Friday, November 26, 2021



I grew up Unitarian, before they merged with the Universalists. We rarely went to the Unitarian Society of Cleveland where my parents were founding members. I’m not sure I had any sense of religion other than to celebrate the good things and honor good people and try to make a contribution with our own lives to the greater good. 

My mother had a deep distrust of organized religion, specifically Christianity. Of the Old Testament, she said:

God stacked the deck against Adam and Eve. He put that snake in that garden.

Of the New Testament:

Don’t finish that story. It doesn’t end well.

She felt uncomfortable if I made friends with children who memorized Bible verses. If we received overtly religious Christmas cards they somehow never made it onto the mantle. 

We said grace before meals only at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is probably because we shared the celebratory meals with my grandparents. Although they, too, were Unitarians, they came from a generation that was somehow more traditionally “religious” about it.

I loved grace. I always wanted to be the one to say the grace. I feel like there was a while there when I was allowed to do it pretty regularly, which means that either I wasn’t too terrible at it, or nobody else wanted to do it. Also, I was the youngest. Perhaps they were indulging me.

All of these memories came flooding back last night as I was sitting at the dining room table as we were about to begin our Thanksgiving meal. My mother in law and daughter were in the kitchen. My husband was lighting the candles. And I started thinking up a grace “just in case somebody asks me”

Old habits die hard. (And my husband was not feeling up to saying the grace.)

What I discovered in that moment was how grateful I was for the communities that have sustained us over the last hard and frightening year. First for the community of family, both near and far. As I looked around the table I saw the communities that had held up each one of us: teaching community, musical theatre community, neighborhood community, church community, even social media community. I offered thanks for all of those.

I also expressed a hope that we, through our own lives, could sustain others in our particular communities as we had been sustained. In a way it was a prayer strongly influenced by my Unitarian upbringing, even though I am now an Episcopalian who worships with Lutherans. At any rate it was topical and it didn’t offend anyone as far as I know. 

I awoke this morning with thoughts of all the communities - -  or circles of people - - who are outside our own circles. That I wasn’t even thinking about last night. We may not know them and we do not know where they were yesterday or whether they were even able to share a celebratory meal with others. Or whether they would even want to. 

These people are also our neighbors. And in those unknown circles are people who may have sustained us over the last year in many anonymous ways: cleaning hospital rooms, stocking grocery shelves, protesting injustice, organizing clinics, assuring free elections, caring for our natural environment, collecting our trash. As natural as my dinner table vision was of our particular sustaining communities, and as understandable as it is to feel that way during a family celebration, my awakening today to a broader vision gives me pause.

It’s the reminder of a deeper question that I may have learned from the New Testament but is readily available everywhere you look:

Who is my neighbor? 

Is there such a thing as a day-after-Thanksgiving grace? Perhaps it is as simple as how we live our lives.

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