My office looks like a hurricane blew through it. Although it’s relatively quiet in the hall now, I know that within an hour or so, lots of volunteers will arrive, and the continued job of packing the religious education storage area and other cubbyholes where things are stacked will resume. Next Wednesday the movers arrive, and after that, the staff will relocate to Marshman House, where I’ll be working to set up a new temporary (tiny) office space for Follen’s incoming Director of Faith Formation, Beryl Aschenberg. My work at Follen officially ends on June 30, and it’s coming fast. So these are the ‘end times,’ though surely not in the way fundamentalists described it.
You may remember Unitarian Universalist Randy Pfausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who was stricken with a fatal illness and gave “The Last Lecture.” It was published and became a worldwide best-seller. And you probably know Robert Fulghum, the UU minister who wrote “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” With acknowledgement to both of them, I want to offer my five best pieces of advice to this community, to perhaps pique your thinking or guide you forward.
- Don’t be stopped by walls – of any kind. Randy Pfausch wrote, “Brick walls are not there to keep us out. Brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” Give yourself permission to literally think ‘outside the box’ without being locked into existing traditions or ways of doing things.
- Dream big, and be creative always. As Pfausch reminds us: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” Let your mind generate ideas and your spirit will flow. Triumphs of the mind and heart will likely follow.
- There is that parable about people gathered in a room who are told, “One of you may be the messiah.” And they look around, wondering who it is and realizing finally that it could be them. Don’t underestimate your own potential and possibilities – people do change the world, and it occurs one person, one deed, at a time.
- You are a high expectation congregation and the fact that individuals have opinions and criticisms can sometimes play out in unfortunate ways. Robert Fulghum reminds us, “Yelling at living things does tend to kill the spirit in them. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts…” So I want to suggest that even if you are SURE you know what is right or better, leaning toward kindness, and honoring this congregation’s new behavioral covenant in the ways in which we communicate, could be the very best thing to do – ever.
- Think about the ways – little or big – that you might be able to help change the world you live in. It can be one thing or many…but setting forth on a path that suggests that we can all (as Rebecca Parker said) ‘choose to bless the world’ could set us up for the biggest achievement of our lives.
Finally, I leave you with the Robert Fulghum quote that was on my father’s memorial service program. I chose it then because it really was the way my dad lived his life, and if he had articulated a ‘last message,’ this would have been it. It’s mine, too, and I hope you will hold it close and remember the saving power of the creative spirit and the loving heart:
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
So may it be here, with all of you and with me, too. Go well, spread love, hold hope, and continue to dream big.
Interim Director of Religious Education