A Soul Matters facilitator once shared, “I guess after plan A fails, I need to remember there’s still a whole alphabet out there.”
It’s not just our friend who needs help remembering that there’s a whole alphabet out there; it’s all of us. We all get stuck in wanting things a certain way. We all, at times, focus so intently on the few things going wrong that we completely miss the dozens of things going right. Tunnel vision too often takes over our days.
For Unitarian Universalists, this is the central tragedy of the human condition. We respect those who frame the human problem as sin or twisted wills, but it’s nearsightedness that our religion is most worried about. Which is also why blessings are so central to our faith. They are, for us, a way of widening our view.
Unlike some of our brother and sister religions, we don’t say a lot of blessings. Instead we point to them. For us, blessings are not something we give to each other as much as they involve us helping each other notice all that’s already been given to us. And it’s not just about widening our view to see the gifts themselves; it’s about widening our understanding of life. Pointing to blessings repairs our relationship with life, allowing us to see it as generous not threatening, full of grace-filled surprises not dominated by a cold indifference.
And there’s a lot at stake when it comes to this wider view. When the world seems stingy to us, we are stingy to others. Those who feel blessed have little trouble passing blessings on. Our tradition takes this calculus seriously. As UU minister, Rev. Don Wheat, puts it “The religious person is a grateful person, and the grateful person is the generous person.” In short, by noticing our blessings, we become a blessing.
So this month the question in front of all of us is not simply “Do you notice the blessings surrounding you?” It’s also, “How are the blessings in your life leading you to bless others?” That “whole alphabet” out there doesn’t just happen on its own; we add to it. Blessings don’t just fill us up; they cause us to overflow. Life spills into us and we spill into others. In other words, blessings don’t just enrich us; they connect us. And maybe that is the greatest blessing of all. (Soul Matters, June 2016 packet for small groups). Photo by Rev. Samaya Oakley
Theme Packet for Families
Books/Readings of Blessing
The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco (Author, Illustrator)
“A bond of love unites a family throughout generations in this companion to the beloved and bestselling classic The Keeping Quilt.
As a young Russian Jewish girl in the early 1900s, Anna and her family lived in fear of the Czar’s soldiers. The family lived a hard life and had few possessions—their treasure was a beautiful china tea set. A wedding gift to Anna’s parents, the tea set came with a wish that “Anyone who drinks from this will have blessings from God. They will never know a day of hunger. Their lives will always have flavor. They will know love and joy and they will never be poor.”” – Amazon.
A story about persecution in the Pogroms in Russia as well as the blessings of heritage. Good for reflection on all marginalized peoples.
Outdoor Blessings Scavenger Hunt
Take some time over these next two weeks to go in a walk out in nature and see if you can objects and places for each sense?
- Smell – a smelly sewer, a flower?
- Taste – beware of berries unless you can identify them! What about providing a taste of lemonade?
- Sight – clouds, tree limbs, birds
- Hearing – sounds all around
- Touch – textures, rough from pavement, smooth like glass.
- Vibration – from a big truck driving by shaking the ground
- Balance – on a rock or curb
- Temperature – warm from the sun or cool in the shade
An App for You to Explore: Who Am I? Race Awareness Game (The Blessing of Diversity)
“Developed by a Harvard professor and an award-winning producer of interactive entertainment for children, Who Am I? engages adults and children in frank discussions about sensitive subjects concerning race, ethnicity, and culture. Similar to playing the game Guess Who?, parents choose a picture from a large group of racially diverse portraits, then hand the device to their children. Kids ask a series of questions regarding physical attributes, and eventually discover the right one by process of elimination. Each portrait comes with quotes from the person explaining how he/she identifies him/herself. The quotes make ideas about race feel more personal, although some of the quotes could reinforce assumptions without parental guidance to offer context.
Some parents may think it unwise to broach the subject of race with younger children, but the game’s introductory text makes a compelling argument that children are already thinking about differences in the way people look and regard themselves and others at a young age, and that it’s best to help guide them on this cognitive process. Still, it’s a parenting decision that moms and dads will need to make for themselves…” – Common Sense Media review
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