Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bread and Roses

Bread and Roses
delivered at UUCA
© September 2, 2007
Rev. Marti Keller

Like many girls, my first paid job outside of the home—that is beyond my fifty cents a week allowance —was babysitting. At 12 and 13 I had a fair-sized clientele of families in the suburban subdivisions within 15 minute bike rides of our house.

Some of my employers were great, with babies who actually slept, and toddlers who didn’t have tantrums, and refrigerators supplied with ice cream bars and soda. And they paid me when I was finished working, 75 cents, even a dollar an hour.

Other jobs involved babies with constant diaper rashes and colic, four year old bullies, and picky eaters. I remember Jeremy, the only child of a piano teacher, who instructed me to feed him his oatmeal with as much whipped cream and chocolate chips sprinkled in as the bowl could bear—and still he would shut his mouth tight or throw the spoon on the kitchen floor. And then never have the right amount of money to pay me, so would I please come back on Friday and she would have it then, usually less than I had earned.

But it was mostly OK work, and the coins and bills I collected were put in an envelope in my dresser drawer, and I saved them up for special extra things, like my very first pink transistor radio, the one I listened to when the Giants lost the baseball play-off series to the Dodgers—and my heart was broken-- and my first purple mini skirt. And then a Samoyed puppy that cost 75 dollars and took months of earnings, much to my parents’ horror when I brought her home.(since of course I didn’t figure on having to feed, inoculate, or spay her). .

Whatever I earned, and whatever I saved, and whatever I spent this money on, did not in any way have to go for basics. I was fed, clothed, housed and even taken out for movies and hamburgers, with or without my wages. Work enhanced my sense of being responsible and capable, it bought me metaphorically a feeling of independence, it certainly filled up some otherwise dull and endless summers, it was in short good for what we like to call character development.

I didn’t do it for bread, in other words, I did it for the roses, for enrichment, for my soul.

I can’t say the same for the first job I landed after graduating with honors in journalism from the University of California in 1970, the year of one of our periodic Great Recessions, when no one, it seemed, was hiring. Armed with my prestigious degree, I went to work for Swenson’s Ice Cream parlor, serving up single scoop and double scoop cones filled with apple pie, pistachio, marble fudge, and mocha ice cream.

After the first couple of days of enjoying the free tastes we snuck when traffic was slow, I stopped craving ice cream entirely. My arm ached and my hand burned from dipping down to the bottom of cartons. I tired of having people bark orders at me, and change their minds about what flavor they wanted, or not have the right change and expect me to make it up at the end of my shift.

But my then husband and I needed the money I brought in, with no benefits, no holiday pay, certainly no sense of dignity, and really no way to stretch or bloom.

I didn’t last all that long as an ice cream scooper, not even as long as my ex- husband, who had dropped out of college to find himself, lasted on the line in a Del Monte canning plant or in his next job working swing shift in the collections department of an upper end furniture store.

When our first baby was born, just a couple of years later, our vocational ambitions were still lofty: I fancied myself a published writer and he an award-winning film-maker, But the economy remained in the tank, a crowd of us boomers were out there with our competing high flying dreams, and we were still piecing our budget together.

I remember that it was not so much that we ate a lot of fatty ground beef and soups made from turkey necks and bulk carrots, or that we lived in a third floor walk-up apartment where the heat only came on a few hours a day that bothered, even depressed me. It was the way I was treated in the charity medical clinic at Mt. Zion Hospital, the forms we had to fill out to get food stamps to supplement the less than living wages we were earning, and the look in the eyes of fellow shoppers when I actually used them, checking out, of course, what I pulled from my cart, looking for waste and indulgence. I missed my dignity, I missed my sense of being special and worthy. I missed believing there were endless possibilities.

And of course I missed being able to go to the movies when I wished, or buying myself eye shadow at Macy’s instead of Woolworths’, and coffee out, instead of in our own kitchen.

This period of genteel poverty was relatively short-lived, and truth is, while our parents wanted us to make our own way as a headstrong young couple, they never would have let us go without electricity or end up on the streets. We had a safety net in the form of economically stable extended families who would only let us dip down so far before they helped us back up, for our sakes and certainly for the sake of our children. And we were embedded in a culture where the assumption was that we would do better, sooner than later.

My young woman’s dream of a better vocation, of bread and roses in my work and in my life, was only a dream deferred—longer than I might have wished—not a dream that died or no dreams at all.

This was not so for my grandfather, and I would wager many of our parents and grandparents. A few years after the turn of the 20th century, my grandfather on my father’s side escaped conscription in the Czar’s army as a young teenager and made his own way alone to Boston, where he went to work doing what his father had done in the old country. Son of a tailor, he found a job in a ladies coat-making factory, where the hours were long, the pay was ludicrous, and the conditions substandard.

The same sort of conditions, I imagine, as existed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York in l9ll when more than a hundred shirtwaist workers, many of them young female immigrant workers, either died in the fire that broke out on the eighth floor of the factory of jumped to their deaths. Many of these workers were unable to escape because the doors had been locked to prevent them from stealing or taking unauthorized breaks.

More than 100,000 people participated in the funeral march for the victims, and still others gathered at the Metropolitan Opera House a few days later to express their grief and their rage. Rose Schneiderman, an early labor organizer in that movement, told the crowd: This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in the city. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and the property is so sacred…. We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a given a couple of dollars by way of a charity gift. But every time workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us…. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working class movement.

My grandfather joined the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, in fact was a very active organizer. I don’t believe he expected intrinsic rewards from his hours of sewing and later supervising seamstresses. He wanted fair pay and safety. He wanted bread, in other words, and had no expectation of roses.

Whatever pleasure and soul-feeding he got then and later on during the Depression when his own factory went through hard times ( and he faced actions from his own workers), came from the glasses of hot, sweet tea – and harder stuff—he drank at the end of the day; an occasional Chinese meal, his labor party newspapers, and periodic reprieves from the endless bickering with his wife, resulting from crowded spaces, thin wallets, and little joy.

I know from reading some of his scribblings, translated recently from Yiddish to English, that he had a gift for story-telling, but whether he ever dreamed of a vocation in writing, whether he dreamed at all of possibilities within his work life beyond manufacturing ladies’ coats and providing for his family, no one seems to know.

The song we practiced earlier in the service and will reprise at the end, “Bread and Roses” was first heard during a strike in Lawrence Massachusetts during January-March 1912. Earlier that same year, the Massachusetts legislature finally passed a law limiting the working hours of children under 18 to 54 hours a week. The huge textile corporations vehemently opposed the law and in an act of retaliation cut the working hours and thus the wages of all employees, adults and children, leading to the total walk out of workers in the Lawrence factories, more than 35,000 of them.

This textile mill strike, which united dozens of immigrant communities under the garment maker’s union, was led by a large extent, we are told, by women. Some have said that during the strike there were women who carried a sign that said, “ We want bread, but we want roses too.”

In the course of the strike, the workers presented their bosses with these demands:

A 15 per cent wage increase

Double pay for overtime

No discrimination against strikers

An end to speed up expectations

An end to discrimination against foreign born workers

It was, according to labor organizer Bill Haywood, a wonderful strike,a significant strike, the greatest strike that has ever been carried on in this country.

This was a strike that appealed both for fair wages and dignified conditions, and beyond that health care, educational opportunities and cultural activities.

The women who held up the signs “Bread and Roses” were saying that they weren’t content, as writer Bruce Taylor describes them, with improvements in the bare necessity of life and work. They wanted opportunities, he notes, to enjoy their lives and family, to find beauty in the world, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Their demands were met over the years in that New England factory town, as Lawrence opened a series of free libraries, art galleries, concert halls and parks. For these women, as for most workers who are given the time and opportunity to talk freely about what they want for themselves, work should be as a source of pride and joy and fulfillment, not all of the time, but more of the time than it often is. Not just working to live, but in some ways living to work, alive to our work.

More than 30 years ago, radio commentator Studs Terkel created what has become a micro industry in published oral histories of men and women and their jobs. In Working, a collection of people talking about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do, he observed that Americans get up and go to work each day as much for “daily meaning as “daily bread.” That they were as likely to describe how little their work fed their spirits as to complain about how little they were paid.

There was Sharon Atkins, the phone answerer who talked about how the machine dictated her life, the crummy little machine, as she told him, you have to be there to answer. My job doesn’t mean anything, she said… a monkey could do what I do… It’s really unfair to ask someone to do that. You try to fill up your time with trying to think about other things, what you’re going to on the weekend or about your family. You have to use your imagination, she said. If you don’t have a very good one and you bore easily ,you’re in trouble.

And Nick Salerno, who drove a city garbage truck for 18 years, who said you’re just like a milkman’s horse, you get used to it. If you remember the milkman’s horse, all he had to was whistle and whoosh. That’s it. He knew just where to stop, didn’t he?,,,, You get different thoughts. Maybe you got a problem at home. Maybe one of the children isn’t feeling too good… Or you’ll read the paper. You can always daydream.

In Gig, published in 2000, with a new set of tales of the working life, there is one by UPS driver William Rosario—a relatively high wage earner-- who said that the most stops he ever made was at Christmas one year, like 240, with a helper. Sometimes I start the day and I realize I can’t do it, he said. I can’t keep working. A couple times I called them, he admitted. I told ‘em they had to come get me. I said I was sick. They loved that. But usually when I am out there, I just do anything I can not to actually work. I mean on my stops I watch television, make telephone calls, flirt with secretaries, call my girl friend, go shopping… go swimming in the summer in a motel pool.

Even ministers get to confess that the calling may not always be calling them, that the spirit had gone out of their vocation. A Lutheran parish pastor owned up to not being at his optium point in ministry right now. I’m just burned out, he declared. I mean, not so bad that I would fail to share the good news where I see it is needed and will be received, but in terms of running a parish and the institutional aspects of keeping certain programs going, I’ve been burned out by all the conflict and I feel I need to move on.

But he stayed.

He was no longer feeling the spirit at his workplace, but like most people that are asked about their jobs, he was inclined to persist. At least not to drop out completely. According to the editors of the Gig anthology, the majority are confronted with constant and complex stresses on the job and nearly universally they throw themselves without reservation into coping with them.

Not that a higher minimum wage and more important a fair living wage aren’t crucial. It is just plain wrong, it is a violation of the Golden Rule(s) of every living faith tradition that even after working two or three jobs, you could still not earn enough money to make ends meet or provide the basic subsistence needs—the bread of life. Today’s federal minimum wage, even with the slight increase that just went into effect, to $5.85 an hour, has become a poverty wage instead of an anti-poverty wage, which is inhumane and soul-stripping. And our Georgia state minimum wage is below that, one of the few remaining states.

Working for a just society, our denominational social justice statements remind us, is central to the Unitarian Universalist faith—a faith based on the creation of justice and peace here on earth and among our common world community.. Where all people have equal opportunity to care for themselves and their families and individuals take responsibility for the effects of their actions on their own and others’ lives.

It has been my privilege to lead personal growth and spirituality groups for women in transition out of homelessness for more than a decade. Several hundred of them, mostly women of color. Many of them arrive at shelters with little more than the clothes on their back. They come fleeing battering, they come because their husbands are incarcerated, they come because of debts and foreclosures resulting in part from bad choices but in larger part from predatory lenders, aggressive creditors, and low wages in jobs they show up at every day, despite huge logistic obstacles. No cars. No childcare.

We first offer them bread—often the day old leftovers from local fancy bakeries—and beds and the hugely important gift of safety. We expect them to be accountable: to have work, to learn to manage and save their money, whatever is left over from the necessities we expect them to provide.

Yes, they want to earn more, earn fairly, not just a minimum wage but a living wage.

Why not? We have the means to make this so

If they come to trust me, they sometimes share their more hidden longings. Yes, they crave satellite dishes and big televisions and fancy houses larger than any I have owned. Why not? That’s what they are promised 24-7 in every corner of the media.

But more than that, and deeper than that, and with more urgency than that they want, oh they want roses—worth and dignity, the chance to express themselves, the chance make a difference in their working lives. Some beauty. Some song.

Work, the Persian poet Gilbran wrote, is love made visible. Sister Joan Chittister, a social activist and Benedictine nun, tells us that the meaning is clear… work involves all of us in the exercise of world-building, of co-creation, and we must each of us, in each age, work in new ways to achieve it.

With bread, and with roses. .

Flow down and down in always

widening rings of being. - Rumi

Rev. Marti Keller
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta
404 634-5134

A Perfect Mess

A Perfect Mess

©August 12, 2007

Rev. Marti Keller

First delivered at UUCA

When I was learning to preach, that is when I took my first formal class on homiletics, which is the fancy seminary word for the craft, science, or system of preaching, my model was a reform Protestant one. In most of the rural Southern churches where most of my classmates were going to be standing behind the pulpit, preaching, in fact Sunday morning worship was not a messy business at all.

You looked up the lectionary or scriptural readings for that week, you checked out several commentaries on that text in the theological school library, you came up with a few—in fact no fewer or more than three real life stories linked to those words of wisdom or bible stories— in which you startled or admonished or warned and then comforted your flock. And if it got too late on Saturday night or God forbid Sunday morning, there were places on the internet you could go to borrow or buy the pre-fab manuscript you needed and then delivered it verbatim. Give or take a line or two.
The structure of each service was pretty much the same, in fact was the same—the same prayers (except the names in the pastoral prayer changed according to the cast of characters who were needing notice and intercession), the same creeds, the same communion language, the same rotation of hymns. And this is not all bad, not all bad at all. That’s what religious ritual is, that’s what liturgy is—the familiar binding work of a gathered people , seeking a common experience.
In case you haven’t already gotten the joke—or the sermon example—I did a little messing around ( pun intended) with our own service order this morning.

When we forgot to ring the bells that always mark the start of our time together. When the generously given flower arrangements which grace our sanctuary, helping turn it into Sunday, went missing. When the standard welcome was marred by a cell phone call at a time when we covenant to put these distractions aside. Confess—you were alarmed, annoyed, or at least you noticed. We do indeed have our own way of holding things together, our own repetitions of word, song and action.
When we accidentally or intentionally change this, our children for one notice it. Why did we forget to welcome each other, a child asked one morning? What happened to the part where the minister says a prayer for everyone, another duly noted.

Over time of course in any tradition there are adjustments, even wholesale reforms.The Catholics drop the Latin (or they did for a few years), the Jewish liturgy either lightens up on or at least interprets the Hebrew, we Unitarian Universalists limit or abandon candles of community or change the chalice lighting refrain. People get rattled, even upset, but most of the time, we move on. And what was new and strange and uncomfortable becomes traditional and familiar --- a source of comfort and inspiration.

The way we develop sermons in this liberal religious intrafaith has been for a long time quite different from how mainstream Christians for example, and most rabbis approach it. It is in a word messier.
.We do not start with a pre-determined scripture passage—the word from which all else flows. We do have quite a few regular liturgical observances now, holidays and holy days we mark on the calendar every year. But during what is commonly called ordinary time, we wing it. And primarily, in my view, we do this riffing, weaving and crafting with the material we gather from universal human longings, from universal human values, from universal and unique, rich and dense and varied human experience. Experience above all.

Our sermon preparation requires us to invest in some amount of careful observation of the community we are embedded in and personal introspection. We use what is going on around us in this environment, this spiritual community, and what is going on within us as ministers, whose lives may contain some core commonality and some particular resonances for those who listen in.
So instead of running first to the Bible or another sacred or secular source of information and insight, in putting together my 20 or so minutes on the redeeming quality of mess, on perfect messes, I began by simply opening the door and taking a good and sobering look at what started as my college age daughter’s temporary bedroom when she came to live with us for six months almost 15 years ago at a time of financial crisis, and then became the office where I wrote all my papers for theology school and my first nearly ten years of sermons. It has been the process of being cleaned up—de-cluttered—for more than a year.

OK going on two years now.

Whenever my daughter has come home to visit, or there has been another guest with no where else to bunk, I have taken all the dog-eared, well loved books, papers, colored folders and artifacts that are living on the top of the bed, put them in plastic crates and hidden them behind a Japanese screen in the corner. When they depart, the crates come out again. Which recreates the original disorder that results from the never ending piles of things that need to be dealt with. Discarded or kept, recycled or trashed, stored or left out. Most of the year, most of the time, the door stays shut.
I keep telling myself this was not always the way it was, the way I was. As an adult I have tried my best to create order.

I grew up, you see, in a family pretty regularly on the move, in cramped, untended houses filled with all manner of disarray that comes from lots of humans, many projects, hobbies, and multiple pets ( and some pretty fascinating objects like ancient Hopi Kachinas, a little dog-gnawed). With a mother who after at least trying to focus exclusively on keeping house and raising four children for the first decade or so of her marriage decided to go back to graduate school and then work outside the home. Leaving the house from Monday to the next Saturday in the hands of three active and oblivious sons and one daughter( me)who tried to stay one step ahead of the tumult and chaos. Unsuccessfully.
When I was 10 years old and new to a neighborhood in what then the Santa Clara and is now the Silicon Valley, I invited a girl named Laurie after school one day to our especially small and especially untidy house. I tried to steer her directly into my front bedroom, which was at least marginally less unkempt, but she couldn’t help seeing , I soon discovered, the un-scraped dishes piled in the sink, the smelly sneakers and deflated basket balls and all other manner of stuff left in hallways. Even the good “ stuff”—the shelves and shelves of books my parents bought and read, the folk and jazz albums, the shells and rocks and animal antlers collected from all the trips we took to all the natural wonders of this country.

It was made painfully clear the very next morning when I came into the fifth grade classroom that Laurie certainly had noticed, noticed everything, and had declared to all who would listen that “Marti has a messy house,” which in the town and times I lived in was as damning, damaging and devastating a judgment as concluding that I was a child of beatniks or communists, or both, or worse. A messy house meant an unconventional, peculiar, even immoral life, a messed up life.
I carried that childhood humiliation, that moment of judgment with me into my own grown-up home-making, and with the exception of an unbreakable habit of leaving my shoes wherever I took them off, and maybe not washing the cookie sheet I used in the evening until the next morning, I made every effort to redeem myself, to erase the label of living in mess, being a mess.

One of my shining moments was when a man I was dating told me he thought one might be able to eat off my floor, and meant it as one of the reasons he thought we were not compatible.
Funny thing though, many of my closest and most idolized friends over time have kept messy houses, my friend Bonnie for example, a fellow Unitarian whose suburban ranch house and later on town house was always cluttered and even unclean. But she was warm and nurturing and artistic and involved in all sorts of causes, raising three daughters by herself, raising them well.

She was raised a Mormon, she told me by a very devout mother in Ogden Utah whose front parlor, which is what she still what she called it, was absolutely immaculate, with its polished wood furniture and blandly tasteful oil paintings. But behind the doors to this public room, the rest of the house was pathologically messy: filled with years and years of yellow newspapers and magazines, stacks and stacks of clippings and piles of papers. No place that wasn’t covered with masses of things—things in various states of disrepair and disuse.

There is a psychological term for this tendency to hoard, to irrationally amass and hang on to extraordinarily large and dense collections of mostly useless items. It is called compulsive hoarding or sometimes Collyer Brothers syndrome, named for both a police and medical case in the spring of 1947, when a New York City patrolman responded to reports of a dead body within a decaying Harlem mansion.

Once the door was broken down, waiting behind it was a virtually impassable blockade, according to reports, of stacked furniture and boxes, parts of a sewing machine, even a wine press. And not one but two bodies of the Collyer brothers, one of whom had suffocated under bundles of newspapers that had toppled over on him. More than 130 pounds of junk was excavated from the whom, all of which raised less than $2,000 at auction.

And we all have heard tales of “cat ladies,” elderly women living alone with dozens of pets, most of them sickly, some of them deceased.
These are the rare and obvious cases of bad mess, observes Eric Abrahamson, a professor of management, who along with writer David Freeman, wrote A Perfect Mess, the hidden benefits of disorder, or how crammed closets, cluttered offices and on the fly planning make the world a better place.

Most messes are not this extreme, they say. And are what give the actual benefits of mess a bad rap--- and professional organizers and container stores a steady and growing income stream. The common assumptions that messy houses for example produce disorganized children with low cognitive skills and diminished futures is simply not true. Actually, they reassure us, messy homes can provide a far more inviting environment than highly ordered ones. Cheerfully cluttered spaces provide ample evidence of and encourage rich, if quirky inner lives, Furthermore, research has recently indicated that over-cleaned, disinfected houses produce more asthma, either from the chemicals in the cleaners themselves or the low level of allergens, so that children don’t develop the necessary and helpful antibodies.

These authors and others also debunk the major contemporary myth around effective leadership. The myth that to be productive, as one blogger noted, one must be inherently organized, able to clean off one’s desk, and have an in-box. The myth that the way to keep on task and achieve high productivity and results is to avoid distraction, plan the day, do the most important tasks first and manage time to the minute.

Messy desks, the source of frustration and more often shame for many of us, turn out to be an advantage for most people. According to one study, people who keep a “very neat” desk spend an average of 36 percent more time looking for things at work than people who said they keep a fairly messy desk, keeping separate piles for urgent, less urgent, and non-urgent documents, reflecting quite naturally the way they work and their changing and fluid priorities.

What we are learning from example after example, from the larger market share that Microsoft has always won with its thrown together technology and wide net marketing vs. Apple’s more focused and narrower vision; to a hospital in Connecticut that decided to respond to patients’ lists of requests in a survey by granting all of them, resulting in 96 percent client satisfaction and an impressive increase in admissions, that flexible leaders and organic organizations might look disorganized but work better and do better. And that less structured, indeed messy leadership is an art that uses detours, delays and dilemmas as teachable moments, with great success.
So what does all of this mean in our context—as an organization, as a faith community that is part of a larger liberal religious movement?

The most obvious learning in all of this is the counsel to put up, even honor a degree of non-pathological physical space messiness. Which right now would be a very good choice as we take back many spaces after years of renting to private schools during the day. You will find evidence of this everywhere as we are emptying, sorting through, and then refurnishing classrooms, changing offices around, inviting new partnerships with a Parents Morning Out Program, possibly an after school program, and just this past week with the UU Service Committee’s Drumbeat for Darfur project.
We can go with the messiness of new and transforming structures of governance and ways we organize ourselves as we match what we want to give to the world with how to get this done. We will be trying out different teams and pods and clusters as we deepen our spiritual lives, celebrate the arts, teach our children and ourselves from the many wells of world wisdom, and go forth to create peace and justice.

On the individual level and as a faith movement, I hope we allow ourselves to follow the admonitions of Rabbi Irwin Kula to embrace the sacred messiness of life, theologically and spiritually.
For example, not only was the way I was taught to approach sermon writing in a mainline Christian seminary out of sync with the more experiental, less scripturally based pattern ofUnitarian Universalist preaching—useful but in need of constant translation and adjustment—but also the systematic approach to theology that became a graduation requirement the year I completed my studies.
In this way of studying God, of looking at meaning and purpose, we were expected to understand and unpack the various and necessary components of a forumula belief system: to have a firm belief about the nature of God the father, of Christ his son, of the Holy Spirit, of salvation, of sin, and about end times. No minister worth his or her weekly pay check and collar could be called until he or she had either accepted an external dogma or at the least had put the finishing touches on one of our own.
Even when I went before the ministerial fellowship committee, there was one member, who after reading through a number of my essays and early sermons, found my spiritual sensibilities, my religious logic wanting. I think she said contradictory, perhaps even deficient.

One day you seem to discover divinity in Bryce Canyon or Yosemite, she pointed out. Another day you find God in the Exodus journey. Still another you seem satisfied with seeing holiness in the face of a homeless person, or in nothing at all-just an existential void. Sometimes you see the world as a place of goodness and wonder. Other times you see it as a place of hopelessness, despair and moral blindness.

Momentarily flummoxed, I remember deciding to just go with a confession. That I was a Unitarian Universalist, born and bred, and quite messy, faith-wise. That my personal faith, my own evolving revelations, are deeply experiental and improvisational and highly influenced by what was happening in my life and in the lives of those around me.

From my reading of our collective faith history, we started as a systematically anti-Calvinist movement: believing that our destinies were not pre-determined, believing that Jesus did not die for all of our sins in perpetuity but rather we were charged with working for our own salvation, believing that God was too good to damn anyone to hell. But with the breaking out of the Judeo Christian box that came with our Transcendentalist forebears in the mid 19th century, we entered into and embraced the glorious chaos of an expansive religious and spiritual universe, one which a single system of theology could not possibly contain.

My hope is that we can find within these walls, times and places to freely share our own messiness—the messiness of our day to day lives—the illnesses, hospitalization of loved ones, loss, unemployment, divorce and other times of crisis, and get comfort and support. To freely share disorder as well as accomplishment , to form community around meaning-making as the rabbi writes, in both the messy and the neat, the triumphs and disappointments, the weaving and the unraveling.
Throwing our spiritual antibacterial potions away. Kissing the dirt. May it be so.

Rev. Marti Keller
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta
404 634-5134