I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be returning to the fold of South Fraser Unitarians after my five-month sabbatical. I have already attended my first official meeting in the congregation and found myself giddy with excitement as the hour approached for the meeting. I am humbled that I was able to take this five-month sabbatical and am grateful to you all for allowing me this time. To say it was a time of deep reflection is an understatement to be sure. One phrase from a conversation with a trusted confidante continues to resonate with me. “Oh, but Samaya, you need to remember that you are a product of your times and to be compassionate with yourself!”
I am the eldest child of two Deaf adults and often had to take on more responsibility than most children my age. This was often difficult for the hearing people that our family interacted with. They simply were not used to talking with a child representing their parents in that manner. I can’t think of a better example than a scene from the movie CODA where Ruby, in her final years of high school, begins interpreting for her brother and father at the union meeting. In that scene she must tell the gathered assembly that she’s not talking for herself but for her father and brother in a forceful manner. Now imagine an eight-year-old, or a five-year old in the same scene back in the 1960s.
This experience coupled with the silent, strong, individualistic worldview that was very prevalent in the days of my childhood became part of the fabric of who I am. The cloak of projecting competency was built at a very young age. I am a product of my times – we all are. We can’t help but be as we move through life. There are experiences that we each have in life that form us and shape us into who we are today.
As Unitarian Universalists one of our principles is the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. Our congregations are the place we gather to explore what it means to be an active, engaged human being in this world and this context so that we can grow into the fullness of who are. The ways in which we learn, explore, reflect, and simply just be together as a community call to us to move into that messy middle where the caterpillar no longer exists, and the butterfly is not yet formed. And to move into the messy middle means that we let go of what no longer serves us – those worldviews that perhaps served us well in a certain time, and now inhibit and curtail our growth.
It’s like that in congregational life as well. As time moves forward coming out of the pandemic, we are being given new opportunities to reform ourselves back together. Some of that reforming process is a letting go of what no longer serves us. At the CUC’s business meeting we learned that the organization called Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice may be folding. Current President, Lynn Armstrong, spoke about the model that CUSJ was formed on as not appealing to the younger generation. We don’t know what will come next – and we have faith that our social justice movement nationally will continue.
My current focus in my personal life as I let go of what no longer serves me and can potentially create harm and an unwelcoming space for some is to stop using ableist language. Oh my, that’s hard! It slips out so easily in so many ways. Think about it! We “step up”, we talk about time “marching forward”, we use the wrong pronouns. I’ve done it so many times. We’ve all done it.
At first, I’d say a word, realized it was the wrong word to say, and then try and move on as if nothing happened. Over time, I got to the point where I would correct it to the group when I realized that I said a particular word I was trying to change. Now – most of the time – I can stop myself before I’ve said the word and replace it with another. It’s uncomfortable, messy even. Certainly, a time of trial and error. It’s hard work because the last thing I want to do is to cause harm to another – and I’m so hard on myself in this area, which is why we need to do this work with all the compassion we can muster for ourselves.
What are you letting go of so that new growth can occur? As you explore this question, I invite you to hold yourself with tender compassion. Letting go of that which comes from being a product of that time into being a product of this time.