My memory is a little messed up. In 2007-early 2008, I had severe back problems and was on pretty heavy pain meds for about 18 months. Within that year, I had three surgical procedures, each one requiring general anesthesia. As I came out of that time period feeling much better and reemerging into the world, I noticed that my memory wasn’t nearly as good. My short term memory requires vigilant note taking and reminders, and there are some gaps in my long-term memory. I recall once listening to a recounting of an historical event and breaking down in tears, because I knew I had once known those facts but could no longer reach them. I didn’t lose everything, but I know that the act of remembering takes a little more work.

But there are some memories I wish I didn’t still have.

I wish I didn’t remember what it was like reading names at displays of the AIDS quilt when I read names at the Transgender Day of Remembrance. While others broke down – a reasonable reaction – I found I could, as I learned in the late 1980s, to read with emotion without getting emotional.

I wish I didn’t remember the moment-by-moment experience of the homeless Desert Storm vet running in front of my car that rainy night in 2006 when last week I sat with the family and friends of a young man who was walking on a street and hit by a drunk driver. I know the general circumstances were different, but it triggered something for me and made the week of pastoral care and memorial preparations all the more resonant.

Mom and Dad, 1969
Mom and Dad, 1969

I wish I didn’t remember the horror of finding my beloved partner Tricia almost dead on the sofa when marriage equality is declared legal in yet another state. We were just starting our life together in 1998, and same sex marriage at the time was a pipe dream. I am always so happy when justice reigns and love wins, but I also relive the loss.

I wish I didn’t remember that my mother died on November 21, 2007, when the reminder of my sister’s birthday pops up. While we justified it as fitting, it still is a hard day, and I pray each year that my sister dwells on the joy of her life and the celebration she richly deserves rather than marking it as simply a day of loss.

On the Sunday before Memorial Day in 2013, I was privileged to step into Sam Trumbore’s pulpit at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. As we led up to a candle lighting ritual, I talked about our need for memorials:

In memorial, the act of remembering is a physical act, that connects us with the past, that connects us with life, that alters time so that past and present can meet, even for a short while. And we find strength in the remembering. Director Anne Bogart says “As a result of a partnership with memory and the consequent journeys through the past, I feel nourished, encouraged, and energized. I feel more profoundly connected to and inspired by those who came before.”

Connected and inspired.

While it would be easier some days to have the pain of some of my memories much more faded than the crisp images that come to mind, when they do come, they connect me to life – my own, those who have died, and those still living. The pain of these memories informs who I am, how I enter the world, and how I interact with others. And yes, the pain of these memories inspires me to keep living, keep loving, keep remembering.

I don’t understand it.

I am an extrovert and love to process ideas, emotions, and experiences with people. I hold strong opinions about equality, justice, compassion, and ethics. I am willing to be in a crowd of people rallying for causes, to sign a petition, to write letters, to even blog a bit about things I believe.

But I am scared to death of stepping out on my own.

I want more than anything to be brave, to have the courage of my convictions, to not worry about what others think of me, to go boldly in the direction of my dreams and vision. I want to be an example. I want to be Me with a capital M. I want to affect change. I want to take risks and make a difference.

Instead, I worry about what others will think. I step out gingerly. I couch my comments in wiggle words. I make excuses to stay among the crowd, not stand out. I dress conservatively.

Some of my caution comes from knowing there are others who have to approve of me in order to reach my goals – including ordination. I surely don’t want to freak out the Ministerial Fellowship Committee any more than I have already freaked out the Regional Subcommittee on Candidacy (who thought I was too theatrical and garrulous). And I will always need the approval of someone who will hire me to be their minister/consultant/artist/director.

Some of my caution comes from living in a family with beloved members who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum, who are older and have the power to put me on the defensive with just a look, whose questions hit like accusations.

But most of my caution comes from being a middle aged woman in America.

I’ve been called pushy, overwhelming, aggressive, too much. I’ve been told I “scare the boys in engineering.” I’ve been told to not go too far, do too much. Even in my years as an LGBT activist in the 1990s, I experienced urges for temperance and caution.

I’ve been taught to not do too much, not to color outside the lines, not to breathe into the fullness of who I am.

Who I am, of course, is a beautiful, loving, passionate, creative, compassionate, brilliant, sexy, queer, full-figured femme woman with a deep and unshakeable call to ministry. I am a powerhouse who wants more than anything to unleash my femministry on the world. I am a guide and a muse who wants more than anything to help others unleash their awesomeness on the world. I am a missional mother who wants more than anything to love the hell out of this world.

It is a fact that I am surrounded by bold, creative, beautiful, brilliant people who are much less fearful – who step out, who make waves, who are not afraid to be who they are. One of them even got honored on this impressive list of incredibly bold femmes.

Now my experience, qualities, and desires are particular to me, but the truth is, most of us are scared of something. Something holds us back from living into our fullness. Something keeps us ineffective, uncreative, and fearful. It could be money, or family, or a job, or – and this is more likely – messages from someone who told us we should scale down our dreams and desires, to be realistic, to be responsible rather than radical.

So how do we stop the cycle? How do we stop letting others’ expectations keep us from our fullness? How do we  – how do I – stop being afraid?

dragshow2014Over this past year, I’ve been observing my Year of Jubilee – it is my 50th on earth, and I have been consciously noting life lessons, the thoughts and habits I want to discard, and those I want to express. I’ve been unearthing my true self. It’s been incredible – I’ve made frequent posts on Facebook, run a Tumblr of ideas, slogans, and images that speak to my true self, and have done a fair bit of private journaling. I know that by the time I complete this year-long spiritual practice, I will be stronger, freer, more creative, bolder. I am daily rejecting messages that keep me cowed and timid.

But it’s a process.

And maybe that’s my real message today. If you’ve spent a lifetime being timid, boldness can’t necessarily come rushing in all at once.

But I am ready for more boldness. I’ve been preparing for it, and when I look back, I can see many places where I am much bolder than I have been as recently as last fall.

I am still scared. I am still hesitant. And I don’t want to be.

But step by step, I’m making progress.

And that’s something.



Below is the video and script for my thesis project, a 30-minutes chapel service called Nameless, held Monday, March 3, 2014.

Juliana Bateman– Samson’s wife (Judges 14)
Natalie Renee Perkins – Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:34-40)
Ranwa Hammamy – Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:1-10)
Ashley Birt – Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:15-26)
Jessica Christy – Job’s wife (Job 2:1-10)
Shamika Goddard – the witch of Endor (1 Sam 28:3-25)
Emily Hamilton – the woman from Tekoa (2 Sam 14:1-22)
Sandra Rivera – widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:8-16)
Lindsey Nye – guard
AJ Turner – the narrator
Zach Walter– the rhythm

longer view

As people enter, Lindsey will be seen guarding the Tomb of the Unnamed Woman.

 Zach will be lightly playing a military beat on the cajon.  



Samson told his father and mother, “I saw a Philistine woman at Timnah; (Juliana perks up) now get her for me as my wife.’ But his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there not a woman among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, because she pleases me.’ His father and mother did not know that this was from the LORD; for he was seeking a pretext to act against the Philistines.

As he returned to Timnah, a young lion roared at Samson, who tore the lion apart with his bare hands. But he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked with the woman, (Juliana perks up again, a little) and she pleased Samson. After a while he returned to marry her, and he turned aside to see that there was honey in the carcass of the lion. He scraped it out into his hands, and went on, eating as he went.

His father went down to the woman, (Juliana a little less enthused) and Samson made a feast there as the young men were accustomed to do. When the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. Samson said to them, ‘Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can explain it within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty festal garments. But if you cannot, you shall give the same to me.’ So they said, ‘Ask your riddle.’ He said, ‘Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.’

But for three days they could not explain the riddle.

On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, (Juliana visibly and audibly annoyed) ‘Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?’ So Samson’s wife…




  …wept before him, saying, ‘You hate me; you do not really love me. You have asked a riddle of my people, but you have not explained it to me.’ He said to her, ‘Look, I have not told my father or my mother. Why should I tell you?’ She wept before him every day that their feast lasted; and because she nagged him, on the seventh day he told her the answer. Then she explained the riddle to her people. The men of the town said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,  ‘What is sweeter than honey?  What is stronger than a lion?’

And he said to them, ‘If you had not ploughed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.’


Seriously?!? (stands, begins ranting)


Then the spirit of the LORD rushed on him, and …. (Juliana confronts him) … WHAT?


“Samson’s wife” this and “Samson’s wife that.”


That’s who you are… isn’t it?


I have a name! Without me, this whole stupid vendetta against my people wouldn’t be close to fulfilled. Without me, there is no story.  Samson gets a name. Even his second wife, Delilah, gets a name. What’s MY name?

(AJ is visibly shaken with the realization, sits)


All I did was fall in love with a handsome foreigner. I didn’t know I was going to be used. I didn’t know I was going to be accused of being unfaithful and deceitful just to further some warrior’s tale. The least you could do is the courtesy of a name. What’s my name? WHAT’S MY NAME?

(whisper, in time with drum) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


I supported my husband Lot when he asked us to leave my home. Of course I turned back to look once more on Sodom, the town I loved. I sacrificed my life for my husband and daughters, whose own future was uncertain in these terrible times, whose lives I could have protected. But you only call me Lot’s wife. What’s MY name?

(joins whisper) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


I saved a Hebrew child in an act of civil disobedience, knowing my father had ordered all the Hebrew children to be killed. I raised him like my own son, and risked further exposure when I let him go to his people to lead them out of Egypt. Without Moses, there is no Exodus. But you only call me Pharaoh’s daughter. What’s MY name

(joins whisper) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


I lost everything too. I lost my home, my friends, my children, my livelihood too. I stood by my husband Job through all of the pain and suffering. I was angry at God too, but I also remained faithful to my husband and to my God. But you only call me Job’s wife. What’s MY name?

(joins whisper) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


What people forget is that Saul came to me. He sought counsel, and even though I eventually recognized him, I saw how terrified he was, and I not only helped him seek wisdom from the spirit of his father, I fed him. Without me, Saul might not have become a great ruler. But you only call me the Witch of Endor. What’s MY name?

(joins whisper) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


I stood before King David to lobby him on behalf of Joab. I alone was strong enough to stand before the king, using my wits to political advantage. And I wanted to – I wanted to ask this king why he had planned destruction of the people of God. I was a powerful political voice for my time, but you only call me the woman of Tekoa. What’s MY name?

(joins whisper) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


I was a widow without family or means, the poorest of the poor, when Elijah arrived in my town. He demanded of me a meal, when I could not even feed myself or my young son. Yet this man was compelling, and I did feed this stranger, who went on to become a beloved prophet and miracle worker. But you only call me the widow of Zarephath. What’s MY name?

(joins whisper) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


My father was returning, triumphant from battle. How could I know he had made a vow to God that would put my life in jeopardy? I only wanted to welcome him home, but he blamed me for bringing him low, when I was the one to be sacrificed. I lost my life because of my father, but you only call me Jephthah’s daughter. What’s MY name?

(joins whisper) What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?


(stops marching as guard) What of all the other unnamed women? The widows? The wives? The daughters? The sisters? The lovers? The sick? The faithful? The outspoken? What of their names?


  (joins whisper, which now gets LOUDER) What’s my name? What’s My Name? WHAT’S MY NAME?


Natalie moves to “her” headstone, places a rose, and sings “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”. At end, Zach begins to drum a heart beat.



Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, to remember these women.

These women – who walked among us.

(Juliana places rose and sits at ‘her’ headstone)

These women – who lived and breathed, who loved and lost.

(Ashley places rose and sits at ‘her’ headstone)

These women – who played as young girls, who learned to cook and sew, who learned to love their family and their God.

(Ranwa places rose and sits at ‘her’ headstone)

 These women – who felt and thought and sang and prayed.

(Jessica places rose and sits at ‘her’ headstone)

 These women – who made choices.

(Shamika places rose and sits at ‘her’ headstone)

These women – who were chosen.

(Emily places rose and sits at ‘her’ headstone)

These women – who are only known in relation to someone else.

(Sandra places rose and sits at ‘her’ headstone; Lindsey sits near the tomb of the unnamed woman.)

  These women lived in a long ago time in a far away place… but they have been living in me for nearly three years. Their stories – their heartbreak, their pain, their suffering, and their joy – have filled my thoughts. I want to stand next to Lot’s wife as she makes her final goodbyes to the home she loved. I want to comfort Samson’s wife as she finds herself torn between the men of her family and the man she loves. I want to hold Jephthah’s daughter to shield her from her father’s shocking pronouncement. I want to stroke their hair and hold their hands and call them by name.

But we have lost their names, and with them the fullness of their stories.

In this holy book, this Word of God, women are largely unnamed, unnoticed, unremarkable.

But let us be clear. God didn’t do this. This is not God’s problem. We did this to each other. Over centuries and millennia, through tellings and retellings, through writing and redacting, through additions and deletions, women’s names got left on the cutting room floor.

What we are left with is a text that along with serving as inspiration, is a model of how we are to live with each other. This model, which says it’s okay not to name women, even women without whom the story wouldn’t happen. This model, which says it’s okay to withhold names as long as the woman has no family or no means of support. This model, which says it’s okay to rape and dismember, as long as the woman is a concubine. This model, which finds no reason to name daughters who don’t obey… or daughters that do. This model, which says women do not actually get counted, but simply come along, among the masses. This model, which says even powerful and influential women don’t need to be remembered by name.

You might think that God is okay with it. But God didn’t do this. We did this to each other.

And God’s not okay with it.

God’s not okay with our not knowing the names of the women who gave their lives in the Triangle Shirt Factory fire, or in the name of women’s suffrage, or in one of the many devastating wars we have fought, or in back alley abortion clinics.

God’s not okay with our not knowing the names of the women who cross the borderlands and give up their given names in order to escape the notice of INS officials.

God’s not okay with our not knowing the names of the women who are losing their lives while protesting in the streets of Turkey and the Ukraine and Venezuela.

God’s not okay with our not knowing the names of the women who have been sold into slavery or the sex trade.

God’s not okay with our not knowing the names of the women who have been raped and who are shamed into hiding the truth of their trauma.

God’s not okay with our not knowing the names of the women who sleep on the steps outside our buildings and whose basic needs cannot be met by a system that is increasingly ignoring them.

God’s not okay with our not knowing the names of the women who serve us and care for us and protect us every day – the woman at the front desk, the housekeeper, the visiting nurse, the beat cop, the barista, the cashier, the soldier.

These women have names. They have stories. They have influence. But they too are in danger of not being remembered, of joining the unnamed in the great cloud of witnesses.

But we don’t have to keep the cycle going. The scribes and clerics gave us this sacred text, full of women placed in only one particular part of the story, known only in relation to someone else, known only for a place where they existed, known only by the terror of their texts. These scribes and clerics gave us a model we must reject. What happens when we actually speak their stories? Phyllis Tribble suggests that we must speak for these women, to “interpret against narrator, plot, other characters, and the Biblical tradition – because they have shown … neither compassion nor attention.”

Imagine if we give them our attention – how much harder it would be for us to accept some of the situations the Bible describes for us. What if we knew that Jephthah’s daughter was musical and had learned new songs to play for her father when he returned from war? What if we knew that the widow of Zarephath had been known to bake the best bread in town, back when there was plenty? What if we knew that Pharoah’s daughter found out she could not bear children of her own yet loved them desperately? If we had stories like these, suddenly, we might not accept the fate of these women – we might not accept that they weren’t that important to the stories in which they appear, and we would not accept that we should not call them by name. Just as we cannot accept the damage and disregard namelessness does to women today.

Today, let us make a change.

tomb  Dearly beloved, let us pray.

God of many names known and unknown,
hear our sorrow as we mourn these unnamed women…
in their death, we are all diminished…
their stories are alive, but all is not well.
Hold us as we take one step today to right this wrong,
to stand for these women,
to hear their stories and bear witness to their power,
to feel their presence and confess their present reality.
God, be with us in our struggle to make sure everyone is known,
to show even the long forgotten their inherent worth and dignity.
Bless us, God, with ever opening and softening hearts
as we remember the women.



We will never know the names of these unnamed women in the Bible – those are lost to history. But there are names of women who have touched our lives that should not be forgotten. They are mothers, and aunts, and cousins. They are teachers, and counselors, and neighbors. They are activists, and preachers, and thinkers. We have all been touched by the lives of incredible women, without whom our own stories would not progress. Let us celebrate and name those women – let us turn this tomb of unnamed women into a space of remembering women and their names.

Folks are invited to write these names on stickers we pass out, and place them on the tomb. Meanwhile, the beat changes from heartbeat to an Afro-Caribbean rhythm.

As people gather, Ranwa leads us in Israel Naughton’s “I Am Not Forgotten”


Kimberley offers a loving benediction.


 named with bread and roses

named - mom


REMEMBER me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

–Christina Rossetti


I for one would rather forget that my father died suddenly at age 60 and remember that try as he might, he could not stifle the explosive guffaws when watching the movie Airplane. I would rather forget that my mother’s last hours were spent suffering in a hospital and remember that she would sometimes pick me up from school and stop by the video store so we could indulge ourselves in a classic movie before Dad got home from work.

It’s easier – and more comforting – to remember the fun, the loving and touching moments, the happiness our loved ones brought to us in life. Yet we memorialize their deaths. We go to gravesites, we build makeshift altars at sites of their deaths, and on a larger scale, we build memorials – often of granite and marble – to mark the moments of death.

Are we obsessed with death?  I don’t think so… I think exactly the opposite is true. We remember when and how people died because we are obsessed with life.

We mourn the loss of life. When it’s a closed loved one, it cuts us in intimate ways – the death of my partner in 1998 was like losing a limb. When it’s a little more distant, like the recent deaths in Moore, Oklahoma or the constant barrage of mass shootings in New Orleans, Newtown, Aurora, Tuscon, Columbine – it cuts into our understanding of thriving in global community and leaves an existential feeling of loss. When it’s a soldier – especially one who lost their life in combat – it’s more complex. We hate war and how it rips apart our planet; yet we respect deeply those who have chosen to serve.

It’s all so difficult – these memories tied to life and death. We grapple internally with loss, with pain, with the deep well of sorrow that drowns us in cold unsettling grief; yet while much of our personal mourning is private, we publicly memorialize. Why do we take time to memorialize? Why do we ritualize it? We do, after all – we have services and parades and graveside markings and songs. We’ve been doing this for millennia – we see evidence of it in the psalms written during the Babylonian exile in the 5th century BCE: “by the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, and there we wept when we remembered Zion.” There are ancient markers where battles where fought, and stories passed down about Badon Pass and Hannibal and the 300. Today, we see evidence everywhere; even in my little hometown of Taborton, the veteran’s group puts fresh American flags on all the graves of veterans in the little cemetery on the hill overlooking Little Bowman Pond, complete with a brief ceremony at each stone. Round Lake holds a ceremony at our little war memorial – if you come to the service next week, you can see our memorial across from the municipal building. And even today – in a few minutes – we will also memorialize through the ritual of lighting candles for those we have lost. We will speak their names…remember their faces…make sure that others know who they were. Memorializing formally, as ritualist Brigitte Sion says, creates a space where we can claim our right to grief and mourning; we can’t just ‘get over it’ – we need to make space for our memory. And when that space isn’t provided, we find ways to make it.

One of the most powerful memorials I have ever experienced is the AIDS quilt. Unlike a large, permanent memorial, like the Wall or the Holocaust Museum or the striking Korean war memorial, that is planned and sanctioned and funded – it is organic, and surprising, and moveable. Adding to the quilt is a given, for it is also ever-changing. It begins with friends, sitting together, sewing and painting and gluing – and talking. Sharing memories, tears, and Kleenex. And then it’s added to a larger quilt, where more memories are shared as it’s attached to quilt pieces from others; there, our memories become attached to other memories. And then, it is displayed…and others have a chance to remember, to see these lives. And when it is displayed, the names are read. We hear those names – those lost to this horrible disease, those who initially were marginalized even as illness decimated an already marginalized community. I’m sorry to say I have worked on more than one quilt piece – but I am glad that I can remember, and that others can share those memories.

In memorial, the act of remembering is a physical act, that connects us with the past, that connects us with life, that alters time so that past and present can meet, even for a short while. And we find strength in the remembering. Director Anne Bogart says “As a result of a partnership with memory and the consequent journeys through the past, I feel nourished, encouraged, and energized. I feel more profoundly connected to and inspired by those who came before.”

Connected and inspired.

This, especially, when remembering those who served their country in the military, is key. It’s hard now – we have such a difficult relationship to war; misguided policies led us into controversial conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Panama, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan. Remembering those wars requires us to grapple with larger, difficult issues. And I would say we had an easier relationship to war prior to Korea – certainly some of the reasons we fought in the World Wars are more cut and dry. But even those wars – and the Spanish American War, the Mexican Wars, and the Civil War, where the seeds Memorial Day began, are much more complex than simply fights between good and evil.

Yet we cannot help but remember with some admiration the people who have chosen to put themselves in harm’s way – not for personal interest – but for their community and their nation. The first Memorial Day celebrations – and many places claim “first”, including black children in Charleston who honored the US Colored troops who died in the Civil War  – those first celebrations were about remembering sacrifice and honoring the lives of those people who died. And it was such a right and remarkable act, that we institutionalized it and continue to remember and honor those who have served – not just in uniform but in the many ways we understand service to our nation and our world community.

We acknowledge their service, we recall the circumstances of their deaths, and we dwell in the quiet sorrow of our loss … but mostly, we remember their lives. We connect with the living – and we journey with them, even if only for a moment. We recognize the souls that walked among us, while they lived. We hear their names, and we see their spirits in those who bring them to our table today – they live in us. As Kathleen McTigue writes – and we will read together responsively (No. 721, Singing the Living Tradition) – they are with us still.

As we complete our reading, I invite you to come forward to the table as you are so moved, to light a candle and speak the names of those you wish for all of us to remember today.

Moments after two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with prayers and information (and, sadly, misinformation).

But a few moments after that, my feed began to fill up with the comforting words and image of Fred Rogers – in particular, this one:


After the initial draw of comfort, I began to wonder why I was seeing Mr. Rogers so much…. and then it hit me.

You see, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood premiered on PBS stations in 1968 – the year I turned 4. My generation did, literally, grow up with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Electric Company, and Zoom. These programs were created for MY generation; they weren’t leftovers like Captain Kangaroo or Romper Room (not to take anything away from those shows, but they weren’t created with my generation in mind). People who knew this new generation of kids was a little bit different and needed a little attention created these amazing shows for us.

Without realizing it, I think Fred Rogers in particular understood GenX; as I’ve previously written (and as Strauss & Howe point out), the Nomadic generations tend to be smaller, marginalized, mistrusted, overshadowed by the previous Idealist generations. It’s no wonder that films about us highlight our pragmatism in the face of unfairness (Pretty in Pink), our willingness to break rules in order to get ahead (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and our feelings of inadequacy (The Breakfast Club). We were a generation overshadowed by a huge cohort of noisy, eager Boomers… and we were growing up in a world that was crumbling around us without our really understanding (JFK/MLK/RFK/Malcolm X assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, LA riots, Chicago DNC, etc.). We needed someone to tell us it was all going to be okay. We needed someone to value us just the way we were, just for who we were.

And there was Fred Rogers. As good and loving a man in real life as he was on television. I think we instinctively knew he was genuine; sure, as we got into our teens, there was something rather old fashioned about him that we mocked a little. But the truth of Fred Rogers is that when no one else did, he valued us. He answered every letter, and showed genuine care in public appearances. He spoke directly to us through the camera with a love that was palpable. He taught us to care for one another in a way that wasn’t dismissive or flashy.

And so now, in times of trouble and strife, my generation turns to Mr. Rogers.  He still makes us feel valued, safe, ready to take on the world: “You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you. There’s only one person in this whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are.”

Each day (after 1972) he’d end the program with a song I still remember all the words to:

It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.
It’s such a happy feeling: You’re growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say,
“I think I’ll make a snappy new day.”
It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling,
The feeling you know that I’ll be back,
When the day is new, and I’ll have more ideas for you.
And you’ll have things you’ll want to talk about.
I will too.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

The following remarks were delivered at the Time of Remembrance and Renewal at the Round Lake Auditorium on the evening of September 11, 2011.


We gather here today, in our community, among friends and neighbors, to mark perhaps the most momentous event in our collective memory.

We gather to remember those who lost their lives, to remember those who gave their lives, to remember all who served, and to remember our own innocence lost.

But we also gather to wrap the grief and anxiety of the last ten years with love and hope.

It seems surprising in some ways, as we have grown so inured to tragedy. We have all experienced personal losses. We hear the news of lives lost in distant wars and nearby shootings. We see tragedy everywhere – especially these days as flood waters devastate our region and tear apart families. Yet we don’t often gather ten years later to remember.

So why do we gather for this one? And why is this one so hard?

I believe it is because the events of September 11, 2001, was not just a random incident or an act of nature. It was personal: a planned and targeted attack on us.

Many of us were personally touched – we lost loved ones or knew someone who did. We knew people who rushed in to help when millions were rushing out. Others know people who had gotten a late start, had a dentist’s appointment, ran into train delays, anything – anything – ANYTHING that kept them from being at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that Tuesday morning.

In that first year, we did many things right to manage our grief. We held vigils, memorials, such as the one held in 2002 in this space; we offered our financial support, we went to help. We worked through those first trying, heartbreaking years.

But still we sit, ten years later, still knots in our stomachs and lumps in our throats when we think of the Twin Towers, and the Pentagon, and the men and women who brought down the fourth plane in Pennsylvania.

We need more room to heal our wounds, to tend our grief, to mourn our loss.


And so we gather today to wrap our arms around each other, to share memories, to consider the scary and frightening world in which we live.

Our world is scary – I don’t have to tell you all the things that frighten us now – and the many ways our fear manifests. We remember these quite easily – even more so if you travel by airplane or take a day trip across the border into Montreal…

But we are not here just to remember our fear – we are here to transform it.

It is ten years later, and we still feel raw. So how do we get to a place of renewal? That’s what I hope we can discover together today.


We who are gathered here come from many faiths, or none at all – we draw comfort from our sacred texts, our beliefs, and that moral conscience inside us that knows right from wrong, good from evil.

And our faiths vary – we are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, theists and deists and agnostics and atheists. Those lines alone can divide us – it is easy to see the differences between beliefs and let those differences take charge. And there are lines of nationality… and race…and identity – easy ways to divide us into a comforting ‘sameness.’

In fact, it is in our ancient tribal nature to be drawn to sameness – to see the world in terms of us versus them. Us versus them was very important when we feared total destruction of our little nomadic villages. Us versus them provided protection against predators and conquering hoardes. Us versus them is comfortable. Instinctual.

But we don’t live in the ancient world anymore. We live in a global society – the world is bigger than ever. We can chat online with friends in Manitoba, Madrid, Mumbai, Melbourne… our media, communications, products, ideas, and friendships are expansive and global.

And as large as the world is, is as small as it has become. Events that happen on the other side of the world shake us – whether they be tsunamis in Indonesia, genocide in the Sudan, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, famine in Somalia, shootings in Norway, or riots in London.

Our women and men in uniform serve around the world in wars with people we hardly know but are intimately connected with – because this world, as large as it is, has grown small.

And when the world is this small, we have to let go of some of our tribal mentality… or at the very least, open up the tribe to include everyone.

The choir sang a few minutes ago words inspired by Deuteronomy 6, verses 4-9:

we should love one another with all our hearts…
and we should care for each other,
with all our souls and our might.

Mother Teresa reminds us that we belong to one another… we are one family, one tribe.

It’s hard to remember, of course, when part of our tribe hates us with every fiber of its being… it is all too easy to remain angry and hurt. It’s easy to keep our wounds open and feel their rawness. We feel powerless to combat the evil that is seemingly more tangible than ever, making it easy to circle the wagons and hide in our pain.

But we should love one another with all our hearts.

And whether you believe in God, or gods, or no god at all, that golden rule – to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, reminds us that the acting in love – compassion – is how we heal. Meister Eckhart suggests that we may call God love; we may call God goodness, but the best name for God is compassion.


And out of compassion comes renewal.

Compassion comes when we listen to one another’s stories. When we listen to one another, not as enemies or people who are different, but as people, we hear their stories and we understand that they too hurt…and cry…and celebrate…and love.

Compassion comes when we think outside ourselves. Part of our celebration here today is a thank you to the men and women who serve on the emergency teams – fire fighters, EMTs, police. These are people who show compassion in spades – they think outside themselves and say “how can I help my neighbor”?

Compassion comes when we allow the weight of our pain to open our hearts a little bit more. Instead of our struggling to hold it closed or cry out in agony, we let our hearts be heavy… and full… and we act and speak out of that pain… we heal through our woundings.

It is through compassion that we find renewal. It is through compassion that we see love, and joy, and peace. It is through compassion that we touch the divine in ourselves and each other, what the Buddhists name when they say “namaste.”


So we go forth together today, holding each other, remembering, and loving one another with all our hearts. And while we may not always know or feel or see peace… we can always pray for peace.


A conversation on Twitter just reminded me of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”… and I remembered that I rewrote the lyrics a couple of years ago.

We had held a “check your theology at the door” hymn sing at the church, and we had a blast singing “Just As I Am” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”…songs of our pasts, which stir up our souls in old and sometimes meaningfulways. We sang and told stories and laughed and cried that night… blessed to share this with each other.

 “It Is Well” was my trigger. THe words spoke deeply to me – to a point. Theoriginal lyrics by Horace Spafford are deeply tied to ‘washed in the blood” theology, and I found someof them to be too out of line with what I believe. And yet the song moved me. My minister, Linda Hoddy, suggested I rewrite the lyrics, which I did.  Our music director, Michael Harrison, arranged the song for a quartet, and we sang it the first time at a service on Faith, Hope, and Charity.

You can read what I wrote about it here. Below are the words as rewritten:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, faith has taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

 It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul.


Though pain, tribulation, and trials should come

Let this simple prayer now console

Though I have regarded my helpless estate

I shall know it is well with my soul.

 It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul.


When life beareth down, and no answers arise

And all is beyond my control

My heart still can rest in the peace I have found

And proclaim it is well with my soul.

 It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul.


 New lyrics by Kimberley Debus, 2009; original lyrics by Horatio Spafford, 1873. Music by Philip Bliss, 1876.

A few days ago, my minister asked me how I was feeling about the accident. I don’t think about it every day, but it does cross my mind when I drive to the church, since I take a route that avoids that intersection where a homeless man (a Desert Storm vet and an alcoholic) ran in front of my car, apparently committing vehicular suicide.

It’s been four years but I continue to carry the weight – knowing that I was, in fact, an instrument of death. I have at different times tried to rationalize it as God using me to give this man mercy and relief, and other times simpy figuring I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But no matter the reason, I carry it with me.

As I explained to Linda, the weight of it is like a layer of lead – like those lead vests they make you wear when you get x-rays – lying on the bottom of my heart, cupping it almost.  It pulls my heart open…

It could be easier to try to keep my heart closed, to struggle to keep the wound closed by pinning it up and trying to build supports around it. Instead, I seem to be allowing the wound to remain open – not raw, but gently, caringly open. As a result, I think I am more compassionate, more tender, more sensitive, more loving.

I am forever changed by that moment. And I carry it with me. But it doesn’t make me less capable; it makes me more so.

It may surprise you to know that not that long ago, I was not beautiful. Not like I am now.

Well, not to myself, anyway.

But something happened a little over a year ago that made me beautiful… someone noticed. And…he keeps noticing. And I continue to grow more beautiful.

Now let me go back a bit – as a child, I was skinny, klutzy, and gawky. My middle name, Grace, seemed a cosmic joke. Puberty brought curves – and acne – and unruly hair. And like many kids who didn’t mature gracefully, I was teased and put down, and I had veryfew dates. The things I thought made up for my less-than-stellar outward appearance, namely my singing voice and my acting talent, were condemned as being not beautiful either.

And thus – I spent my twenties, and thirties, and the first half of my forties, believing that I was not beautiful. Now in the process, I did learn that indeed I was talented and I got over that particular hurdle of self-esteem. But I have spent decades sure I had no place at the table with the “beautiful people.”

This was confirmed over and over again – I was excluded from a company fashion show because I was the only plus-sized member of the buying staff. I watched a less experienced, less knowledgeable but petite and pretty woman get the promotion I should have received. And I have seen the looks when people I have only talked to by phone meet me in person. They expect someone less…substantial.

And sadly, I am not alone. A 2009 study by the University of Florida showed that attractive people make up to 10% more money on average than those considered less attractive. A similar study at the University of Wisconsin showed that people deemed unattractive or overweight are up to 8% less likely to get the second interview or be hired. Good looking students tend to be favored by teachers. Handsome criminals receive lighter sentences.

Now oddly, discrimination for looks does seem to go both ways – exceptionally attractive people have a harder time getting jobs in engineering or the sciences – which tells me there is a bias that links intelligence to looks. Recently a woman was fired from a job at Citibank because she was ‘too beautiful and too distracting’.  But who decides? Part of the challenge in defining discrimination based on looks is the challenge of defining beauty standards, which as we know vary from culture to culture. Japanese women want oval eyes. Ubangi tribeswomen value stretched lower lips. In some cultures, the Rubenesque figure is prized. In others, the skin-and-bones look is in. But within each culture, there are some general standards, and it is these standards that create a beauty bias, or what we call lookism.

If you doubt lookism exists, consider a comment made by Jason Mattera, editor-in-chief of “Why do Janet Napolitano, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan all look like linebackers for the New York Jets?”

Consider the comment of Conan O’Brien, remarking on the firing of a female TV meteorologist because she looked too dowdy: her problem is “partly saggy with a chance of menopause.”

Consider the fact that Janet Reno and Linda Tripp were played by men on Saturday Night Live.

Consider an experiment by the ABC news magazine 20/20: they hired two women to stand next to cars that had run out of gas. Both cars were identical; both women wore the same outfits. Both stood helplessly by the cars with their hoods up. For the average-looking Michelle, a few pedestrians stopped but only made suggestions as where she could walk to get gasoline. But for the beautiful Tracey, cars came screeching to a halt. More than a dozen cars stopped and six people went to get Tracey gas.

Now I don’t think people necessarily know they’re discriminating against looks. As Tom Cash, a psychologist at Old Dominion University, says, “It’s a non-conscious process. People assume that more attractive people have an array of valued characteristics.”

On the other hand, not all lookism is non-conscious. There is a dating site specifically for beautiful people, unimaginatively named, and they only accept people they consider beautiful. It has been so successful; they now have a spinoff sperm bank – where you can make sure the baby gets ‘beautiful genes’. I wish I was making this up. The animated sitcom Family Guy poked fun of the beautiful people’s club – but it really exists.

And whether we want to join or not, we pay a price. Deborah Rhode, author of The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law, says

“…conventional wisdom understates the advantages that attractiveness confers, the costs of its pursuit, and the injustices that result. Many individuals pay a substantial price in time, money, and physical health. Although discrimination based on appearance is by no means our most serious form of bias, its impact is often far more insidious than we suppose.”

Rhode notes that compared to “other inequities the contemporary women’s movement has targeted, those related to appearance have shown strikingly little improvement. In fact, by some measures, such as the rise in cosmetic surgery and eating disorders, our preoccupation with attractiveness is getting worse.”

And so we go to plastic surgeons and do invasive damage to our bodies. We buy cosmetics and get chemical treatments that may not only harm our skin but also our planet. We go on diet after diet, all the while getting fatter and fatter and causing myriad health problems. In the extreme, the pursuit of beauty leads to depression and eating disorders. We spend over $200 billion a year on appearance, with $40 billion alone on diets – and more billions in mental health treatment. We spend more on cosmetic surgery per capita than any other nation; the top procedures? Breast augmentation and liposuction.

All because we know there is a value to being attractive. We know there is a financial reason – we will get paid more. And there is a social reason – acceptance.

Now if you are an attractive, slender person, there are some indignities you have never faced. You haven’t had to pay five dollars more for a t-shirt because there’s an extra inch of cloth. You haven’t had a blind date turn around at the door of the restaurant, pretending he didn’t see you. You haven’t watched, discouraged, as lookism gets played out in a sitcom not called Betty, but Ugly Betty.

If it sounds like I’m whining, forgive me. I suppose it’s like trying to get you to understand what it is to be discriminated against for being gay, or being from another country, or being disabled. There are big – and little – indignities – that go along with any kind of discrimination. My point here is that lookism DOES exist… and it permeates our entertainment, our marketing, our work, our lives. Naomi Wolf suggested in her 1991 book The Beauty Myth that images of beauty may actually subjugate women and be a tool for discrimination.

Now I want to take a small but important detour here… and address the question of whether physical beauty truly matters.

We can’t discount it: we are always in pursuit of beauty. We look around at our surroundings and find peace – and solace – and even God – in beauty. We sing hymns, like our opening today, which praise beauty as a sacred gift. You would be hard pressed to find someone who does not love a beautiful mountain, or a flowing stream, or an explosion of flowers, or a stretch of sand and foam. Even those who do not think they have a beautiful cell in their bodies love and seek the beauty in nature. And we bring beauty into our homes through décor, music, art, scents. How beautiful is the anticipation of a Thanksgiving table groaning with great tastes, smells, and sights. How beautiful is the promise of a perfectly placed painting above the perfect reading chair. How beautiful is the sound of a Chopin concerto wafting in the air.

Beauty is important. So important that it can reduce crime – I recall hearing a study that showed if abandoned buildings were covered with murals, crime rates go down. It is so important that three members of the Saratoga congregation went to El Salvador this past February to bring crime-fighting art to a crime-ridden neighborhood.

We seek beauty in truth, truth in beauty.

So why do we draw the line for human beauty? Why is it okay to surround ourselves with the most beautiful settings but scorn those who would make themselves beautiful?

Are we not nature too? Shouldn’t our physical beauty matter?

I would maintain that it does. But not because we should all join the beautiful people club, but because, if we are to be – as we say in one of our denomination’s readings – in harmony with the divine, we must take our place as part of that beauty.

Human beauty is praised across the world’s religions. Take as the prime example this passage from the Song of Solomon:

How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.

Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies.

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.

Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.

Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.

How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!

Similar passages can be found in sacred texts around the world. And yet… what of inner beauty? You may be asking yourself why I am focusing so much on the outward when there is so much inner beauty to celebrate, and isn’t that more important?.

It is true –inner beauty is important. Vitally important. We recognize the value of the inner self – the good, the compassionate, the loving, the strong, the welcoming, the courageous, the accepting, the graceful. We know it enough to see when someone is ugly despite their beautiful physical appearance.

There was a recent reality show called True Beauty that pitted ten gorgeous people against each other to determine the most beautiful; what they didn’t know is that they were being judged on their inner beauty. Of course, there were easy eliminations at the start – reality shows tend to bring out the worst in people. And yes, the show’s judges did look at their outer beauty as well – perhaps to validate the fake premise. Despite it being just another reality show, I suspect we as a culture are starting to think about our outrageous obsessions with outer beauty. And it certainly proved St. Augustine right when he wrote, “Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.”

There were two things I found interesting about the show. The first was that when they had just three contestants left, they were told the truth – that this was about inner beauty – and they were made to face moments of inner ugliness as they watched video footage of their worst moments. You could see it was hard for them to watch as they talked behind people’s backs, tried to sabotage each other, and behaved selfishly. But you could see these three finalists were humbled. One of the contestants remarked, “I was thankful to see that side of myself. I didn’t realize it was there. I will make a change.”

The second thing I found interesting about the show was seeing that it was only as these contestants began to get to know each other that you saw them see each other as people, not as physical specimens. I suspect part of our lookism problem is that we don’t have often have the time to go any deeper. We are so busy, we have so much information to process, and we only have moments to make judgments about one another.  In a society where we don’t know each other, we don’t have enough of a relationship to get beyond the surface. And we get stuck on the outside.

Oh sure, we try to get to know people – but when your congregation is bigger than say, 25 people, that’s awfully hard. And the bigger it gets, the harder it gets. In 2007, I spent a year between beds and doctors and operating rooms to fix an injured back, and it wasn’t until the next spring that I returned to my own congregation in Saratoga. When I left, I fairly well knew the 100 or so regulars. When I returned, there were dozens of new faces for whom I was as new as the visitor who’d just walked in. Now since then, I’ve gotten to know some of them, but maybe not as deeply as I’d like. I’m sure those I don’t know are amazing, beautiful people – and they probably don’t know as much about my inner beauty either.

The challenge of course is getting our inner beauty to shine. A challenge which has established another multi-billion dollar industry: the self help industry. The titles of self-help books promise as much as the commercials for L’Oreal and Revlon: Learning to Love Yourself. Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing. The Power of Self-Coaching. The Self-Esteem Workbook. The Courage to Be Yourself. The Courage to Heal. Healing Your Emotional Self. Maximum Confidence. The list goes on and on, and on and on. If you’re like me, you’ve spent too much money on books like this, seeking a way to boost inner beauty from within. We console ourselves with affirmations, my favorite from the Al Franken character Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like me.”

But just as all the cosmetic treatments in the world can’t make you perfectly beautiful on the outside, all the self talk in the world doesn’t stand alone in doing the trick for inner beauty either.

Yes, it takes a beloved community.

I know it’s contrary to all we say about not caring what others think, about being our true authentic selves, etc. etc. But what feels more powerful to you, saying to yourself “I am somebody” – or having someone tell you “you are somebody”? Self-affirmations are important, but I suspect mostly what they do is get our heads ready to hear the affirmations from others.

There are many people who don’t feel beautiful, on varying levels. And what happens, when you don’t feel beautiful on the outside is that your confidence shakes on the inside. It is subtle…it starts with apologizing for a bad hair day and then wearing clothing that covers up the bulges… but soon you’re building walls instead of building confidence. You figure if people don’t think you’re attractive, then why bother making the effort? And soon you are closed and cold, and as desperately as you want connection, your entire Being pushes people away. And this feeds your frustration, and you think, ‘who needs people anyway?’

But you do. Partly because humans thrive best in community, but partly because other people are the best evidence of your own best self. Other people are a mirror; what we see in others is reflective of what exists in ourselves.

Yes. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. Rodgers and Hammerstein asked, “do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?” When we show that we prize all beauty, we help others – and ourselves – become more confident and dismantle the subtle cuts of lookism.

As I said at the start, I became beautiful when someone noticed. I remember the moment; I was going out to an event that evening, and was talking to my boyfriend on the phone that afternoon. I looked at the clock, knowing it was time to get ready, and I said, “I need to go make myself look beautiful.” He replied, “Well, it won’t take much because you’re starting from such a high base.” It sounds like a little thing now, but at that moment, it was huge. Someone told me I was beautiful. All of me – beautiful.

Oddly, I found myself caring a bit more – buying more dresses, taking better care of my hair and face and nails, watching what I ate. It wasn’t that I wanted to become beautiful for him – I just wanted to keep being beautiful. And when I started taking a little bit better care of myself, I noticed that my gentleness, and compassion, and strength, and yes, even grace, started to come through too. Others noticed it and commented on how beautiful and happy I seemed. Which made me feel more beautiful. And on and on, and on and on.

Have you told anyone they are beautiful recently? Have you seen the goodness and sweetness and courageousness and gracefulness of the people around you and told them?

I invite you now to take that opportunity. I chose Libby Roderick’s simple tune to end my talk today, and as we sing it through four times, I want you to sing it to each other – and to yourself – and to each other again. Our beauty – inner and outer – is a miracle. It is nothing to be discriminated against – it is something to be celebrated. Let us affirm that.


Amen and blessed be.

A few weeks ago, the lovely and delightful Alie , one of our congregation’s youth who had just graduated from high school, asked me to sing Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” at her service. She was to talk about growing up in our congregation and heading out to the next phase of her life.

Alie is a delightful young woman – the very model of what we wish every child could be. She is articulate, deep thinking, compssionate, active. She has put her faith into action, traveling to El Salvador and Guatemala to work in impoverished neighborhoods. She worked tirelessly to help improve our building by getting a playground installed. She is bright and funny and beautiful inside and out. I have often thought that if I had had children, Alie is the kind of child I’d have wanted to raise.

So when she asked me to sing, the answer was, of course, ‘of course’. What a delight and honor to be asked!

Now I have loved this song for years – but never before did it bring me to tears, until this moment. I spent two weeks listening to the song and trying to practice it, but I could never get through without crying. But, trooper that I am, I bucked up and found ways to distance myself from the song. I figured I was in pretty good shape.

Sunday morning. I read the order of service and it includes more tearjerkers: A Rose in the Wintertime and Let it Be a Dance. Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled.” Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend.”

I was toast.

But… I am a professional, so I cried during the hymn and responsive reading and spent the sermon listening but also girding myself. Alie was talking about lessons she had learned about caring – various events, various people. She talked about Kevin O’Brien, whose organization Nueva Esperanza Del Norte  was her entree into international charitable work. And then, she mentioned my name.

I gasped.

She relayed the story of how contentious Joys and Sorrows are in Worship committee; some believe it’s too long as it is. Others think we don’t give enough room for those who are sorrowful to be cared for. And what of the juxtaposition of joys with sorrows? Does it honor or dishonor those who have spoken?

Alie told about a time a couple of months ago when I shared a sorrow. My Uncle Flavio had died – meaning all of my aunts and uncles, along with my parents, are now deceased. Flavio had four children – and sometime in the early 90s, the second son, John, had fallen out of favor with his mother. John had reconciled with his father and his younger sister Cindy, and I think even with his mother before she died. But sadly, oldest brother Marc and youngest brother Robert still harbored ill will… and thus, Flavio’s funeral and memorial service became incredibly painful affairs. My sorrow was not as wordy – I expressed sadness at the loss but also hurt at the pain my cousins are facing. I got choked up – Alie mentioned this – and sat down.

The next person to speak was a man who had a joy (neither Alie nor I can recall who it was). Apparently, I sat and listened, wiped the tears, and celebrated this man’s joy. I don’t remember… I know it was cathartic just to share the concern, to know that someone who had a similar situation might offer some comfort afterwards. But to Alie, it was evidence of something bigger…that when you live in a caring community, we do provide what is needed.

Well..needless to say, that did it for me. She mentioned ME, of all people. Getting through “The Circle Game” was a challenge, offset happily by the congregation singing with me on the chorus and me not making eye contact.

Afterwards, I spoke with Alie’s father – also full of tears at the beauty of the service. I mentioned how honored I was to be asked to sing and to be mentioned in the sermon. He said “Alie really likes you.” I smiled, and he continued. “You don’t understand. Alie is pleasant to many, but she doesn’t like many people. She likes you.”

And this leaves me scratching my head. I didn’t really know her until I joined Worship Associates in late 2008; I have never done anything with youth groups or religious education classes. And yet, just my Being apparently matters.

The lesson? Be. Be true. Be authentic. But just BE. You never know who you’re going to affect.