knew this was new to them. Instead of feeling embarrassed, it empowered me to show them this other part of myself. My religion is important to me, and the wonder I heard in their voices proved that Quakerism is one of my secret gifts that need not always be hidden.
Superpowers can knock people off their feet. We hide them until the day we put on our masks and become fearless. When the man at my meeting spoke about the gifts inside us, it showed me that everyone gets scared. Each person has an amazing gift inside them, but sometimes they don’t realize it. Sometimes they don’t know how special they are, and we have to tell them. Or they are so riddled with fear that they go on living without ever feeling the joy of a cape flapping in the wind. But, like my fear of sharing Quakerism, these fears can be overcome. We can learn from our fears as much as we can learn from our truths. We have these gifts, these superpowers, that can aid us on our journey toward truth. The same truth is in everything we do, from learning a best friend’s secret to rejoicing over a successful math grade.
Truth can hurt, but we need it in our lives to show us who we are, and to remind us where we have come from. We need it to push us forward as well as to keep us from falling over the edge. We need it to become better and to remain humble. Most of all, we need truth in our lives to show us that when we put on our mask and the wind catches our cape, no matter what is emblazoned on our chest, we are superheroes.
When Gracie Griffin wrote this article, she was a 14-year-old freshman at Yarmouth High School in Maine. She enjoys running, playing field hockey, and singing. She loves to write poetry, short stories, and music.