Many years ago, my husband sketched a beautiful picture of our older daughter when she was a toddler. She was standing in the door of the Star Island Chapel (a site that I hope some of you know) looking out at the island…really at the world.) It’s a drawing about discovery, about wonder, about curiosity as a child encounters the unknown that lies just outside the door.
Which got me to thinking: how often do we discover what is outside our door, our comfort zone, and our neighborhood? I remember the first time that I went to Roxbury to the UU Urban Ministry. I had to admit that, as someone who had grown up in the suburbs of Connecticut and lived in Lexington for a long time, I was nervous. People in Roxbury can look and seem different from those I spend time with, I thought. What if…what about…and the worrying would turn into an excuse, and then I’d find that I needed to do something else.
I made myself change. I made myself go to the place I was nervous about traveling to. I had to remind myself that there were good reasons for making that change; that it would not only benefit others, but me as well. Ultimately, we may do something that takes us out of our comfort zone once to help others; we do something out of the zone more than that when we realize that it also feeds a need inside ourselves.
Part of the reason why a trip to New Orleans like twenty-five of Follen’s youth are taking on Sunday, is important is because it takes them out of their comfort zone and into a place that is different in nearly every way one can imagine. This city was nearly ruined over ten years ago by Hurricane Katrina. Seven years ago, the BP oil spill deeply damaged the Gulf Coast fishing industry and further kicked the already struggling economy. The schools failed. The infrastructure – already terrible – fell apart. All these years later, rebuilding and recovery continues as it will for some years to come.
Yet, the youth of Follen go, with open arms and hearts, ready to learn and work and discover what it means to step outside of the comfort zone, the bubble that so many of us live in, here in the Northwest suburbs of Boston.
It will be eye-opening, and perhaps disturbing, provocative. It will be hard work, exhausting, and very important. We go not to have fun (although there will be that, too) but to make a difference in the lives of those we connect with, to learn what we can do to help others. No matter our experience level and our skill with hand tools or a paint brush, we all can make a difference in this work.
So much of religious education is focused on social justice and doing good in the world. It is about reaching out to those outside your doors – the places where your curiosity about the world takes you when you are willing to risk and venture out. In New Orleans and in other lived justice work, we explore the many ways in which we can bring our hearts and our hands to this life-changing, energizing and very significant work.
Follow us on Follen’s Facebook page, and ask us about the experiences we’ve had when we return. We will have stories to tell, and perhaps, new perspectives about what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist in today’s hurting world.
Interim Director of Religious Education