“Where are you from?” is a very complex question. Just as Unitarian Universalism draws from many diverse sources for its foundation and teachings, so is each of us individually an amalgam of what came before, the observations and experiences of our lives. The answer to “Where are you from?” is so much more than a geographical location, or even a statement of ancestral heritage.
You may be familiar with George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I’m From”. In it she talks about being from, not merely a physical place, but the collective experiences of her life up to that point, and her sensory impressions of those experiences. Things such as clothespins, fudge, eyeglasses and “the dirt under the back porch”. She offers us a window into understanding how she came to be the woman that she is.
What we encounter on our journey – primarily at the beginning, in childhood – serves to mold us into the adults we will later become. Our growth as human beings is shaped by everything we pass as we travel along. We are, to a great degree, defined by what we choose to carry with us, as well as what we choose to discard. And that which we may pick up unknowingly, without conscious choice.
Take a moment or two to think back over the events of your life. Allow yourself to recall specific sights, sounds, smells that bring forth strong emotion or vivid memories. Are there particular moments that stand out to you immediately? Are there images that form in your mind, like snapshots of your childhood or your life as it has been? Is there an ambient soundtrack that plays? A lingering fragrance in the background of your memory? The collective experiences and exposures (and your own sensory impressions of them) that make up your life are owned by you alone. These have served to shape your perspective and contribute in large measure to the uniqueness of You. Awareness of Where You Are From can help you to identify the gifts you have to give to the world.
Where are you from?