Finding Meaning in the Mundane

For many of us this Sunday service is where we come together to examine what gives our lives worth and to make sense of the seemingly incomprehensible events around us. Our time in this sanctuary is not mundane; it is a special time where we wrestle with many of the fundamental questions about life.

Now the mundane aspects of our lives are the making of breakfasts which we ate this morning, how we traveled here, and the writing of checks for the bills we’ll pay tonight. Our lives are made up of these ordinary but necessary tasks of living but I believe with a deeper understanding we can find greater meaning from these seemingly unfulfilling tasks. [W]e must create the value that gives meaning to our lives.

For me, religion is about connectedness, about our relationships with ourselves, our local community and the world at large. It is these relationships that give my life worth and I explore these relationships by taking a deeper view of my everyday actions and how these are driven by my values. Rev. John Marsh had a wonderful blessing which captures this sentiment: “As we sit down to enjoy this food, let us remember that this food is brought to us through the labors and struggles of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, may we wish the same for them as we ourselves have today.”

This brings a connection on the global scale to people we will never know but we depend upon daily. This gives us such a greater appreciation for the meal we often eat while absorbed in some other activity. Just by having this awareness of the origins of our food already provides a human connection and a wonder for our existence.

This is a great untapped area of financial influence we all have. Even if only a small percentage of our purchases buy products resulting in improvement in our society this would have a profound impact. Our religious society has taken steps in this direction with the Fair Trade coffee we drink after the service in our coffee hour. Now coffee may be just one product but it is the second biggest import to the U.S. after oil therefore the Fair Trade of coffee is already having a significant positive impact on a global scale…

If we think in greater depth about these purchases beyond the price, quality and style of the product to the conditions of the workers involved, the environmental impact, and the ethics of the company involved this gives far greater meaning to many of our simplest actions.

A friend of mine once said “I like paying my taxes because I feel I’m contributing to a civilized society.” Now I don’t think he represents a typical view but I really like the idea. Can you imagine if every time we bought something we felt we were contributing to a better world?

This socially responsible buying is only possible because we have choices in our product decisions. There are wonderful organizations such as COOP America and San Francisco-based Global Exchange who provides plenty of information about socially responsible products. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is an organization of many religious groups, including our own, and is one of the most important resources for activism today. It is involved on such issues as access to health care, opposing sweat-shops, human rights, environmental justice, violence in our society and global poverty…just our presence is all that is required to make a difference in this world whether it is to correct an injustice, to comfort a friend or inspire others. It is often the most mundane act that can have the most profound effects.

I firmly believe to truly find meaning in the mundane we need to open our mind to the wonder and depth of the world around us and take creative actions consistent with our highest values. Even our most ordinary actions can have an impact both on ourselves and our community far beyond what we can ever imagine. Being alive is a gift from nature but living a meaningful life is a gift to [ourselves]. Amen, and may it be so.

This is an excerpt from a sermon delivered at First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, CA