Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
I’m not a religious person. I don’t classify or call myself anything in particular except maybe leaning towards spiritual. It’s not because I don’t believe in “something” but because I see validity is so much. A few years ago, I felt a strong push as I heard a loud voice tell me to go to the ORUUC. Over the course of two years I found the family I’d been promised by the winds. They didn’t come in the shapes, sizes, or ages I expected, but there is not a doubt in my heart or soul they are my blood kin.
From the youngest children, such as Rayn, to the oldest of children such as Miss Marge, I was blessed with knowing, learning, and understanding some of the most beautiful people I could have asked for. Outside of the confines of the church there were some people whom could meet my level of tomfoolery, but never in my adult life have I found the encouragement to be everything I was meant to be as I did there.
But how can I say that an entire church is my family? A church? It hardly seems possible. What I learned from them, will follow me everywhere I go because I value the life-lessons I was given.
When I first started going to the Unitarian Universalist Church, I was wisely advised to take my time in selecting what I wanted to do because everything has passionate players. They weren’t kidding. I watched the different volunteer positions to see which I felt I could be enthusiastically involved with. I discovered I loved to greet people, loved to protect, and loved to serve. I ended up joining the safety team, co-leading the hosts and greeters, as well as serving as fifth Sunday usher. I even did coffee a couple times. Find what you’re passionate about and without excuse or what-if’s, jump in and do it.
One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning was to be greeter. I have a knack for remembering the names with faces I see often. I could greet nearly everyone in our medium sized congregation by name as they approached the door. That I could do that, hug them, welcome them, demonstrated I truly was glad to see them. Learning people’s name that you see every day no matter who they are is key to discovering some of the coolest people you might never had opportunity of doing so if not for that small effort. When you remember people’s names, they know that someone in the world knows they exist. I believe that’s crucial to mental health.
Talk is cheap, Action is richer
Many times I’d listen to people in the neighborhood where I lived talking about how unhappy they were with where they lived (I was one of them for a while), their circumstances, their addictions, their kids, the etc. What I noticed was that none of them were doing anything to change any of that. They just noted it sucked but continued the same behaviors. I learned that it’s okay to complain because, really, that’s just an acknowledgment that an issue exists.
Once you’ve realized there is a problem, making a difference is the only way that problem will go away. You can kick sand over it, behave like an ostrich, or pretend it doesn’t exist, but once you know it’s there, it’s the Universe’s way of nudging you to make it better. Terry Goodkind wrote in his Sword of Truth series (loosely quoted), “You already know what the problem is, think of the solution.”
I saw solutions pouring out of the people at ORUUC far more than I saw problems. It was the most collaborative group of people I’ve ever worked with. Even when hackles got ruffled, which happens in any large group, everyone worked to make sure that the final solution was a balance. Do what you need to do to bring the positive changes into the world because happiness is worth it.
Fool for love
Pastor Jake Morrill’s closing words for the services he gives are ones I took to heart. He says, “Be pilgrims for justice and fools for love!” What profoundly simple words with such an enormous responsibility behind them. If he chose a different closing, I’d walk away rather bummed because I truly took on the challenge when he would use it.
I believe we should all fall madly in love with the world every day. No excuses, just open your eyes and fall. Even the people or things that irk your sensibilities the most are worthy of love. It’s not for you to choose who is okay or what is okay to love, just do it.
I’m not in any way implying that you can’t have preferences, nor that you should eliminate safety measures for the sake of love. I’m saying that when you look at the world as if it were your intimate lover and you its muse, you’ll find a different kind of kismet with the divinity that is everything; The atom of begin times, the eve of creation.
To clarify, I call everything the Universe, because as a rule, we can all agree there is one. If I called the Universe God, then that specific version that you know/doubt/reject/hate/don’t believe in, would negate this idea. BUT! If I call it the Universe, we can meet at whatever version of that ultimate we accept.
Using this idea, be the fool for love because love has a transformational magic that can be witnessed where two hearts meet in unison. Thus, if you’re falling madly in love with the world every breath you take, does it not then make sense that love will rule your world? And further that love will light your path to happiness because love doesn’t hurt? Indeed. As I was taught by those who love me there, be that fool for love.
A short while before I moved away, I received an email that reminded the Sunday volunteers of the roles they promised to step in to fill. A reply to that email was astounded at the amount of people that took responsibility to make the service appear to be without effort. It made me giggle a bit because I was actively involved in the volunteer activities. I knew how many people it took because of that.
Sidenote: My husband would get really frustrated with me because I’d try to do way more than my body could handle. He’d have to verbally remind me, “Mare, you’re not Atlas. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”
It’s the same when facing life’s many challenges (like moving out of state with a weeks notice). You’re not Atlas. Just like sharing your great experiences with your friends, sharing burdens makes them easier to bear as well. Nothing limits you to only putting on your good face. Being a human with All The Bumpy Bits is by far more deeply satisfying overall in my experience. When you find people willing to be human with you, that’s a rare and beautiful gift. Shine for them even from your darkest places. It’s worth it.
There are so many lessons I’ve learned from the beautiful people I am honored enough to call my friends at ORUUC that I couldn’t possibly cover it in one writing. I hope you will bear with me as I process this tremendous life shift. Together we can be incredible humans together on this wild journey called life.