Saturday, August 29, 2009

Remembering Senator Kennedy

Above: November 1999. Left to right, that is I (then Development Coordinator of the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester), the Executive Director of the B&GC, and Senator Ted Kennedy.

Yesterday, I went to pay my respects to Senator Edward Kennedy at the JFK Library in Boston. I got on the very last shuttle bus to the wake, but we just missed out on actually getting inside. The family needed time to get ready for the evening's memorial service (and no doubt they were exhausted). Those of us on the shuttle bus did get to sign the guest book and pay our respects that way. I'm certainly glad I went, and ultimately I'm glad there was an overflow crowd.

I will always have great admiration for Ted Kennedy. To me, in addition to being -- by all accounts -- one of the most successful and important legislators in the history of the United States -- he will always be a reminder of at least a few important things:

1. It is possible to be born a wealthy white man, straight, privileged in every way, and still care about the oppressed and fight for them with all your energy.
2. It is possible to love and be beloved to those who disagree with you on important matters.
3. It is possible to go on in spite of one's foibles and even after tragic mistakes and lead a meaningful, full life.
4. It is possible to have joy doing difficult work. It is possible to be joyful in the day-to-day tasks. It is possible to be joyful after tough times in life, some of your own making.

My (very, very limited) personal experiences with Ted Kennedy go in 10 year gaps. In 1989, I was an intern for a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. (I was then a junior in college). Wandering around the hallway of the Russell Building, I passed Senator Kennedy a few times. He always made eye contact, smiled, and said, "Good morning" or the like. Very polite, very friendly. (Many less prominent senators ignored my existence completely.)

Jumping ahead a decade... In 1999, I worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester. Senator Kennedy took time out of his very busy schedule to come and present the city some funding toward a project in Main South (including a new Boys & Girls Club facility, badly needed). It really jump-started the capital campaign. Today, there is a beautiful new Boys & Girls Club Building in Worcester. (The picture at the top of this post is from that day.)

Jump ahead another decade... and yesterday I was part of a massive crowd of people who never knew Ted Kennedy personally, but who were immensely grateful for all his incredibly hard work -- "tireless" is the only word for it -- on our behalf. We all flocked to the JFK Library to pay our respects.

There will never be another Ted Kennedy. I am very sad and sorry that he is gone.

You can read (current President of the Unitarian Universalist Association) Rev. Peter Morales's reflection on Ted Kennedy at this link. You can read (former President of the UUA) Rev. Bill Schulz's reflection on Ted Kennedy at this link.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just what IS that poster?

Above: my reflection can be seen in the glass, as I try to take a photo of the poster.... A link to a better picture (and the site where I purchased the poster) is here.

I continue to decorate the minister's study. I put up a poster that I like... It might be a bit too dark, I'm afraid, but I still like it. It's a poster of a piece called "Skywatcher", by Susan Seddon Boulet.

Rather than make you guess what it is I like about this piece, I'll just tell you!

I feel more connected spiritually to the “interdependent web of all existence” when I think cosmologically. Because of this, I also try to spend time under the stars in the night sky a few times a month. Some months, I don't get there. Sometimes it's too cold. Sometimes the sky is too overcast when I try. But usually once or twice a month, I'm a "skywatcher" myself. Looking up at the night sky brings me a deep feeling of connectedness and peace.

My partner Emily gave me a telescope for our anniversary. I have yet to master it, but I hope to. I wonder how magnification will change the experience....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care Reform Debate and Love

Above: Video of Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, talking (about 1 minute) about loving each other in the depths of our disagreements about health care reform.

The UUA has a new campaign, called Standing on the Side of Love. According the the UUA's website, Standing on the Side of Love "(SSL, pronounced 'Sizzle') is a public advocacy campaign, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association ... promoting respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We believe that no one should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence because of their identities." You can read more at this link.

The way I think about SSL is very simplified, but helpful -- at least to me! To me, SSL can be for UUs what WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) is for some Christians. That is, UUs can ask ourselves, when making important decisions or thinking about our actions, "What should I do in this moment to stand on the side of love?"

When I think about health care, I think Standing on the Side of Love means ensuring that all Americans have access to health care. I want health care for my partner, and my daughter, and my father, and for everyone that I love. Why shouldn't all humans, with their inherent worth and dignity, be entitled to health care?

Now, that says nothing of how to arrange for it. And I realize it's not a simple matter. But the other thing I believe about SSL is this: I must treat with love and respect and dignity those who disagree with me. There is no room for hate and disrespect on either side of the debate when thinking in terms of SSL.

My prayer is that we will find a way to ensure that all Americans have health care, and that we will have an intelligent debate. I pray that we will love each other through the debate.

"We need not think alike to love alike." ~ Francis David, founder of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania

The new President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Rev. Peter Morales, has issued a statement on the health care reform debate. You can read it at this link. You can watch a video (if you have Flash Player) of Rev. Morales by clicking on this link.

If you would like to take action through the SSL Campaign toward having an open debate on health care reform, please click here. Open debate, where all feel safe to speak, is the cornerstone of democracy. I encourage you to Stand on the Side of Love.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Leela... you got me on my knees, Leela...

Above: Some of the things on and above my desk. Click on the picture to see it blown-up.

If you drop by to see me, you will see toys on my desk. This is theologically appropriate. Why?

Leela. Or Lila. It's from Hinduism, and in Hindi is written as लीला.

What is Leela? A good explanation can be found on Wikipedia, as is often the case (critics aside). But the idea is, the Divine power within the universe is... playful. The universe is all about inter-play.

August is here. "Summertime... and the livin' is easy...." I hope you're giving in to Leela at least a little every day! It's a holy thing to do.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Why the UUCiA?

Above: I continue to set up the office ... come see it in person some Wednesday!

July has been a wonderful month for me. I have enjoyed beginning to meet many of you at the summer potlucks as well as other venues. In August, I hope to meet even more of you. I will continue to go to as many potlucks as I can (what wonderful food and company!), and I would also be happy to meet you at my Office Hours.

Don't forget: I will have Office Hours in August on Wednesdays from noon until 5 p.m. (with the exception of August 12, when I will be at the UUA for a class). Please drop by! If Wednesday afternoons don’t work for you and you’d still like to meet, please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail me to arrange for a meeting at another time or place. I very much look forward to meeting you and getting to know your stories, hopes, ideas, and more.

As I have been talking to many of you, I am beginning to get a clearer and clearer picture of what makes the UUCiA so special. And now I have a request: please take a few moments to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Why am I part of the UUCiA?” Think about what makes this congregation your chosen one. And when you have answered that for yourself, please share the answer with me (in phone, by e-mail, or in person). This year, we want to build on all the wonderful pieces that are already a part of the UUCiA. Your input is a key part of that process.

I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am. I am still plumb excited to be part of this unique congregation.