Feb. 25, 2019.
The UUCF mission statement sits on my desk, and I read it almost daily. As I am sure you all know, it says our mission is to transform ourselves, our community and the world through acts of love and justice. For some in our congregation, those words call them to bold and visible action. They protest monthly in front of the National Rifle Association headquarters, they travel to Richmond to lobby our state representatives, they network in the community to combat climate change, serve the homeless and foster interfaith collaborations. They work with others in the Unitarian Universalist Association and throughout the U.S. to support immigrant justice and racial justice in our country. All of this is important and transformative work, but it is not the only means of transformation.
It has taken me a good chunk of my lifetime to realize that acts of love and justice that lead to transformation of the entire world can occur between just two people. Living fully in the moment and bringing all your gifts and talents to the matter at hand is transformative. Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that compassion, tenderness and peace in the world are attainable, not after some long, hard struggle, but in this very moment, if we open our minds and hearts to them.
The very first Together Time story I read in a UUCF worship service was “The Three Questions” by Jon J. Muth. I chose it because this simple children’s story had started my own journey toward mindfulness. Its message – that the most important person is the one you are with and the most important action is to provide that person what they need – was not one my younger self could have heard or accepted. Back then, I had arrived in DC with my newly minted government degree, ready to fight for women’s and gay rights and primed to change an economic system that had failed so many. I lobbied on Capitol Hill, attended rallies and marches and helped found nonprofits. I felt for sure I was making a difference. These were the actions necessary to change the world!
Flash forward 20 years. Instead of heading up some activist nonprofit, I found myself living in a small Alaska town, an at-home mom with two preschoolers, one with significant disabilities. How the heck had that happened?! The smallness of my daily life frustrated me. I was certain my talents were being wasted and that my life was supposed to be happening somewhere else – and those thoughts tormented me. Then came the day when I read that children’s book. The ground shifted under me! Was it possible that this was exactly the place I was supposed to be? Could it be true that the most important work of today was interacting lovingly with my own children? For the first time I realized that my home, my children’s school, the grocery store, the gas station was the world I could transform with every interaction grounded in my UU values. By striving to be present in every moment, by upholding the dignity and worth of every person in every interaction, I could become a means of transforming the world. That old adage – be the change you want to see in the world – rang true. By embodying patience and fairness, by empowering others (no matter how young) to take leadership and make decisions, by making daily choices to help – not harm – our planet, by being mindful of every action and its impact on others, I could transform myself, my community and my world.
The journey I started that day is still continuing and it will never really be completed. I think the whole point of transformation is that it is ongoing. When you live each day striving to be your best self and doing the best you can for those around you, you open yourself up to change. When you allow compassion, kindness and love to guide every interaction, you are forced to relinquish anger, fear and mistrust. And doing so – opening yourself in mindful, authentic connection with another human being and giving your time in service to them in this moment – is truly an act of love and justice.