In late summer, my six-year old granddaughter, Isabel, visited New York City with her mother. Asked what she thought of the city, Isabel replied, “It’s a really big city, but it has high humility.” She meant, of course, “humidity.” New York is not collectively notable for its humility. Except occasionally.
It was the Jewish High Holidays. At the height of the Yom Kippur service, the Day of Atonement, the rabbi was so moved with awe before God that he suddenly threw himself down on the bima, saying, “I am nothing; I am nothing!” The cantor was so moved by the great scholar and sage doing this that he soon joined him, saying, “I am nothing; I am nothing!” The rich president of the schul then threw himself forward, humbly repeating, “I am nothing; I am nothing.” Finally, the shamas, the sexton, did the same. The rich man looked at shamas and said to the rabbi, “Now see what you’ve done? Look who now thinks that he can be nothing!”
Unitarian Universalists are also individually not notable for humility. Except occasionally. Collectively, however, we are such idealists that we can be very hard on ourselves. Small in numbers, UUs have a hard time thinking we can make a difference in the world. Yet history suggests otherwise.
At a recent meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, we voted to hold our next meeting in Alabama in early March, along with the Board of the UUA itself. We go there for the 50th anniversary of the Selma march. Unitarian Universalists were front and center, catalyzing interfaith cooperation for civil rights. Two of them died in the effort: James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo.
When I was UUA President, I found that none of the staff remembered how, at the request of Dr. King, the interfaith presence in the Selma campaign was basically organized from 25 Beacon St. So I commissioned a memorial plaque for the UUA Chapel, to remind us.
We were again key catalysts in organizing the interfaith presence. Here at UUSF, we held our own mini-march in solidarity. I was able to announce that UUSF was the first UU congregation to join Commit2Respond (http://www.commit2respond.org/) the UU effort to gather people of all spiritual orientations to follow through on taking and demanding action in conjunction with the crisis of climate change. We can’t do everything; but we can, in all humility, again be faith-filled catalysts for justice.