“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” –Shel Silverstein
This week, my seminary reading has directed me towards thinking about hope- having an abundance of hope to hold onto so as not to give up even during times of struggle and discomfort. Growth is a struggle. Change is uncomfortable. But, in order to realize our dreams and create our visions, we have to change and we have to grow. Change is inevitable anyway, and if we try to deny it, we just become disconnected. And disconnection leads to loneliness and hopelessness. That’s not the direction we’re trying to head… (Also, if change is going to happen anyway, shouldn’t we try to lead in the direction of our values of love and justice and the dignity of life?)
“Hope leads us into an exodus that crosses and transcends human-made boundaries. When we truly believe in this hope, it will order and shape our lives in ways that are not always predictable, not always safe, rarely conventional. With hope, we do not give up, for we answer life with life.” –Emilie Townes
This past Sunday, we had an abundance of announcements to share during our “Call to Community” time. Although sometimes going through announcements may seem laborious, if we ask ourselves why so many, we can answer with- because our UUCL culture is changing, our UUA culture is changing, and we are growing- in love, spirit, ideas, and numbers- and the result is an abundance of activity- and love for the community! All these new activities are ways in which we can connect- through a Humanist group, a work day, a picture directory, a drum circle- and ways in which we can transform the world- through the UUA’s “Conversations on Liberation” to marching in solidarity with others in this community in the January MLK parade, to engaging in our homeless ministries.
I’ve heard a lot of mustn’ts, don’ts, shouldn’ts, and won’ts in my 12 years at UUCL (by well-intentioned people, of course). But I’ve nevertheless persisted in my hopefulness for life, urging us to cross our own human-made boundaries, and carry on with imagination into the future. For me, the future that I’ve hoped for at UUCL is beginning to take shape. It’s really exciting and full of life!
It’s also really messy and full of ambiguity. We’ve wanted an abundance of life and love at UUCL and we’re making it happen- but that means change and stepping into new territory. New processes, new systems, new challenges can leave us feeling unsettled, I know. It’s easy to let fear and anxiety take over at that point and compel us to draw a line, place limitations on what we are doing, go back to the old, familiar ways of doing things. But drawing ourselves back into feeling abundantly safe doesn’t create the abundance of love and life we’ve been seeking. Now is not the time to limit ourselves. It is the time to hold onto hope and engage in the “messiness of experience and the connectedness of that messiness to things that are also grand and glorious” (a message from Cheryl Townsend Gilkes that she finds in the writings of Alice Walker). It is a time to gather hope, to be aware of the mustn’ts, don’ts, shouldn’ts, and won’ts, and to cross those boundaries into new territory to find the unexpected ways in which we can create a community that is a work of art.
So go forth to do the work. Offer each other grace, hope, and encouragement. Be brave and courageous yourself as you cross boundaries into the unfamiliar. Know that it will be ok, even in the midst of struggle and discomfort. We’ve got each other’s back, we hold each other’s hearts and souls with gentleness. We will continue to worship together, to build community together, to transform the world together, but only with an abundance of hope.
Take care, and as always, connect with me to share your thoughts and struggles, hopes and dreams. I’m always interested in listening!
Footnote: The quotes- except that from Shel Silverstein- were found in a book entitled, “The Feminist Ethic of Risk” written by one of my seminary professors, Sharon D. Welch. I just wanted to make sure I lifted up her work here, as it is deeply inspiring. She is deeply inspiring, inspired, and dedicated to transforming this world. I am so grateful to have her as a teacher!