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We are grateful to everyone who has opened their arms and hearts to us by sharing these powerful and inspiring stories. Thank you.
Music gives me hope because it shows that there are more people out there with my beliefs using their gifts to unite people in a world where everyone can seem so separate from one another.
My brother-in-law, whom I've known since college days, has early-onset Alzheimer's and frontal lobe dementia. He's sixty-six years old and, essentially, has checked out. He's not in his body any more. It is like having a friend die, but he's still here. I rejoice in his life and the good times we shared and know that some day, something as awful or worse could well happen to any of us. It makes me rejoice in every day that it hasn't happened yet!
—Kenneth Harris, Hugo, Minnesota
Thirty-nine years ago, my former husband and I adopted a 6-month-old girl, Carrie, to join her two birth brothers. Adoption is challenging, and she was a challenge from the get go, leaving home at 16, having a baby out of wedlock, always living on the economic edge. When our first granddaughter, Chalita, died of child abuse at age 2 at the hands of a teen sitter, our world tumbled in on us. Then there were two more boys, born out of wedlock. All along, my daughter's own brand of faith kept all of us going. My special blessing is that she'll walk to receive her Master's in Special Education June 20, 2010, and the only gift she wants is that her whole adoptive family be there, along with our grandsons, ages 11 and 16! Aren't we the lucky ones after all, to know that in giving out of scarcity, we yet will receive.
—Deborah Gessaman, Tucson, Arizona
I have always been a Methodist or Congregationalist. The very first time my husband, Don and I entered the front door of Granite Peak Uniterian Universalist Congregation (GPUUC) in 2003, I had never felt such love and warmth from any Church in my past life. We feel very fortunate to be GPUUC members.
—Dolores Hams, Prescott, Arizona
Becoming a Unitarian Universalist some 10 years ago was the most emotional, spiritual, physically moving experience of my life. Having been raised in an Evangelical Lutheran Church, it was overwhelming to find that I was accepted without conditions and loved for just being me. There was no need for guilt or feeling of inadequacy. I knew that being part of the interconnecting web of life was all that was necessary. The truth so many search for or claim to have found is within each of us and how we let our life reflect that truth as part of this miraculous universe is all that matters. This feeling of inclusiveness, unconditional love and sharing all for the greater good is the essence of UUism and to it I am bound eternally.
—Gay Phillips, Austin, Texas
I have been going to the Kokomo fellowship for over 10 years now. I don't know why I first attended, as I hadn't been to a church in years and knew nothing about Unitarian Universalists. However, after that first day, I have attended almost every service. It was a breath of fresh air to meet people who valued a rational outlook on religion, something that was very rare in this small town. Since that time, I have met people from many different religious backgrounds as they have come through our fellowship. I wouldn't miss it for the world!
—Stephen Ewbank, Kokomo, Indiana
I attended the Unitarian church before the merger and was dedicated there as an infant. I belonged to a relatively conservative and dysfunctional home, but I feel that what I learned in Sunday School "saved my life," as I wrote in a lay sermon in recent years. The idea that I had the right to choose my own beliefs gave me the feeling of empowerment and the appreciation of nature made me feel love was all around even when people didn't express it. When times were rough, I had this to hold on to.
Later, I felt the support of a community to help me overcome shyness and live my values to make the world a better place to live and have received awards for my work. It is a continued support for living out my values in a changing world. I also feel it is a blessing to be in a multicultural community where I can learn and grow. Life will never be boring here.
—Joyce Dowling, Brandywine, Maryland
UUism has meant two things: 1. The ability to pursue faith-based social justice. 2. The recognition of atheist-humanism as a valid religious belief.
—Charlie Reed, Huntington Beach, California
As a fourth generation Unitarian—my faith as a Unitarian Universalist (UU) has never been stronger as it has since my affiliation with my current church, Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church (MVUC). Here we live by our covenant, "Love is the teaching of this church, it's quest for truth is our daily task." At MVUC we really are a family, working together for the common cause of spirituality, social justice and the compassion of our fellow members and outreaching to others. The MVUC team operates like the TV commercial for the "Verizon Wireless Support Network"—where they have truly demonstrated that they can be there anytime and anywhere. I'm blessed to enjoy my worship with my "Verizon Wireless Network!"
—Vince Patton, Alexandria, Virginia
In 1933 my wife and I moved to Detroit when I got a job with Chrysler. We could not find the Unitarian Church. It turned out their Church had been sold and they had merged with the Universalist Church. We were Unitarian-Universalist and sent delegates to the General Assemblies of both denominations. In 1961 my wife was a delegate to the Universalists. I was not a delegate, but was so anxious to see the merger voted on that I arranged to go to Syracuse on business and listened in on many of the discussions and joint meetings. As the first President of the Michigan District I learned to have a good opinion of the Universalists.
—William Thompson, Phoenix, Arizona
After being raised in a dogmatic Christian church, UU opened my eyes to the realities of life.
—Evan Armstrong, Spokane, Washington
I remember how getting pregnant, being pregnant and then having my son felt like such a spiritual journey for me. I couldn't explain it in words, but felt compelled to find something, somewhere to channel these feelings I'd had and kept thinking about trying church again. But although my church upbringing was not horrible, and in truth I still felt personally tied to Christianity, the actual church did not work for me.
So my curiosity about UU was peaked—especially since my husband and I had had a Unitarian marry us. As we put together that ceremony, we kept thinking, "Now THIS is us!" The bottom line is that the UUism is about deeds not creeds, so my own personal journey, beliefs and growth as a person never feel compromised by "the Church."
—Anonymous, Baltimore, Maryland
Just about the time of the merger, my then girlfriend and I met with Orloff Miller about starting a college group at Boston University. Orloff and I met again on a committee working on material to be sent to college students throughout North America. Even later I worked with him when I was circulation manager for a quarterly magazine, The Liberal Context. In the early 2000s I met him again outside Frankfurt, Germany, where he had retired.
—Dan Tokar, Prescott, Arizona
While going through a painful divorce, I lived in an un-winterized cottage and worked as a landscaper on Nantucket Island. On my day off, Sunday, I sought out emotional support at the Unitarian Universalist Old South Church. I sat next to a wonderful older woman who instantly took me under her wing. Amazingly (or not) I also reunited with a friend from my high school days in Philadelphia whom I hadn't seen in 40 years. The new young woman minister, Jennifer Brooks, assured me that no matter where I ended up, I could always consider the Nantucket church my spiritual home. Although I have happily settled in Florida and joined UU St. Petersburg, I still feel a strong connection with my spiritual home.
—Laurie Clement, Tierra Verde, Florida
UU has been the one constant thread throughout my life. I was christened (yes, “christened”) by the Rev. Dr. Pierce at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC, in 1934. Then after meeting my future wife there in the LRY (the LRY were UUs before the larger merger), we were married by Rev. A. Powel Davies (no charge-on his birthday) June 5th, 1954. We were active in half a dozen UUs and I am now on the Committee on Ministry of our local Gainesville Fellowship.
—Denis A. Whittaker, Gainesville, Florida
We arrived at BUC (Birmingham Unitarian Church) with four young boys to try Unitarian Universalism on what turned out to be the first Sunday of Bob Marshall's long ministry there. As we drove away after the service, my wife asked me what I thought. I answered truthfully: "It's the first time I ever felt at home in a church." Then I turned to the kids in the back seat and asked, "What did you boys do in church today?" Paul, 9, piped up: "We made graven images." My wife and I roared. That was the start, for me, of more than 40 years in the congregation.
Unfortunately, that marriage came to an end, but after a few years, I met a wonderful woman, new to the congregation, who became my loving wife and partner—and congregational leader—for more than two decades until her death. From age 10 I was a much-doubting Christian. At BUC, surrounded by men and women seeking useful, moral answers for this life, not salvation in a promised future beyond the grave, I became a practicing, committed humanist ready to grapple with whatever came. That hasn't changed, through the dismal period between marriages and the dark months after the love of my life died. As I now approach 90, I'm prepared for whatever comes, including that final exit. Unitarian Universalism has given me that strength, and a lasting faith in myself, my lover and my children. One cannot ask for more.
—C. Edwin Howard, East Lansing, Michigan
My son, Sean Spivey, was 10 and in the Boy Scouts and saw the Religion in Life patch with the Chalice. He came home and asked "Mom, what is that? Whatever it is, I'm that!" We found the UU Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Rev. Kit Howell, camp at The Mountain and more. One of the gifts of being a UU is honoring young people. Sean gave complete services, including the sermon, was a delegate to GA, met Rev. John Buehrens, and was mentioned in a UU World column shortly thereafter. Sean had cystic fibrosis and died at 16. Unitarian Universalism was a profound blessing to him and to me.
—Mary Teslow, Franklin, North Carolina
I was first introduced to UU in my mid-20s, and was glad to find a place where questions were encouraged and diversity celebrated. When I married and had children, I wanted to bring them to a place where no question would be ridiculed and they could have the opportunity to choose their own paths. They are young adults now, one still UU and one following her heart in another direction. I am glad they are free to follow their paths in the direction their spirits lead.
For myself, my involvement with my church community has gifted me with leadership experience, confidence in many undertakings, and a loving community of supportive seekers who celebrate the path I follow, even when it differs from their own. I am learning to give my "elevator speech" and am happy when it results in introducing someone new to the freedom and responsibility I have found in this denomination.
—Suzi Skutley, Santa Paula, California
This year, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth, MA, celebrates its 50th birthday. So our congregation is almost the same age as the Unitarian Universalist Association. In recent weeks, we've been reviewing the history of liberal religion during the last five decades. Fellowship members have talked about the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We've reflected on the women's rights movement, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement. We've looked at peace and human rights concerns. Again and again, we've been impressed by the good work of Unitarian Universalists, in every region in North America. Our congregation is part of the story but we're only part. We're a "Fair Share" society and we're delighted that we've been able to join with others to affirm the principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Thank you! We look forward to the UUA's 50th birthday party, in the year 2011.
—Robert Murphy, Falmouth, Massachusetts
More than 35 years ago, after a life spent as an unchurched agnostic humanist (or so I later realized), I "found religion" in a small Unitarian fellowship in Arlington, Texas. My wife and I were parents of a preschooler; and in the Bible Belt we felt the need for some sort of religious affiliation. We were pointed to UU by a Jewish family we knew, and have been UUs ever since. (I am in my fourth term as congregation president.) I do not know what we would have done without UU—it's the center of our lives and a major part of our identity.
—John I. Blair, Arlington, Texas
For me, the first time I knew I was at home in this faith was during a service at All Souls Unitarian Church in DC—I don’t remember that service. But I stood surrounded by a multi-racial, multi-cultural congregation. We were Christian and humanist, atheist and Buddhist called to worship and work together that we might heal our poor broken city. David Eaton, their minister, inspired me; the choir lifted me.
That day at All Souls, I signed the book. Now, I realize how much this religion has given me that I was yearning for back then. My life was shallow and I knew it. I had friends and a condo, and vacations every year. I ate at L’Auberg Chez Francois, took in plays and concerts at the Kennedy Center. But homeless people lay on grates in front of my office. The Civil Rights movement had stalled and re-segregation was already well underway. And we knew the environment was in serious trouble.
My religion took me on a journey home, home to where my soul longed to be. Oh, it wasn’t a safe harbor I found that day. Unitarian Universalism has led me over and over again into uncharted waters. It called me to leave my nice secure job with a comfortable, fully funded pension for the challenging and risk-filled life of a minister. The members of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore,where my husband and I were called to do co-ministry, challenged us to do something about GLBT rights. I learned first hand there about the shameful way many Americans treat transgendered people.
This faith still challenges me today, fifteen years later. This year doing interim ministry at Paint Branch UU Church has challenged me to eat more humanely and lightly on the food chain. My husband and I have decided to stop signing civil marriage licenses. I’m sixty-five, but life is still exhilarating. And scary. And good.
Adapted from A Saving Faith, a sermon presented at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church on May 17, 2009, The Rev. Phyllis L. Hubbell, Interim Co-minister.
—Phyllis Hubbell, Essex, Maryland
I have been a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) for over a decade. It amazes me how much a church without walls can shape a person's spirituality and nourish it so much. UUism allows me to be who I am and in a world that constantly asks us to conform, being accepted as I am and valued just because I am reminds me not to judge. I try to bring to every relationship with people (and with all creation) what UUism has given me. Alhamdulillah!
—Anonymous, Woodstock Valley, Connecticut
My partner and I had been looking for a church to attend, and a religion to call our own. We wanted to have spirituality in our lives, but always felt like we were not welcome or accepted in other religions. When we stumbled upon the UUA website, we both nearly cried from happiness. We have shared our new religion with everyone we know, and it has made us feel even more complete and happy. We no longer feel as if religion is something that we cannot partake in, and are extremely excited to become active members in our UUA community.
—Anonymous, Newport, Kentucky
My story for UUA: Thank you UUA for giving me a spiritual home (at last). I found you in a very round-about way. A friend suggested I visit the web site called beliefnet.com and while there I chanced upon the Belief-O-Matic test. This test, asks a series of questions about your views and then matches you with a religious organization which matches these views (they hope—and with many disclaimers). The results of the Belief-O-Matic were: Neo-Pagan 100%; Unitarian Universalist 97%. I didn’t know were to go for the Neo-Pagans but a Pagan acquaintance once told me about UUA. At the time I was being hassled by people as to “what church I belonged to.” Some of this harassment was fairly strong. The Pagan told me; she would say she belonged to the UUA when people asked. I did some research on the web and found out where the nearest UUA was. After checking out the beliefnet I finally visited the NRUU in Beckley, WV.
What an astonishing and very, very pleasant surprise it was. This was where I belonged! I loved (love) the people and the freedom to believe what was true to me, was incredible.
Each week gets better; I can’t wait till Sunday. And by the way a Pagan group meets in the same place right after the UUA service. Wow! One stop shopping!
I have read the Pocket Guide, and am signed up for the Summer Institute to learn more. One of my goals as a UUA is to learn and practice tolerance. I want to be understanding and non-judgmental of the people who have such a hard time allowing me my beliefs. Thanks again for a wonderful home.
—Sheila Hinchliffe, Age 65, Bluefield/Princeton, West Virginia
When I stumbled into recovery from alcoholism I ran head-on into a lot of religious language that was different from my upbringing in the UU [Unitarian Universalist] church. I was a rampant atheist and was not quite sure what to do. Fortunately I grew up with the curriculum, The Church Across the Street. From this I understood that as a UU I could comfortably go anywhere theologically with an open mind. This allowed me to stay put in recovery and engage the religious issues that arose with sobriety. Eventually I became enamored with the strength and grace and religious language and moved closer to a Christian center within my UU faith. I'm now a candidate for UU ministry. It was only the liberal openness of my UU Sunday school learning that allowed me to move in this direction.
—David Ashcraft, Richmond, Indiana
My UU journey began shortly after the sudden death of my partner of 18 years at the hands of a drunk driver. In loneliness and isolation, I became a workaholic....always on the run. Remembering the GLBT social events at a UU [church], I started to go to services. I found a SAFE place. It has saved me life, and given me meaning and purpose.
Joining First Church just over 2 years ago after many years in Christian church memberships, my spirituality and awareness has grown beyond all expectations. Our home has changed to a more "fair trade" procurement of goods and foods and "green" in every way possible in our use of the resources we need. I am grateful to all my UU resources for teaching me the value of walking my walk in these troubled times.
—Bill Fry, Portland, Oregon
My son, who had always been kind of wild, wrapped his car around a telephone pole a week after his high school graduation. For several days he was in intensive care, on a respirator and in and out of a coma. When he was awake, the only way he could communicate was through facial expressions and squeezing our hands. After a few days, with his hands tied to the bed and his eyes barely open, he signaled that he wanted to write. As I stood there with our minister, my son wrote, “I want to get out of here. I want to go to my church.” Not only was I overjoyed that the brain injury did not take away his ability to write, but I was amazed that his attachment to the church was that deep. My whole family has been blessed with a loving church community.
P.S. At the time, I had been a member of the UU Congregation of Montclair for 16 years. Since that time, I moved to Summit and married a long-time member of the Summit Unitarian Church. Now I'm blessed with another loving church community and a wonderful UU husband.
—Carol Conger Miller, Summit, New Jersey
UC [Evanston] is my beloved community. It is not only a place where I work, but a way of life—it has become a home, filled with people who are dear to me. I have seen babies born, young adults graduate, elderly friends die—an ever evolving community—a circle of life.
After 20 years in the civic world as Associate Director of a major civic organization in Chicago, and later as a Chamber of Commerce Director, I was ready to embark on a new career. I wanted to give of my time and talent where I felt I could make difference in the lives of others. UCE has become that place. As a matter of fact—was that place upon entering the doors.
In 2001 my son was about to enter high school. I wanted to be in Evanston—to be closer to home—to be there when Ryan came home from school. After some months of searching I read an ad in the Evanston Review. I had never thought of working at a church, but the ad spoke to my experience...and my calling began.
My first meeting was with Peggy Boccard, who was then Acting Church Manager. The position as Peggy explained it seemed to be a perfect fit. Subsequently, I met with Rev. Pescan and Rev. Tyndall and with Martha Holman, Board Chair. I knew this place and these people were for me.
One week after accepting the job my older brother Lloyd died suddenly in an accident. My world was turned upside down. This community surrounded me with love and support as I began my work here. One year later as Rev. Pescan and Rev. Sinnamon sat at my side, I took the call from my nephew telling me that my father had died of a heart attack. These two events were turning points. I was at the place I needed to be. I began to fully realize that we are a community as a people. That we join together to share the common losses and common joys of life. I began to understand that I was a Unitarian many years before I knew what a Unitarian is.
At UCE I work with people who go beyond the call of duty, who are eager to do their very best for this church. The staff is devoted—leadership gives their time and talent, not to promote their company name, but to promote a faith and a church they believe in. It is a nurturing community. I am proud to be a part of this place and of this work.
When I had to call 911 to send an ambulance because my husband couldn't get up we were flooded with love and concern from our congregation plus other friends.
—Sarah Tate, West Palm Beach, Florida
Truly a blessing, one of our foster children returned to our home on 10/20 and he recently had an evaluation finding him “the happiest boy we’ve ever seen,” what a joy. We expect his two brothers to join him here in their forever home in the coming months and fingers crossed, we plan adoptions in 2009. We are truly blessed.
—Patricia Link, Ripley, West Virginia
In August, 1995, a few weeks into a new ministry in Virginia, away from all of the support systems of friends and family, our 20 year old daughter came to visit us in our new home. Out one night with friends from university, on her way home to us the car she was riding in was hit head-on by a truck driven by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the Interstate. In an instant, three of the four young people in the car were killed, including our Ericka.
And so began a journey of relying on the "kindness of strangers" who were not really strangers because they were fellow UUs.
We needed information: I had been in the new community such a short time I didn't even know where a funeral home was.
We needed comfort: into our lives poured ministerial colleagues who came unbidden and unfamiliar, with ready shoulders for tears and appropriate words of solace.
We needed community: not only the congregation I was serving but members from all of the surrounding UU congregations were there at the memorial service, standing with us in our time of need, knowing only that we shared a common spiritual path.
We needed faith: a younger colleague who had known our daughter brought the reminders of our liberal religious tradition that can encourage us even in the face of what seems like ultimate loss.
So, we never stood alone, but were embraced by a community of faith. For that, we will always feel blessed.
—Rev. Dr. Randolph W. B. Becker, Key West, Florida
I am so grateful for my friends at UU Waco, Texas, for my supportive friends, and my beautiful grandgrrlz.
My mother, who lives with me, has dementia and is declining rapidly. I work full time and run my own business part time, leaving little time to care for her. A dear friend of mine moved into my home in September and has not only watched over my mother, but continually helps me to work through the various emotions I'm experiencing while watching my mom deteriorate. I'm extremely grateful for her support and the support of my brother. My friend had been out of the country and out of touch for quite some time prior to the onset of my mother's illness. She resurfaced and needed a place to stay right around the time my mother was diagnosed. I believe that God brought her back into my life so that we could help each other.
My work as a Religious Educator is a blessing in my life. To be challenged to be ever better in service to a congregation and our faith, and to learn and grow in the company of seekers has been a true gift.
—Anne Bancroft, Newton, Massachusetts
I am blessed to be part of a faith community that opened my eyes up to the realities of racism. I have been personally transformed by this work and am grateful for the leadership of Unitarian Universalism to continue to challenge me to grow and deepen.
My daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer two years ago. She has been in remission for more than a year. That is my greatest blessing.
My most recent and deeply felt blessing is my recent marriage with my partner. We've been friends for over 20 years, and fell in love 6 years ago. He's been a true blessing in my life.
—Kathy Partridge, Longmont, Colorado
Our greatest blessing is our marriage; it is our sanctuary, our sacred space, our refuge, our crowning glory, within which we are both free to grow and learn and become the best selves we have yet been. All of this, in the context of an open and free search for meaning, in the UU tradition. We are so grateful!
From a very young age in my life I have learned to look at every event in my life to be with purpose and therefore give thanks no matter if it brought joy or sadness at that particular time to me.
With such an out look in life I have had many memorable events in my life for which I have been very grateful. I guess it all depends what one considers to be a blessing for one's self. To me everything counts a blessing. I like to believe that every little thing teaches me something that should learn and know, and I believe learning from life's experiences are so rich in essence to one's life.
I had learned to hold on to positive thoughts and be optimistic about matters concerning life and living. I am a believer in the source of goodness that enriches life and provides for spiritual value to life and living. These systems of beliefs I acquired from my father who was a Buddhist, my mother who was a Roman Catholic and I who turned out to be an Anglican since my teens.
As an Anglican Priest serving the church in Sri Lanka I had great joy in ministering to different congregations in the urban and rural areas. Life was full of eventful experiences and with my involvement with people, and working for and with people, my life became a blessing to me as well to many with whom I came in contact. It was my thirst for truth and meaning in life that I asked many questions about beliefs traditions and practices that took me places and eventually to know about Unitarian Universalism.
It is eight years since I have come to know Unitarian and Universalism. I have had a lot of hurdles to conquer and [in] every event, it has been people who have been there for me. Who would ever dream that Nihal from Srilanka a priest of the Anglican church leave his vocation and country to live [among] strangers in another country for twenty years, looking a liberating faith—then come to know the Unitarian Universalist in Dumaguete City in the Philippines and after eight years be elected as the President of the UU church of the Philippines? Because of the friendship with UUs in the United States get all his legal problems resolved with immigration and tour the states all in one year—2008? Isn’t this a blessing?
Yes, it depends how one looks, at what a blessing must look like. What is important to me is that I had a life story behind the blessing. I had worked hard my way with a positive outlook in life, sincere to myself, responsible, accountable, looking for ways to be of help to others rather than immersing too much with my own wants and needs. What good one does to others [returns] a blessing. I guess this must have been the reason why I consider [myself] to be blessed. Let us be a blessing to others! Thank you.
—Nihal Attanayake, Dumaguete City, Philippines
I've been blessed with the gift of age. Who knew? It's the only way I can think of to put it. I have less self-doubt; which frees me to move forward with plans and ideas that hold value for me. At 58, though aches and pains have begun to creep into my body, I have more energy, maybe it's more energy of the psyche, than I have had in quite some time. I'm not as afraid to step beyond my comfort zone. Though retired after 25 years at a job of physical labor, I have taken a part-time job as a newspaper clerk, hoping to stretch my mind and skills. I am secure in my friendships and am learning to better cultivate and nurture them. This blessing of age is a fairly new revelation for me, so thank you for letting me try to articulate my newest sense of self.
—Kay H. Wilson, Waco, Texas
First I would like to say that some of our greatest blessings are those of which we cannot speak. That being said, I offer the following story as a special blessing received this holiday season:
I hate the computer but it can be a wonderful thing.
Throughout my life, Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house was a great family affair. ‘Over the river and through the woods’ described our annual trek to the country home that my grandmother shared with her sister. She and my great-aunt were tiny little dynamos in complete command of the kitchen, hefting 25-pound turkeys and restaurant-sized soup pots.
Dinner was in the basement and everyone had a role. Children set the tables, men brought down the food and, after dinner, the women and teens washed the dishes. Then, the men and teens went outside to play football, the women caught up on family life, and the children were allowed to open the Treasure Box under the basement stairs. The Treasure Box had all manner of small toys and games just right for little hands.
Grandma’s Treasure Box also contained some well-worn Little Golden Books. I would race to the box and rummage around for my favorite book about an old lady with a feather in her hat and a puffin. We all grew older, each assuming our roles in turn. The Treasure Box and the book became one of my favorite childhood memories.
Grandma and Aunt Ann died several years ago and I’ve been trying ever since to find that Little Golden Book. With only those few key words (feather, hat, puffin), I searched dozens of websites and hundreds of titles, unsuccessfully. Recently, I posted a note on a new site and received an email the very next morning with the title and author of the book from an anonymous ‘friend’. Unfortunately, Lucky Mrs. Ticklefeather is one of the more collectible Little Golden Books out of print and, having lost my job recently, I couldn’t afford any of the used copies I found online. Besides, I remembered that I loved the book, but I didn’t remember the actual story. I certainly couldn’t afford to buy a sentiment that I might see differently through adult eyes.
Two days before Christmas, I wistfully relayed the story to my daughter and her husband over a birthday dinner. I told them how excited I was that, at last, I finally knew the title of the book! Some day, maybe….end of story.
On Christmas Eve, my daughter couldn’t wait for me to open my gifts; she was as restless and excited as a child on Christmas morning. She hurried me through a pile of riches and then, eyes aglow, bursting with anticipation, handed me her final package. There was Mrs. Ticklefeather’s smiling face on a vintage copy of the story! It really didn’t matter anymore what the theme of the story was; my daughter’s gift of love was the priceless treasure. I only wished I could show my grandmother, “Look, Grandma, Mrs. Ticklefeather!”
As soon as my guests left for the evening, I snuggled in to read my beloved childhood story. Mrs. Ticklefeather longs for a sunflower to put in a beautiful vase in her home. Her dear companion Paul, the puffin, sneaks out that night to get her one, and encounters danger along the way. A resourceful police officer saves the day, and Mrs. Ticklefeather and Paul (sunflower in his beak) are reunited. The story is about love and devotion, giving and peacemaking.
Computers can isolate us, or they can bring us together in ways we never imagine. No wonder Lucky Mrs. Ticklefeather was a favorite story, and how lucky I am to have been blessed by the generations both before me and after me.
—Dianne Farrelly, Lilburn, Georgia
While visiting my daughter and her family in Eugene, OR over Thanksgiving, we worked at the Food for Lane County, OR, facility, where they were serving breakfast and dinner, and also offered gently-used clothing and toys. My eight-year-old grandson helped out, as well. This truly enhanced our own Thanksgiving celebration. It also gave me a chance to compare their services with those of Respond Now, an emergency help agency in Chicago Heights, IL, where I work on Wednesdays. We are getting about 35% more people needing help over last year's numbers.
—Suzanne Brown, Park Forest, Illinois
The Unitarian Church of Hot Springs has helped me embrace my spirituality. The loving family at UUCHS adopted me and helped me to nurture my self-image, gain confidence and find a safe rest with an inner peace I had never known.
Growing up, I endured a childhood of painful abuse based on the religious beliefs of my parents. I was threatened if I talked to people, learned to distrust people, and was punished if I showed that I felt anything. My response to my childhood was to reject the Father God of my parents completely. For many years I denied my own spirituality, a reminder of my pain. Help was unaffordable, so the long road of recovery has been slow and intensely personal for me. When doing research into Transcendentalism, I liked what I found out about Unitarian-Universalists. Shortly after, I literally drove by The Unitarian Church of Hot Springs and decided to try it out.
It didn't take me long to figure out that finding this loving community of wonderful people was the best thing had ever happened to me. They have been such a blessing, bringing my soul back to life, encouraging me to strive to do and be things I'd long ago given up, supporting me with a depth of caring I'd never experienced before. Simply put, living their covenant: “Love is the doctrine of this church.”
What a blessing to belong to a community that supports and loves each other!
—Dori Braithwaite, Benton, Arkansas
I was blessed earlier this year by being able to witness my mother's passage from this life to the great beyond. She blessed me with a new perspective on death and illness. I came to realize that we come into this world with no possessions and that we exit that way as well. Therefore, all that we think we possess is an illusion. My mother's true essence came through brighter as her body became more frail. Her faith in the creator, whatever that is, helped her go in peace.
—Doug McCusker, Burke, Virginia
Note: These stories are contributed by individual Unitarian Universalists; the content remains the opinion or statement of the contributor.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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