WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Love Is Showing Up

By Melissa Jeter

“...When the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry….”
Rev. Howard Thurman

You are not alone. I read these words in an article about grieving the death of estranged parents. While there are many people who died alone from Covid, there may be just as many people dying estranged from family members. I am not alone.

I read that there may be all kinds of reasons that people are estranged from their parents. I was tired of parenting my parents. I was asked to choose sides in their divorce and I chose me. That choice left me to build a new foundation.

The odd thing about the deaths of both parents is that they have been out of my life for more than twenty years—as long as I have been a Unitarian Universalist. I needed a community of people. Relationships can be healing and therapeutic. I found people who sewed, knitted, and sang. Few people close to my family have been to church with me: my maternal aunt and my high school mentor. Both Black women are now deceased.

I keep questioning whether it’s grief that I feel now, when I was cut off so long ago. I am grateful for every condolence post or card and basket of food that this community has given me. It really has been a beacon of light for me. By the light of this community, I grew; got my first pets. I have been able to put my ideas into words and share them out loud. This faith has been my home.

Two Black women pack toys into a box, as though preparing a donation

I recall one of the last times I spoke to my mother at Christmas. I told her that I would be spending Christmas Eve with a family going through homelessness. I said that we would cook dinner with them, stay overnight, and give them gifts in the morning. My mother said that this was something she could not be doing

She could not—and therein lies the difference. I could show up to extend love and kindness to strangers.

My heart has been broken open again and it hurts even while it beats. Showing up, serving, forgetting myself: Love showed up in me, for people with no home at Christmas, and it healed a few worlds. Every time someone showed up for me, I learned that love is greater than skin deep.


Spirit of Life and Love, let us show up for those whose relationships are ruptured, and for the adult children who have the hard task of creating boundaries so that they may seek, find, and live in loving communities. For wherever the kindness to strangers shows up, there is your mercy and your grace. So be it. Amen. Àṣẹ.

About the Author

Melissa Jeter

Melissa Jeter (she/her/hers) is currently a full-time seminarian at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio as well as a full-time librarian in Toledo, Ohio. Melissa is the student minister affiliated with First Unitarian Church of Toledo.


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