My 1st visit to a UU Church – Can’t Believe I Ever Went Back

September 24, 2011

What I remember most clearly of my first visit to a UU congregation is the parking lot.  That will make sense if you bear with the rest of this story/blog.

When I was about nine years old, I confessed to the Catholic priest in my grandmother’s, and at the time my mother and my church, that I wasn’t sure if I believed in God.  I remember his response as being rather friendly, bemused and well-meaning.  With a smile on his face, he told me that of course there was a God, and I’d be sure to find Him (of course upper-cased and of course male) soon.  Or, the priest probably said He’d find me.

In any case, the Catholic prescribed prayers didn’t help any higher power and myself find each other.  So, my mom and I embarked on our own, new search.  A search for a church that I could raise questions in.  Mom’s best friend from childhood had recently started attending the UU church in town, so one fateful Sunday we went to First Parish for what would be my introduction into Unitarian-Universalism.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened in the sanctuary, except that it seemed a very short time before the children were called up to the front and then shepherded to the church’s basement for religious education.  This might have struck me as slightly strange, as did whatever lesson awaited me.  However, R.E. didn’t leave much of an impression on me that day or even later.

What I still remember quite clearly was that as class was dismissed, the kids all ran from the room, including my best friend’s son.  I had the impression that he was running extra fast to get away from the geeky girl he had to associate with because of our mom’s friendship. But, being the spunky little nine year old who already occasionally stayed at home without a babysitter, I was confident I didn’t need his help to find my way to the parking lot, where I’m sure mom would be waiting for me.  After all, I was familiar with the chaotic ritual of kids getting out of CCD and walking up and down the line of cars to find their parents after Catholic Sunday school.

So, I made it out to the parking lot, and even found my mom’s familiar car.  But, she wasn’t there, yet.  Its okay, I told myself.  The grown-up services are probably just running a little long and she’ll be here soon.  Being from a fairly large, but fairly safe suburban city, I wasn’t too worried about having to wait a few minutes alone.  I just had to be patient and not talk to any strangers.

The minutes ticked on, and my mom still didn’t show up at the car.  There were very few strangers milling about, too.  A few people exited the church and got in the cars, but the UU parking lot was eerily empty of people and full of cars as the time stretched on. I began to worry that something was wrong.  Had my mother gotten sick or hurt, and were the rest of the grown-ups now trying to help her, not knowing that I was waiting for her in the parking lot?

As anyone who can still remember the terrifying things that once lurked under your small bed or in your closet, a child’s imagination is a powerful and dangerous thing.  As I waited longer and longer, I started to really panic, and eventually began to cry.  A few more people came into the parking lot and got in their cars, but didn’t say anything to me, as I turned to face the car door, pretending I was just retrieving something and hiding my tears.

You see, the concept of “coffee hour” after the service was completely foreign to me.  Yet, it was so natural to all the other kids, and I assume even the R.E. instructors, that no one thought they needed to tell me what happened after class got out or where I was expected to go.  Being an unfamiliar girl to the congregation, no one noticed I was missing for what seemed like a very long time.

Eventually, my mom came looking for me.  Though I was relieved to see her, I could tell I was in trouble by the frustrated look on her face.  “What happened?” we both exclaimed to each other.  It was probably less than twenty minutes I was panicking out by the car, but it had felt like hours alone and afraid.

I don’t remember any other details of that morning, or how my mom convinced me to go back after that Sunday I cried in the parking lot of what I’d eventually come to think of as “my church.”  But, in a way, it was it’s own kind of foreshadowing.

I do know that I struggled in R.E.  Within a year or two, I was moved up to the young adult group, even though chronologically I was too young.  The R.E. instructors hoped it would be a better fit with me and the teenagers.  I struggled for a few years in youth group, and eventually fought and won the battle with my mother to stop being a part of that.  Instead, I preferred to stay in the sanctuary after the kids were banished and listen to the sermon.  From the age of about thirteen on, I would sit stubbornly in my pew while the other younger people were called up for the “intergenerational” story and then shuffled out of church.  I always got a few awkward glances, but because I was able to sit quietly and attentively through even the longest sermon, I was allowed to stay.

A few years after that, I got a part-time job that often required working on Sunday mornings, and was relieved of the expectation that I would go to church.  Honestly, even though the sermons were interesting and “grown-up” part of the services were kind of nice, I was happy to have the excuse to give up going to First Parish. I’d attend a service here or there up until I graduated high school, but in some ways always there was an echo of isolation to I’d felt that tearful first morning alone in the parking lot. I was happy to identify myself as a Unitarian, but it wasn’t until college when I attended another church in a different state that I felt I had found a spiritual home within a congregation.

These days, we hear a lot from the UUA about how to serve young people.  Many churches struggle with how to keep youth and young adults involved in congregations and the wider denominational world.  It always irks me when I read the proposed solution of adding “non-traditional” services, because that is what young people want. It seems there’s been some making that argument for at least twenty years.

I don’t pretend to know what would attract most young people.  I do know that when I was a youth and all I wanted was to listen to the interesting thoughts and questions posed by the minister in his sermon. We can’t expect someone (no matter what their age) to know what to expect when they visit our congregation for the first time.  We also can’t expect youth who never get a chance to experience “regular” church services to feel a connection to UUism as the pass onto adulthood.

Perhaps it’s not often enough that we expect those who are members and friends of a congregation (no matter what their age) take the extra step to make a connection to newcomers and youth.

I don’t remember all the details of that first Sunday I visited a UU church when I was nine years old.  Nor do I remember all the details of the first time I visited what I would come to think of as my real spiritual home – the church I started attending as a freshman in college.  But, the details that illuminate the differences between those two mornings are several.

The first Sunday at my college church, there were two smiling faces on the steps outside, and those people even helped me navigate into a tough parking lot. Though there were few children at my college church, clear announcements were made at the beginning of services about childcare and where to find them.  There was also a clear announcement about what would happen when services were over.  And as people started making their way to coffee hour, more than one person came over to personally ask if I’d join them in a cup of coffee.
It’s amazing to me, looking back on that first Sunday and many that came after it, that I even sought out a UU church while I was in college.  But, it ended up that was exactly the right place for me at that time.

Which is, I guess, while I still feel that though our congregations don’t work all the time, it’s important we keep trying to make them the best they can.


Is Your Congregation Welcoming?

September 17, 2011

Do you belong to a welcoming congregation?

It’s a loaded and perhaps ironic question. First, it’s ironic to ask because your congregation was obviously welcoming to you if you belong. Your congregation may be certified as “welcoming” by the UUA for being inclusive of a particular subgroup like the gay and transgender community, aka LGBT.

But, just like when we say you can “believe anything” and still be a UU, there’s a flipside to saying that we’re welcoming to all. We may not be welcoming to those who do not share our beliefs that all people have inherent worth and dignity, for example.  And, in a broader sense, just because you think its easy to fit in your congregation, doesn’t mean everyone would find it easy to understand and assimilate. We, like any other denomination, have little idiosyncrasies that make each congregation unique, and may in fact be undermining an attempt to be welcoming.

There’s a lot we sometimes take for granted.  Like, knowing when to sit or stand.  Knowing how to find something in the hymnal.  And then there’s all the terms we bally around for our various projects and committees.  For example: “welcoming congregation.” The UUA’s website is explicit in the fact that it chose that term to not be explicit, stating “it’s a code word of sorts.”

I do not mean to disparage this noble effort in the least bit.  However, isn’t it ironic that we ascribe the term “code word” to “welcoming.”  That is to say, we ascribe a special meaning for those in the know to understand what may not be assumed or known by the broader population.  When we say “welcoming,” those who hear it for the first time may or may not understand what it means.  And, if you don’t know what it means, you may feel like an outsider if it is not explained in a sensitive way.

Being welcoming is a challenge, whether you’re trying to be hospitable to one person, to a broad group, or are mad enough to think you can truly be welcoming to all. While I was still on the Board at my congregation, I gave each member of that leadership group a copy of a wonderful book titled: The Spirituality of Weloming by Dr. Ron Wolfson.  It was written for a Jewish audience and describes some things that UU’s may not be familiar with, such as the phenomenon of collecting tickets for seats in the synagogue during the High Holy Days.  However, I found it a very useful book and haven’t found it’s equal in the UU literary universe.

Though there are many useful chestnuts on the UUA’s website under “growing your congregation,” finding them requires more determination and focus through many clicking and downloads than opening up a nice paperback.  Also, many of them are hidden under the “leaders” resources.  Wolfson makes the important point that making a congregation welcoming doesn’t take a few leaders, it takes the vision and commitment of every person (member, friend, and visitor) who enters the building.

What if we took the same sense of mission that we felt when addressing the spiritual needs of the LGBT community and applied them to our congregations as a whole? The welcoming congregation was designed to reach out to a group that is admittedly often spiritually abandoned by other denominations and even our society, but there are others who are in just as dire spiritual need of being welcomed.

Many congregations have begun “new church years” which gives us an opportunity to see our buildings and our personal manners afresh.  Whenever I visited a congregation for the first time, I appreciated the small details that are so easy to overlook.  Like, how easy or difficult is it to park?  How easy or difficult is it to find the bathroom? Do the members and friends make a point of greeting newcomers or do the keep to themselves?

I witnessed one of the simplest, but (I thought) ingenious efforts to be welcoming while visiting a congregation in Maine.  At the beginning of services, an announcement was made that during coffee hour, first time visitors were encouraged to help themselves to red coffee mugs. The announcement also stressed that all members and friends who were familiar with the congregation should keep an eye out for red-mug-holders and make a point of speaking to them. This gave anyone who might be shy the option of selecting a regular white mug, should they chose to not announce themselves as visitors.   What was even more impressive was that this concept was not just announced during the service, but there were easy to read signs above the coffee mugs restating it. When my husband and I grabbed our special colored mugs, we found that we were quickly greeted by not one by several people.  There wasn’t a moment that we were standing awkwardly looking at each other and wondering how to break in to a conversation among a tight group. It was clear that this wasn’t just an idea one person had and decided to try.  This was a group of people who had decided to work together to get behind an idea. I’m not talking about the idea of colored mugs, but the idea that visitors should be welcomed, and that responsibility belonged to not just a small committee or designated staff, but to everyone.

I’ve seen some poor execution and heard some sad stories, too.  One of Wolfson’s stories that struck a particular chord with me revolved around the idea of “your pew.”  While Wolfson was a visitor in a near-empty synagogue he was asked to move from the seat he has chosen by a person he described as “a sweet old man with the saddest eyes.” Wolfson gladly did move because he understood the man’s seat had a special meaning to him, but pointed out that there may have been ways for the man to have his seat and welcome a visitor at the same time.

Wolfson’s story struck me because it contrasted with a story shared by a prominent leader in the UUA who had visited my congregation.  No, we didn’t have seating issues that morning.  Actually, that woman shared a story in which a visitor took the pew that “belonged” to a family that were long-time members of a UU congregation, and everyone was nervously whispering to themselves about whether they should be asked to move.  The speaker obviously found it very amusing, introducing the story by saying she noticed how we all seemed to have seats we chose regularly.  This was thankfully not true of my congregation, but I found her story unsettling. I couldn’t help put myself in the shoes of those visitors and imagine the nervous whispering and glances revolving around me. How much more perfect of an example of unconscious unwelcoming could there be than it being expected that “everyone” should “know” that a pew belonged to a certain family.  Luckily I’ve never had a personal experience that extreme.

At my own congregation, we were struggling with the transition from a small “family” sized group to something else.  (For more on congregational size theory: http://www.uua.org/growth/128566.shtml)  One of the hardest sells for some members was the idea of wearing a name tag consistently.  “But everyone knows me!” was the common complaint.  They didn’t understand that it wasn’t about putting their identity on display, but about being prepared for that new visitor who would doubtlessly appreciate being able to sneak a peak at the name tag after hopefully having a nice conversation.

Another challenge was from getting everyone who had an announcement to come forward and use the microphone, and to introduce themselves. In a telling way, most times people would say, “oh, I’ll just speak loudly. I know you all can hear me,” from their seats.  Meanwhile, a long-time member was losing her hearing and almost entirely dependent on a headset that she wore that was tied into the PA system.

Eventually we made progress on microphone utilization by pointing out that particular member.  But, I personally feel that was its own mistake.  In Harvest the Power, I learned that this could be marginalization or, making a person stand for an issue, and not seeing the complexities of either.

Writing this makes me realize how much I miss being a part of a congregation. When people come together for spiritual enrichment they are often able to tap into something larger than even the Internet which I can click back and forth on while writing this blog. I miss seeing how all the little details of congregational life work together. I am wistful over an experience that I have imagined, but unfortunately never found. That is, a large group of people who truly believe that they share a mission that cannot be fully realized unless all who want to share in it are welcomed.

Maybe it’s time to become a visitor myself, and see what happens.


Water Brings Us Together, Water Keeps Us Apart

September 11, 2011

This week, my congregation like so many others will be celebrating the beginning of a new church year with a water ceremony.

This tradition is relatively new as far as religious ceremonies go. According to the UUA website, it was created in the 1980’s. Wikipedia offers further detail that the first ceremony occurred at a women’s meeting and one of the organizers was Carolyn McDade, composer of the hymn “Spirit of Life.”

The ceremony is simple, and can be incredibly moving and symbolic. Basically, all the members and friends who attend are encouraged to bring water from some place they have been over the summer. Each person then has a turn to speak briefly about where the water came from, what the place or event meant to them, and pour a bit into a common vessel.  Thus, the community is gathered together and blended with all its impurities, as well as its life-giving properties.  I’m sure over the decades and in the hundreds of congregations where this ceremony has taken place, not even the introduction given by the minister or lay leader has ever been exactly the same twice.  Water is such an open-ended metaphor, one used in many faiths. And this year in my home of Vermont, water’s power to both connect and separate people was on prominent display in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Those who are neither a Vermonter or UU may not understand the analogy, but I feel Vermont is to the United States kind of like Unitarian-Universalism is to most religions.  Those who call it home are protective and perhaps overly proud of it.  Both are known for being more liberal than the average. Both are tiny compared to the larger population.  Both can be kind of naive about the larger issues facing the world because we are so small. Yet, I like to think that both have the ability to shine when it comes to loving our neighbors and remaining those connections to the broader world that could so easily be lost when “you can’t get there from here.”

Irene was a humbling experience for me. It was another life experience of having to admit how wrong I can be when I try to predict the future.  My husband and I thought we might even be over-preparing in days leading up to the storm.  We altered our grocery shopping to focus on shelf-stable foods and got only enough for a week to avoid having to throw away anything that might spoil without refrigeration. Since the place we rent has an electric stove, we built a little brick hearth over our wood stove in order to cook pizza the night of the storm.  We called our teants to remind them that if they were to lose power for a while the well would not be working, so they should have some extra water ready before the storm hit.

As the rain started to fall and the wind picked up, we went about our normal activities until the power went out. I then shifted from computer work to reading a book I had gotten from the library the day before, feeling happy that I had prepared myself so well.  A few hours later, after the rain was starting to subside, my husband decided to take the dog out for a walk and survey the neighborhood.  It wasn’t long before he returned to tell me that our little hill was now it’s own miniture island, cut off from the Main Street less that half a mile away.  The road around us were under water and the water was rising.  Had he not gone out, we might not have known about how much damage was occuring right around the corner from us.

Even the next day, as we tried to reach our tenants on their phones and e-mail, the news reports had not quite reached us that less than an hour from where we were happily enjoying electric lights and running water again, our tenants and neighbors in Stockbridge were being airlifted supplies by the Vermont National Guard. The town where my husband and I own a home was one of dozens that literally became islands in the mountains, unreachable when bridges and roads were washed away by cresting rivers.

Yet, over and over again we heard how it was the community that remained, even as the infrastructure and icons of Vermont towns, like our covered bridges were literally washed away only to be replaced by gaping holes. Had we still been living in our home, we might have been among the many residents who got together in the isolated Town’s center to hold an impromptu “clean out your freezer” party and offer each other moral support.

How did I eventually learn all of this?  The Internet of course.  There’s even a facebook page that was set up just for the small area of my small town that is around a small brook that cause lots of trouble.  Eventually, local papers started publishing articles about individual’s reactions to the storm.  Perhaps my favorite title was by Rob Mitchell of the Rutland Herald, who wrote: “Cut Off, But Not Alone: Stockbridge Pulls Together.”

Yet, despite being able to see pictures from newspapers and eventually, as electricity was restored, individual’s own facebook pages, my husband and I felt helpless in trying to actually reach our tenants to make sure they had what they needed.  We just had to send positive thoughts and hope the National Guard could get the roads rebuilt and the utility companies could restore some kind of normalcy to our town.

The night before Irene we thought we knew what was coming.  In the days afterward, we realized just how difficult it was for us to even find out what had happened, let alone what could be predicted for the long recovery we were facing. It’s a sentiment many of us will be reflecting on when looking at the events of ten years ago today.

No one had any idea when they woke up September 11, 2001 the jumble of emotions that individuals and communities would be wrestling with later that day, or even ten years later.  Shortly after the terroist attacks, my small congregation got together in a way that turned out to be similar to the water gathering service.  A few days after we all witnessed the planes hitting the trade center over and over again on TV, we stepped out of our homes and gathered in the small stone church and took turns saying how we felt, what we feared, and what we hoped.  I was surprised that day to learn that one of my friends at the church had a son who worked at the WTC.  Luckily his son was one of the fortunate who escaped physically unscathed, relatively. But it understandably shook him deeply.  It shook all of us in that small Vermont town to realize there was someone with such a close connection to ground zero among us.

We gather waters and tell stories about where we’ve been to remind ourselves that we have many paths that lead us to our Unitarian-Universalist churches on the first Sunday of a new year. If we’re lucky, we may bring water from some far off place that opens our eyes to a different kind of people, a different way of living. In the ten years since we watch the Twin Towers fall, there have been many people who decided to learn more about the Islamic faith.  There was a hope that the grief that united us would cause us to try harder to understand that despite being a country of many different religions, we could live up to the slogan repeated in the PR campaign: e pluribus unum- out of many, one.

If I were going to a water ceremony this morning, here is what I would say:  “We’ve seen how water can keep us isolated through the destruction of our roads and bridges.  Water is neither inherently gentle or destructive, but it can be both.  When we try to tame it, water and nature remind us that they are powers beyond human control.  We may also remember how the water of our tears can blind us, temporarily. But, just as bridges can be rebuilt over treacherous bodies of water, if you have the strength, the intelligence, the materials, and the time to do it right, we can continue the hard work of keeping our eyes open to see the connections that run through all of us.  We just have to remember that those bridges from my mind and heart to connect to yours take cooperation, strength, intelligence, sweat, and lots of time.”


Depression’s Epic Battle with the Seven UU Principles…

September 4, 2011

…or, another night at the Video Store.

There are many things even the psychologists and psychologists who have made it their life’s work to study depression may never understand about the disease. There are also still many misconceptions and stigmas in our society about depression.  As someone who has struggled with the disease for over half my life, what I am still learning is how great an effect it can have on those around you.  I’m also learning how much more difficult it can be to live up to the seven principles when depression surfaces.

This blog begins with another encounter at the video store where I work part-time.  Actually, this encounter began more than ten years ago, but I’ll explain that soon enough.

A couple entered the store, talking amongst themselves.  I said hello and how are you, as I try to do for every customer that comes in, and got the feeling that the woman was talking extra loud to her companion, and purposely not returning my greeting, annoyed that I had spoken to them before she was ready. I shook it off, after all people are often rude to those who work in retail, and was only partly listening as they walked through the store, pointing out movies they clearly thought were low-brow or otherwise objectionable.

Eventually they made their way to the counter, and I said hello again.  The woman, rather than returning my greeting turned to the man she was with and said, “oh, I guess I need to get the card.”  In a few brief seconds, the tone of her voice, the way she turned her head away from me as I spoke to her, and then the first name on the membership card she presented brought back a sharp memory.

It turns out I had gone to college with this woman, and a brief encounter with her is one of the most painful memories I have. We shared some mutual friends, but had never really got on ourselves.  Part of it was that at the time I was still recovering from the suicide attempt I had made while in high school and was very sensitive to criticisms, imagined or real. She was one of those people I consider lucky in that she always seemed self-possessed and upbeat.  More than once, she had entered a classroom with a joyful cry for the mutual friends of ours, while I was in the middle of sharing something personal about a hard time we were having. So, I take my share of the responsibility for not forming a friendship or at least cordiality toward her. I know I often sighed or scowled at her greetings; she never seemed to care what was going on before she entered the room, but expected those within it to respond to her mood as soon as she was there.

I am probably still (a decade later) too defensive about this, but I attest that two people can dislike each other and still each person is a good human being. I did not care for this person, and I shared with some mutual friends that I found her behavior rude.  Once, when someone else was complaining about her, I filled in the blank when he said “She’s just been so…” and I said “bitchy.”  I stand by my right to feel that someone is acting like a bitch, but that does not mean I deny their inherent worth and dignity.

Well, what happened next is what came back to me when I heard that familiar voice in the store and knew I’d have to talk to her face to face.  A few days after I made my off-the-cuff remark, I was standing alone in the library when this woman walked briskly up to me and demanded to know why I was calling her a bitch behind her back. She railed into me for several minutes, and though I can’t remember ever word she said, I did remember her voice clear enough that the same emotions came back to me when I heard it again this week. I felt awful for hurting her feelings, and wanted to explain that I had never consciously intended to be mean to her and had not called her a “bitch.”  This may not be a distinction to many people, but I feel naming someone’s behavior is far different from classifying someone in a way that implies they only behave one way.

However, at the time I was not able to make either of those points because not only was I so taken by surprise by what felt like an ambush from someone who hadn’t really even ever had a conversation with me, but every time she screamed “what do you have to say,” and I started to speak, she would cut me off with “I don’t want to hear it.”  The humor of the irony is probably the only thing that kept me from completely falling apart then and there. Eventually after berating me what she deemed a sufficient amount, she stormed away.  I finished my work in the library sniffling through tears, and trying to hide it from the helpful librarian.

The hardest part about writing this is that I don’t want to make this blog about pleading my innocence or asking for pity.  I said something not particularly nice about someone not to their face. That’s not a nice thing to do, and it’s not something I’m proud of. But if I had thought it was possible to have a fruitful conversation with her about our differences, I would have tried. I might have been able to be honest about the fact that it was true I did not like her, which was one of her accusations, but still knew she had the right to be the way she was, just as I had the right to my feelings. In my wildest imaginations, I never would have thought she would be so offended. I can only assume my non-verbal and regrettable spoken comments had gotten blown out of proportion, which I might have been able to tell her had I been able to speak more than a word or two before she started talking over me.

Likewise, she had no way of knowing where I was coming from.  She had no way of knowing that I cried for days after that encounter.  She may or may not have known that I apologized to all of the mutual acquaintances we had for anything I had said and putting them in an awkward position, and pretty much stopped talking to them at all after that day.  They all seemed surprised that I was apologizing, but I didn’t go into details about why I felt I needed to.  After that, it was just too difficult for me to be myself around them, and it was easier to stay in my shell and socialize as little as possible.

This woman had the right to her feelings. She didn’t know how close I came to suicide that weekend as I dwelt on the encounter and convinced myself that I was such a horrible person I didn’t deserve to have friends that I could say something mean to.  She might not have even remembered the incident when she ran into me this week. She almost definitely wouldn’t have imagined that thoughts of suicide resurfaced for me with the memory that her voice triggered.

I have no way of knowing if it was real or imagined that she was being condescending to me when she pointed out the low-brow movies she was renting were for a class she was teaching.  Just like she had no way of knowing that I was spending my nights working in the video store as a second-job after giving up leading a congregation for several years.  I found myself wanting to explain myself to her, but was able to recognize the impulse as self-defeating and let it go.

How funny is it that those that hurt us the most, who show us the least respect, are often those we are most desperate to prove ourselves for?  Just as I had the right to find her behavior years ago rude and hurtful, she had the right to feel condescending or whatever it was she felt when we made our awkward conversation as I checked out her movie and offered her the store’s free popcorn.  (If I claimed to know what she was thinking or feeling that would prove I haven’t learned anything, right?)

Likewise, you never know when you step out your door whether just being yourself that day will make someone feel good or tear at their soul a little.  All you can do is promise yourself that if somehow you were granted omniscience into others feelings, you would never intentionally hurt them.

It keeps coming back to the two principles I remember best: the inherent worth and dignity of every individual, and justice equity and compassion.  It’s hard to keep those in mind every time you interact with someone.  Sometimes its harder to remember your own inherent worth, and allow yourself to be compassionate about your own shortcomings. Sometimes when you are most in need of the principles to help you, that is also when you are least likely to follow them as you should.

The only thing that saves any of us is that we may still have another chance.  Every morning when you wake up, know that you have the opportunity to live the life you want and be the kind of person your faith calls you to be.  And, when you fail, even though there are no confessionals in a UU church, you can use your faith to guide you toward reparations to another human being or yourself.

It’s not much, but I gave the woman I accused of bitchy behavior a smile and a bag of popcorn. And maybe the memory she gave me will remind me that I need to keep trying as hard as I can, even when my disease makes that difficult.