In a true community we will not choose our companions, for our choices are so often limited by self-serving motives. Instead, our companions will be given to us by grace. Often they will be persons who will upset our settled view of self and world. In fact, we might define true community as the place where the person you least want to live with always lives!
10.19 Parker J Palmer, 1977, quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice, 5th Edition
I came to avp because of a relationship problem with my wife, now my ex-wife. Till I discovered another relationship issue with my dad. Then, there is mum. I have three sisters. Park that. No-one told me I had relationship issues with my grandparents, even if two of them were already dead before I was born. And I have two sons. What about my relationship with them? And theirs with me?
When I look about me, I have had from time to time problems with my friends. Mainly them, of course, I’m a nice person. And in my local Quaker meeting. Don’t get me started on Quakers…how difficult can they be at times? People, I ask you. Nearly always their fault, though. I’m a nice person.
I went to my first avp workshop because I was in trouble. It helped. It was a start of a long process and I’m still learning, still practising.
Once, during a break in a level 1 workshop, I confided in a friend, ‘All my worst nightmares are in that room.’ ‘What do you mean?’, he asked. ‘Well, growing up, I ran into violence wherever I turned – in the house, on the streets, across the parks, with gangs, mostly men, all men, the kind of men in this room.’ I was nervous and hesitant in my first year as a facilitator, testing the water. How would I cope with my fears in front of these men? Surely, they’d see my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities and exploit them? Yet, as I listened to them over the next couple of years, I began to see them for who they are – people, human beings, lovely people, affected by all kinds of stuff, making wrong choices, seeking a way out, like me. I felt somehow stronger and love grew in me. It’s still growing.
At the avpBritain national gathering, I likened it to a family wedding, one where I liked everyone and got along with everyone. I have learned so much about relationships and have much more still to learn. I’m on the journey now.
The Alternatives to Violence Project Britain (avp) organises workshops which empower people to lead nonviolent lives, based on respecting and caring for ourselves and others. Though Quaker in origins and ethos, it is composed of people of all faiths and none.