After our return from Kenya - with the weight of my feelings toward the Third World still upon me - Robin (my wife) and I attended a Quaker gathering in a campground in the Rockies. Kenya was all the more in our minds because we had brought our safari tent with its huge awning, a style that had once protected British colonialist-hunters from the sun as their African servants brought them tea. Now there were no British colonialists, no servants bringing tea, no sun, just twenty Quakers huddled under the canvas to protect us from a cold Wyoming downpour.
As Quakers do, we shared our inmost thoughts. They were of two types. One was affirmation for the self. Friends seemed to need to say out loud that we respect ourselves. "If I don't love myself, how can I love others?" I recalled one Friend who, on another occasion, had declared, "If I were God, making me over again, I would make me just as I am now."
The other thought was of great disappointment for our country. Our government was throwing its weight around the world, coercing and exploiting others rather than persuading and helping them. The administration spoke falsehoods, betraying our people and those outside. We were rich at the expense of the world's poor, these Friends were saying.
Quite apart from whether these affirmations were true or not, I was struck by the emotional contrast. We were proud of ourselves, yet ashamed of our society. The pride in