Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Seeking the Peaceable Kingdom in an Elevator

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Seeking the Peaceable Kingdom in an Elevator

Article excerpt

My family had a farm in Unadilla, a small village in the rolling dairy country of upstate New York. I attended a Quaker meeting on Sundays. The Korean War was in the background of my approaching graduation from high school, which would make me eligible to be drafted into military service. My Quaker friends challenged me with this opportunity to protest war, to be a conscientious objector. I considered this option seriously, but did serve in the military in Korea.

Perhaps because of this failure of youthful idealism and the questions it left unanswered, I have remained sensitive to the intent of Quakerism. So when my wife suggested the Penn Club as a place to stay in London, I was quick to agree. You don't have to be a Quaker to join the Penn Club, one of many clubs that offer accommodations in London. The club derives its name from William Penn, who was given a grant of land in Pennsylvania by England's King George III. Penn established Quakerism in America.

The club is very near the British Museum and within easy walking distance of a tube station.

After a day of touring by subway, we returned to the Russell Square station at rush hour. We ran to catch the elevator that would take us up to street level. The automatic doors began to close as we entered. Glancing back, I saw two men running to catch the elevator. I let my backpack slip off my shoulder and swung it casually between the doors, causing them to rebound convulsively several times. Preoccupied with feelings of benevolence as the men entered the elevator smiling, I was startled by an angry voice:

"Obstructionist!"

I turned to see a gentleman in a dark pinstriped suit. He shouted at me again,

"You're an obstructionist!" The look on his face was not friendly.

"No, I'm a humanist!" I responded with spirit.

My word was not accurate. What I meant was that I was being a humanitarian, but words have little meaning in moments of high emotion. …

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