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About Hope and Giving Thanks

UU Santa Fe, November 27, 2022

“A Blessing for Risk-Takers and Failures” written by Robin Tanner.

Today we share in a blessing for losers, risk-takers, all failures far and wide....

Blessed are they who fall in the mud, who jump with gusto and rip the pants, who skin the elbows, and bruise the ego, for they shall know the sweetness of risk.

Blessed are they who make giant mistakes, whose intentions are good but impact has injured, who know the hot sense of regret and ask for mercy, for their hearts will know the gift of forgiveness.

Blessed are they who have seen a D or an F or C or any letter less than perfect, who are painfully familiar with the red pen and the labels as "less than," for they know the wisdom in the imperfect.

Blessed are they who try again, who dust off, who wash up, who extend the wish for peace, who return to sites of failure, who are dogged in their pursuit, for they will discover the secret to dreams.

Blessed are they who refuse to listen to the naysayers, for their hearts will be houses for hope.

Blessed are they who see beyond the surface of another, for they will be able to delight in the gift of compassion.

Blessed are they who stop running the race to help a fellow traveler, who pick up the fallen, who stop for injured life, for they shall know the kindness of strangers.

Blessed are they who wildly, boldly abandon winning, for they shall know the path of justice.

When my son was seven years old, I had the capacity to be the summer vacation caregiver for four additional children from two families in our friendship group. One of the other children and my son AJ were sitting outside with me one afternoon and AJ said he was born in Minnesota. The friend looked at him and said that she had been born in Japan. AJ looked at her and responded with; “I always thought you looked Japanese.” Now she was a red-haired, blue-eyed little girl, but in that moment, since she had been born in Japan, to my son that was what a Japanese person must look like. It was truly the innocence of a child, and in the years since I have often wondered at how different the world would have been if our ancestors had been able to generate that kind of innocence toward other people’s identities and cultures?

What if…

Of course, we cannot go back.

Instead, we have spent our collective history trying to define what makes a “real American?” Accusations of who is or who isn’t a real American come from every side, and it often feels as if the only prevailing national opinion is that other Americans are the people who agree with us and everyone else fails to love this nation or the other people who live within it.

But the collective historical recollection this is based upon is nothing more than highlight reel of what happened at a specific time in a specific place, and that means it is profoundly limiting.

Even the history we think we know regarding colonization is only partially reflective of the truth.

If you Google 1776, the system will deliver hundreds of pages relating to the American Revolution. But other important moments were occurring. On September 17th, the Presidio de San Francisco was established as a military fort and the northernmost point of New Spain. On October 17th, Captain James Cook arrived in Cape Town, South Africa near the start of a voyage that would lead to the colonization of the island of Hawaii in 1778. In the United States, we have a collective memory of the end of colonization set in 1776, but the colonial period of world history was not yet complete even as this nation began fighting for independence from the English crown.

When we look too intently at one region, one nation, or one religious experience, we risk overlooking many other things that are equally important to the world and the planet. When we reconsider, we are not rejecting the warmth and love of our human connections but are taking intentional time to witness that same warmth and love in other people and places.

History remembers a few select individuals and puts their pictures on museum walls, but we learn more about “we the people” when we start looking behind the doors and into the faces of those that did not make it into the official record books. Because our history is not just successes, wins, and accomplishments. It is also the bruises, the harms, and the things we wish remain hidden. When we encounter history with all its bruises and flaws, we are accepting that we are imperfect people building an imperfect world but hoping to do better and be better next time.

We cannot change the past, but we can make sure that the story told of this moment and us as people is one of people who learned to live together, to love together, and to heal each other and the planet together.

The past few years have taken much from the world. We have seen fractures and destabilization happen across the globe, often accompanied by a growing ecological crisis and increasing natural disasters.

We need to return to hope as a driving force for good and the potential for good.

Christians know that the birth of Jesus that they celebrate on Christmas ends with the execution of Jesus as an enemy of the Roman empire and Jewish religious leaders on Easter, but that does not stop hope from rising each year throughout the Advent season. Even we who do not identify as Christians need to actively take time for hope to regrow in their own lives lives.

We will likely never build a world where conflict and harm does not happen, but if we begin seeing all the history, we can begin building something better and stronger where hope, joy, and love become the cornerstones of the world, rather than conquering wars, bias, and hate.

I began with a poem, and I would like to end with one.

This one was delivered at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2012. It is called “One Today” and was written by Richard Blanco.

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies. One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors, each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day: pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights, fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper— bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us, on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives— to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through, the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day: equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined, the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming, or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light breathing color into stained glass windows, life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth onto the steps of our museums and park benches as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs, buses launching down avenues, the symphony of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways, the unexpected songbird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling, or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello / shalom / aloha / howdy / namaste / or maybe buenos días in the language my mother taught me—in every language spoken into one wind carrying our lives without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands: weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report for the boss on time, stitching another wound or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait, or the last floor on the Freedom Tower jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes tired from work: some days guessing at the weather of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother who knew how to give, or forgiving a father who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home, always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop and every window, of one country—all of us— facing the stars hope—a new constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it—together.


We have tried the world the other way.

We who have been struggling to build this Beloved community of promise are ready to find a new path that leads to our success.

We hope you are with us.

Because we have tried living in a world where "I" was/is the prevailing center. Perhaps now it is time for a return to the "we."

May it be so.

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