Repost: When Giving Is All We Have

A repost from November 23, 2023

One river gives
Its journey to the next. 

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, and small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Albert Rios 

Just the beginning of this poem is enlightening, “One river gives its journey to the next.” As I really soak that in, I imagine the rivers as they merge together giving all they have to the next, flowing so steadily till they merge together into one giant river that gives to the ocean that gives to the air and the lifeforms that inhabit it. The air and clouds give to the land and the journey is then starting all over again. 

The branches of the rivers that weave and wind to give to other areas are like the branches of my ancestral tree. Starting from many ancestors and channeled down to one branch to give me life, then branching to give my cousins, nieces and nephews life, all together they gave their journey to the next to make “something greater from the difference.”

Such an enlightening kindness, “when giving is all we have”. 

~Candice C Carver

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Repost: Presume the Best

A repost from November 14, 2024

Over my lifetime, more than one person has come along with the message that in the midst of conflict or potential conflict, we should presume the best of the other party’s intention. The fact that more than one person has come along to bring that message to me means, to me, that I have been in dire need of learning that lesson! Some of my life’s earliest experiences drove home the message that I needed to “get things right,” and that spills over into everything if left unchecked. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get things right (who in their right mind would want to get things wrong?) but perfectionism is a toxic brand of “getting things right,” and I can easily go there. Our current political divisions in this country and the world doesn’t help me, either, presume the best in the other person. I am more inclined to wonder which news broadcast a person listens to before I presume the best of their intentions. 

There is another gift that I have been given, though, which actually helps me a lot in this aim to presume the best of the other’s intention. It is part of our mission at UUCG: curiosity. What I am learning is that the very best way for me to presume the best of another’s intention is to remain curious and to ask genuine questions of the other. Even if it becomes clear that the other person is coming from a place and a set of ideas that I can in no way endorse, remaining curious allows us to access each other’s hearts, and what I know about hearts is that they all have some familiar terrain. Let me into your heart, and I will recognize some things there. If I let you into my heart, you will recognize some things there. Curiosity is a very special kind of generosity that says: I want to know more about you. Please, I will tread lightly: show me your heart, and I will show you my heart. 

~Bob Patrick

Posted in Repost--Summer 2024 | Tagged | 4 Comments

Repost: Shame In Accepting Generosity

A repost from November 2, 2023

Whether directly shouted into our ears or subtly inculcated through culture, individualism runs deep. How many times have you heard (or said) “I don’t want your charity”? What’s wrong with accepting charity? The hand up is rarely masking condescension or pity yet we often feel shame in accepting the generosity of others even when we might freely give it ourselves.

This rugged individualism may lead to practical difficulties from prolonged want that could have been mitigated by the warm offering of a caring friend but, more insidiously, the psychic costs of avoiding vulnerability cause greater interpersonal distance and prohibit the development of real community.

If you find yourself much more comfortable offering generosity than receiving it, ask yourself
“Why?” Receivers all have different levels of need yet, presumably, you find value in giving of
yourself, your time, your experience, or your money. If you struggle to accept the connection of
receiving generosity, remember that you are worthy of care, worthy of support, and your needs
are not a burden to others.

May you give generously to those in need however they may need it and may you receive the
generosity of others graciously.

~Ian Van Sice

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Repost: Living Up to Our Potential

A repost from October 23, 2023

It’s October in the South.  We will soon be free from days full of sunshine and comfortable temperatures.  My gardening will come to a halt…. just as soon as I finish transplanting daffodils, sifting my compost, and putting my garlic cloves in the ground.  Garlic is well-suited to fall planting.  Plenty of rain and cool temperatures will get the cloves off to a good start. The standard gardening wisdom is to plant the biggest cloves to get the best bulbs which are always found on the outermost edge of a garlic bulb.  The smaller, interior ones are eaten or used for something else.

 I can’t help but wonder every year as I plant the bigger cloves, why the smaller ones are not put in the ground. They look, smell, and taste like the bigger ones.  I’m pretty sure that garlic bulbs form from the inside out, so these smaller bulbs would be the first to develop, the first-born.  They remain small as the other bulbs form around them, squished into place by sibling pressure.

I grew up in a small town that made me feel like that, squished into place. I graduated from high school with kids I had known since kindergarten. Some of them were held in place by large extended families; some were held by events beyond their making. It was a  fly trap town.  Enlarging my circle of friends and experiences, I finally landed with people and places where I had the opportunity to “live up to my potential”. I’ve had some help along the way, as well as a good portion of luck in removing my binders and blinders.

This year I will make room in the garden for these smaller bulbs just to see how they do. Just to see if they can live up to their potential.

Perhaps all they lack is opportunity. And luck.

~Karen Smith

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The Sun’s Long Kiss

In the longest light of the year’s high crest,

Where sun-drenched hours stretch unconfined,

The Summer Solstice gently wakes

The sleeping seeds of my soulful mind.

Upon the earth, a radiant dance

Of golden beams and verdant floor,

Whispers through leaves in an emerald trance,

Where my heart renews and spirit soars.

Celestial fires blaze above,

In arcs of warmth that kiss my cheek,

Each ray a touch from my Sun-God’s love,

A blessing for the strong and meek.

Beneath the azure vaults so wide,

Our Druids with oak and hawthorn crowns,

Circle ‘round the bonfire’s side,

Where mystic words and chants abound.

The air, alive with potent dreams,

Carries the notes of flutes and lyres,

Across the fields, alongside streams,

Igniting Midsummer’s nocturnal fires.

Dew-kissed flowers at dawn’s first light,

Collected with a tender care,

Hold the magic of the night,

An offering of earth, an herbal prayer.

On this longest day, I pause, a breath,

I honor the sun and its tireless flight,

From morning’s first blush to twilight’s wraith,

In the embrace of the shortest night.

So spin, O Earth, with graceful poise,

And tilt towards the source of day,

As we, your children, with uplifted voice,

Celebrate, reflect, renew, and pray.

Embrace the gift of Solstice bright,

For within its glow, I find release—

From the shackles of the fading night,

In the sun’s long kiss, a deep, sweet peace.

~Candice C Carver

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Repost: Amy’s Tree

Reposted from October 19, 2023

Raising 4 children in our home meant Christmas was a hectic time of gift secrecy, nonstop cooking and decorations everywhere. I always put up a traditional tree filled with the wonky ornaments my children made in grade school, ornaments given to us on the birth of our babies, treasures from both my own tree growing up and my grandmother’s tree. It was a lovely multigenerational tree of our family’s heritage.

Then the unthinkable happened. Our youngest daughter, Amy, died one October night in 2015. Lost in grief, I coped one day, one hour at a time until suddenly the holidays were menacingly close. I could not face those boxes of ornaments and decorations in the attic, and yet the house, bereft of its Christmas attire, felt even more empty. 

Our oldest son, Chris, and his spouse, Rea, had been staying with us during this season, and our two children, Russ and Vivi, would soon return home. One morning, Rea looked at me and said, “let’s just go buy a new tree and some new decorations. Let’s start a new tradition.” What a thought!  In the stores that year were ornaments in bright pinks, greens, blues and reds.  I felt drawn to these cheerful colors, colors I knew Amy would love, colors that Rea loved too. I bought a tall skinny white tree to show them off and dragged it all home. We put that tree up with laughter and tears, and just like that a new tradition was born of both love and need.

Eight years later as I continue to put up Amy’s tree, I decorate it with the same care that I once gave my original tree. I wonder at the resilience of the human heart that can allow new pathways of hope amidst loss. I think of the love and strength Rea gave me as I blindly moved forward, and I think of Amy, who’s life, energy, and creativity is now celebrated in the tradition of my most untraditional tree.

~Lisa Kiel

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Repost: Mealtime Traditions

Reposted from October 10, 2023

My family didn’t pass down many generations-old traditions, but the few I can think of are all
based around food. First, when I was growing up, it was always important to my family to eat
together. I ate breakfast in the kitchen with my dad before school daily, and dinner was enjoyed by the whole family around our dining room table every evening. Eating together is still important to me and is something I intend to continue once I have children of my own. I believe meals are meant to be paired with companionship.

The recipe that I feel best represents my Sicilian roots is one that my mom’s family passed
down – stuffed artichokes. It’s a time-consuming and decadent recipe not meant to be had often, but I always looked forward to making this recipe with my mom. You begin by snipping off the pointy ends of the leaves and cutting off the stem, then washing the artichoke. The next step was always my favorite – banging the artichokes upside down on the counter to help loosen the leaves and open up the artichokes. That part is cathartic and I remember that it made me feel strong.

The artichokes lay upside down to dry while the stuffing is mixed together – a combination of
bread crumbs, chopped artichoke stem and minced garlic, fresh Parmesan cheese, salt, and
pepper. Stuffing the leaves takes hand strength and patience, and I always admired how
beautiful the artichokes my mom stuffed were in comparison to mine – perfectly evenly stuffed
and full. I knew one day I could make them as beautiful as she does.

The artichokes are then nestled in a pot, drizzled with olive oil, and steamed; the smell that fills the house while they cook is glorious. When they’re done, it’s such a reward – food tastes better when you give it that much time and attention. Eating the stuffing from the leaves is delicious, of course, but the final cherished part of this process for me is reaching the artichoke heart. It’s divine, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper, and it represents the end of a beautiful, hard-earned meal together.

-Jenn Yi

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