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Archive for March 14th, 2008

Here’s the scene. Three five-year-olds sitting at the dining room table. Two are sucking on Fudgesicles and one is scraping the top of the frozen apple sauce. The one with the frozen apple sauce would be mine and she asks me to pull back the aluminum top.

“There you go baby,” and her friends laugh and smile.

“She’s not a baby,” one of them says.

“I know, but she’ll always be my baby,” I say.

My daughter says, “She says I’ll be her baby even when I’m forty.”

Kai’s friend, D, joins in, “My mother says she’ll love me even when I’m dead.” Silence. “Or when she’s dead.” Silence.

“She’ll always love you, huh?” I say as though what she said was as common as passing the salt. Then I remember, her mother is a Buddhist and so is she.

“Some people, like Buddhists, believe when you die you come back to live again in another form.”

“I’m a Buddhist,” D, jumps in.

“Some people believe when you die you go to heaven.” I add because I know A. has been baptized and has talked about God and heaven and I don’t want her to feel excluded. She’s just taking it all in, half listening and half eating.

“We’re Unitarian,” I say, but the truth is, K, has only gone to a few services at the Unitarian church geared towards her. And while my husband and I married at a Unitarian Church and have tried to find other churches, and quit the UU way, we’ve been as successful as most smokers. We say we want something more direct, specific, grounded. Well, my daughter is five and I was still church and faith shopping. So, me trying to spare her a search and help her feel grounded in the wider world is not working well if she’s got nothing but saying a “I hope they are o.k.” wish when we pass an ambulance.

I finally decided that though I meditate, though in many ways I live like a Buddhist who doesn’t eat meat because it’s animals (and haven’t for 27 years now), and believe in taking bugs outside when they come in, and believe in non-violence (almost always), I also pray. I’m a wanna-be-Buddhist and a Just-in-case Catholic. My mother got us baptized “just in case” and that God concept snuck in pretty well as I’ve never been able to shake the concept.

Anyhow, what I finally realized is that I can be this kooky searching seeker, always restless and sometimes praying and sometimes meditating AT the Unitarian Church.

What is important is the shared values of community, and not just the town, or friends, but ALL people, and yes, needy people in the town and in the city and in other countries. The social activism appeals to me. The place to share “joys and concerns,” and the rallying to support causes and people. But also, the way of looking at the world and the people in it as interconnected.

One friend has a spouse who calls the UU Church the “Church of anything goes.” I take no offense. In some ways, it’s what I love. My husband used to joke it’s the only church where you worry a little about being offensive if you say “God” in the wrong context or company.

But they have poetry memorization as a way of stilling the soul and centering, and meditating, and lessons about the bible and buddhism. They have places where children are treated as humans at various stages of development and a warmth and openness that I feel when I am at a service or with the people volunteering with the kids.

I admit sometimes I want to be lectured to by someone convincing who can tell me how to be and live so I know exactly what to do as though there are some rules to life and living and if I’m “good” and “right” my family might be spared disease or tragedy.

But I’m old enough now to know that community is sometimes the only answer, the only psalm, the answered prayer and that the meditations done at the beach or in a community of a few hundred coming to give or get something or simply acknowledge the soul is grounding. I wake up with arguments on my mind. Questioning is a part of who I am and that’s not changed in all these decades I am just finding people, places and pockets of my own self where it is an acceptable way to be.

I want my daughter to know that the world is bigger than our home, our family, our street and our town. There are many ways to be, many different types of people and various role models. Home can feel like the whole world. School can feel like the whole worls. Safe other places, outside of home and school, are essential.  

But back to the dining room table. After I say, “We’re Unitarians,” my daughter stops and looks at me. “Me too?”
“Yes,” I say.

“But I thought I was Chinese,” she said.

Well, it’s not the most diverse religious group but I don’t think that was the commentary she was making. I did explain that she can be both Chinese and Unitarian and D could be both Buddhist and Hispanic and A could be Christian or Protestant and Caucasian.

I love little minds. So smart. So direct. So curious. And I am glad to be getting into the routine of being connected with the Unitarian Church within my own self. When I said, “We’re Unitarian,” I didn’t stumble or mutter or say, “I think,” or “for now,” but felt at home with the words, the concept and all that it means.

I just love kids! That too can never be said often enough and is easy to forget when exasperated, but I just love them and how they think and express.

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