Return Again: The Power of Faith and Belief

I think that embracing UU principles and the covenants we make together in support of them is an act of courage that requires faith and belief.  Doing this requires far more from me than the recitation of a order to “save my Soul from the fires of Hell and ensure it a place in Heaven.”  

My UU faith journey is a journey of discovery.  I am discovering my connection to the power of love.  I think that choosing love instead of apathy or hatred is an act of faith and belief.  I have faith that making this choice is worth the risks to my physical and emotional safety.  I believe that choosing to love will transform my life and the lives of others.

The loving acts of some people I’m privileged to know are one of my “sources” of faith and belief.  For this reflection, I’m going to focus on people who the “gender binary” identified as women- Flora, Wanda, Lela, and Sharon.  I’m focusing on women because I think it takes more courage to be seen by the world as a woman than I can even comprehend. It’s even tougher when the world is wrong.

Grandma Flora taught her three children and all of her grandchildren to “always look for the gold in people.”  In addition to raising her children, she had three careers during her lifetime-  teacher, postmistress, and full-time caregiver for my grandfather when he developed Dementia.  Her shining example of unconditional love enriched my Father’s life, and, in turn, my own.

Aunt Wanda, ten years older than my Father, took him in when he left home the summer after graduating from High School.  When her children were old enough to attend school, she left her abusive husband and launched her own career as teacher.  After earning her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, she helped to found a new school and was a program director in early childhood education.  At a time when lots of folks were retired, she was still working as a nanny to provide for the grandchild she was raising.

Grandma Lela was both father and mother to her children while her husband was deployed during World War I.  After her career as a teacher, she was the “head babysitter” for my cousins.  She took care of me and my siblings, as well, when my Father was deployed to Vietnam and my Mother arranged to meet him overseas.  When Lela was diagnosed with breast cancer, she just went and did what needed to be done.  After her surgery, she called my Mother to let her know everything was OK.  That was the first time Mom knew about Lela’s cancer.  I remember Lela’s loving work with cancer patients, including making “cancer pads,” the way they coped with the massive invasion of a woman’s lymphatic system that is breast cancer surgery.

My Mother, Sharon, pursued her career in nursing and as a nursing teacher, including earning her Master’s Degree, while raising three children and dealing with the multiple household upheavals for moves and deployments that come with being a military spouse.  When it came to the care of her children and the care of her pediatric patients, she was a “force of nature.”  Her commitment to her students was intense.  Her greatest challenge was the part of nursing that depended on natural ability- the clinical practicum- because she knew that, in spite of her best efforts, some students would fail.  In retirement, after starting two Alzheimer’s Support Groups, she was my Father’s full-time caregiver for the last stage of his Parkinson’s Disease.  My Mother believed in Heaven, because she had literally seen it during a near-death experience.  When she received her diagnosis- that more therapy for her metastatic breast cancer would not be useful- she said “well, I didn’t plan to live much longer anyway.”

The achievements of these people, because they believed in the power of love, count among my “moments of awe and wonder.” I’m so thankful to know their stories, because they’re a constant reminder of the power of faith and belief.

Their example helps me to understand my own worth as an individual.  They are some of the reasons why I keep this “note to myself” in the front of my “self-awareness” binder:  


You deserve to be awake and aware- 
no pretending or secret longing.  
Your meaning is your meaning.
You- here- now- defining how.
Appreciated, respected, affirmed.

Bill Benshoof

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