Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jennifer Nichols On Thansgiving

My favorite holiday is coming up next week – I can hardly believe it’s next week!  Thanksgiving is about getting together with family and friends for a meal and fellowship and, at my house, the Cowboys game and Frisbee and board games.  We generally have 25-30 over, my family, my ex-husband and his family, and friends who are too far away from their families to be with them – either by distance or emotional chasm.  Our door is open and there always seems to be enough food.  While I try to be this open and giving throughout the year, it comes most naturally at Thanksgiving.

Recently I had the privilege to visit with a colleague and mentor, Rev. Dwight Brown, a few weeks before his death.  He knew he was dying and he was especially eager to share a couple of things he’d been thinking about quite a lot.  I didn’t want to lose what he said, so I immediately wrote it all down once I got my car.  I needn’t have worried because at his memorial service, every person  who’d seen him in the last few weeks, mentioned the same things – apparently Dwight had been thinking about this stuff QUITE a lot.  It was interesting to hear the different take we each had.

Dwight Brown was a thinker, big time!  He and I didn’t always agree, especially theologically, but I knew that within the realm of Unitarian Universalism there was room for both our ideas about God (or not), human nature, etc.  That last visit he told me he was dying and that put him in mind of a conversation he had with his daughter when she was very young.  She supposed that people died to make room for new babies.  Near the end, it tickled Dwight to remember that conversation and he seemed to quite like the idea that his death might in some way make room for new life.

Thinking of new life, he expressed that his life was a gift from his mother, and hers from her mother, and hers from her mother all the way back to the mother of us all – the big bang.  We are cradled in the arms of the universe and our lives are such miracles!  Dwight may have been rejoicing in the scientific wonder of that thought, and, as I listened, I heard all about God.

Dwight then spoke of something his father had talked with him about.  There are two kinds of people in this world, he said, those who approach others (or life) with a closed fist and those who approach others  (or life) with an open palm.  This seemed to resonate with Dwight on many levels though he spoke specifically about Unitarian Universalism for a bit.  He postulated that we UUs don’t like it when people disagree with us because we know they are WRONG (mischievous smile).  But dialogue cannot happen with a fist, the palm must be open.

How much more could we accomplish in helping change the world if we opened our palms and were actually accepting rather than tolerant, open to broader beliefs and interpretations rather than not?

After a long full life, most of it as a dedicated Unitarian Universalist and revered elder of our faith, Dwight’s words and ponderings were like a gift to me, and I hope now, to you.  His legacy will live on in name and spirit at the Dwight Brown Leadership Experience.

I give thanks at this time of Thanksgiving for Unitarian Universalism and our saving message that love is an answer.  Here’s wishing you and yours a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!