Free and Responsible Beliefs

I’m curious to know what you believe… about what is the Think about that for a moment. And if you’re wondering what I mean exactly, I leave it to each of you to interpret as you choose. What do you believe is the best food? [Allow a few moments for reflection.] And when you have one in mind, raise your hand. [When you see a bunch of hands, continue.]

Now, in a moment I’m going to scan slowly across the room, and when I’m pointing in your direction, if you feel comfortable, call out your best food. [Put your palms together, arms outstretched like a big pointer, and start at one side and slowly scan the room. If possible, repeat what you hear. There may be too many, too fast, to do this successfully.]

Wow! What a diversity of beliefs! Not surprising! So now I’m wondering what one word you would use to describe your best food. Maybe it’s sweet or crunchy or healthy or local or creamy…. And I’m going to ask just a few of you to share your one word. [Ask for hands, especially of children, and see if you can draw out a diversity of adjectives.] Wow! So many different words—different qualities—of foods that you believe are the best foods!

Now, I believe that for many of you—perhaps even most of you—that the food you believe is the best today, will not be what you believe is best for the rest of your life. I believe it’s very possible for that best food to get knocked from its throne and replaced by a different food—a new best food. So what has to happen in order for this to occur? What must you do? [Be prepared for naysaying children who believe they’ll always have the yummy treat in their mind as best! Entertain the responses you receive, which will likely include trying it. Ask what would get you to try it in the first place. Remind them of things like seeing the food and concluding it looks good; smelling the food and deciding it smells yummy; and getting a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member along with some encouragement to try it. Remind them that if you taste something and it’s yucky, you can always spit it out. See if some are familiar with a “No, Thank You” bite, which some adults expect of a child who’s encouraged to try something for the first time.]

We, as Unitarian Universalists really value the freedom each of us has to believe about not just things like what we think is the best food, but about bigger things like: Why are we here? What’s the meaning of our lives? What’s most important and valuable to me? How can I be most true to the purpose I see for my being alive in the world? We affirm the freedom to believe what we choose about these things, but we also have the responsibility to work out those beliefs with thought and care. Can we believe anything we want? [Shake head no.] But we do believe what our hearts and minds tell us is right.

Thank goodness we don’t have to do this all by ourselves! No, we are fortunate to have one another to help us try out our beliefs. It’s like we can offer one another “tastes” of ideas that feel true. It’s like, together, we each bring our best food to share at a pot-luck. We each bring our treasured beliefs to share with one another here in our congregation. We can put several on our plate—first the ones we’re confident we like, and then we can maybe go back for seconds, for a chance to try something that our friends recommend as really yummy. And sometimes those new, yummy tastes will become favorites.

So children, as you go forth, I encourage you to share with each other what you believe is the best food… and perhaps even more fun: what you believe is the worst!