During the Korean war I was scheduled for the draft and had to decide whether to follow my conscience and oppose the war, or to follow the line of least resistance and go into the military. There was a local office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Syracuse, N.Y. where I lived and I went there in search of more information.

A few years later I was in New York City and was at the point where I had to pick an organization for two years of alternative service. As luck would have it (or was it mere luck?) I lived only two blocks from the regional office of the AFSC and within moments I was "working" for them for about $30.00 a week. It was the most gratifying two years of my life.


The AFSC, formed in 1917, is a Quaker organization that functions as a center for people of various faiths who are concerned about social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. It grew out a concern of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) to promote the belief in the worth of every human being. Its primary premise is a faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

It was formed in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors the opportunity to serve the needs of civilian victims during World War I. Their focus is on the economic justice, peace-building and demilitarization, social justice, and youth, in the United States, and in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
In the time I was there my primary job was to help form groups of young volunteers, usually after their first year at the university, for work in a state mental hospital and in the area of New York City called "El Bario," otherwise known as Spanish Harlem. I believe that these work camps marked the turning point for many young and concerned people.

We built a church for Negro migrant laborers in upstate New York, visited the elderly and infirmed, stood on picket lines opposing the use of nuclear weapons. While I was never arrested, I saw many hauled off to jail and treated with every [indignity. But nothing seem to dislodge their faith in "the light" that exists in every person. To use an overworked word, their conduct was truly awesome.

I gradually moved away from AFSC and its concerns, but I have never lost my respect for the AFSC and for the Society of Friends that provides the driving force behind them. Their humility and their humanity and their force of spirit continue to put me to shame.