Dear grandparents and special friends,
It was a delight to see so many of you last week at GrandFriends Day at San Francisco Friends School. I’ve received a number of requests to re-share the story I told to visitors that day; so, in case you were unable to be among the grandparents and special friends who joined us on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, imagine a winding walk from the coffee, tea, and breakfast treats in Room 234 to a packed gym on the third floor of San Francisco Friends School.
In welcoming more than 400 visitors who traveled from as far as NYC, Hawaii, and Curacao, I acknowledged my status as a student of Quaker faith and practice and shared a story from Quaker history that I’d learned earlier this fall.
In 1845, Quakers in Northern Ireland undertook an experiment in utopian community and founded Bessbrook. Their aspirations included no need for police, so there was to be no cursing, no drinking, and no gambling.
Thirty-four years later, in 1879, George Bernard Shaw visited Bessbrook to see how things were going. When a reporter asked Shaw - at the end of his visit - what he thought about a community without cursing or drinking, Shaw apparently said, “Well, from the looks on their faces, it would appear that they could use some of both.” He also reported that he had seen a swan on a Bessbrook pond “looking for a place to drown itself.”
I am convinced that it was not cursing, drinking, or gambling that the Bessbrook community needed; it was a GrandFriends Day.
Whether you watched and listened or shared a story with students in class or at an advisory meeting, or sat alongside kindergartners on the floor, piecing together building blocks, you made stronger our community.
And from my vantage point your smiles would light with brilliance the darkest of night skies, and your presence made love—sometimes invisible and untouchable—seen and felt in the halls of our school.
Thank you again for claiming the time and making the necessary efforts in order to be with us. And most importantly, thank you for sharing your students with us on a daily basis. We are delighted to have them, and you, as part of the San Francisco Friends School community.