One of the things I find myself most grateful for this Thanksgiving season is having the opportunity to make new friends and new connections. I am grateful to be automatically part of a Unitarian Universalist family in this move so I don’t have to start over at square one. Humans are social animals. It doesn’t take long in a new place before one yearns to fit into a larger social structure.
I think here in the West it is easy for us to lose sight of our connection with others as we go about our materialistic, independent, often fragmented lives. People don’t interact face-to-face much anymore. We text or email, zip around in cars and pull into garages without ever having the opportunity to say hi to our neighbors. It has been noted that most families don’t really know their next door neighbors anymore but are more apt to make friends with people who share their interests- like other parents on their childrens’ soccer team. I wonder, do we have to choose between the two or would our lives be richer if we made it a point to meet and know about the lives of the people who physically live around us– some of whom could be lonely and in desperate need of friendship.
Remember the song by Barbara Streisand that went, “People, people who need people….” (What are they?) They are the luckiest people in the world. I had a friend who was very successful in her career but very unhappy and it was this song that started to haunt her until she made some life changes and started focusing on having better relationships. Does it surprise you that before she internalized this song it hadn’t really occurred to her that she was missing this human connection and that this was the source of her unhappiness? Our need for other people is not always obvious to any of us.
German philosopher Habermas says that, “we are not first individuals who then form social groups. Instead not only do our groups precede us but we become selves in the first instance through the process of social interaction.” It has always interested me that the word religion comes from the Latin word “religare” and literally means “to bind together.” If we take that to heart we could say it is impossible to be UU by oneself. We are all brought into an on-going conversation. So much of our faith formation relies on our interaction with those around us and those who came before us.
Along these lines, Wade H McCree a UU minister said this, “To me one’s religion is expressed in the manner in which one relates to other human beings. If one fights relentlessly against injustice, want, hate, and every form of exploitation then one is a religious person. Religion is not expressed by ritual or ceremony but by loving others.”
Speaking of connection, I am looking forward to our Intergenerational Service this month on the 17th of November. It will be a Celebration of Being Grateful and will include a Thank You Ceremony for those people who stepped forward to be our Children and Youth R.E. teachers this year. If we want to be a united and whole community, strong in the connective bonds that make our lives meaningful, it is so important that our kids feel part of the BIG picture and see the adults in their lives modeling that they do indeed value their faith. It is a UU adage that religion has to be “caught” as well as “taught.” Our children and youth watch the people they look up to and learn through your attitudes and convictions.
Janen Wright ———Lifespan Faith Development Director