Up until a few weeks ago when I started a new job, I served as the Deputy Director for the Department of Social Services of a large urban jurisdiction. The department is responsible for ensuring the safety and well being of all of the children and vulnerable adults across the city. Every day, horrifying reports of abuse and neglect come in through the hot line, and case workers – hundreds of them – get up from their desks and go into homes to assess needs, support families, and protect children. In doing so, these case workers insert themselves into the lives and homes of families who are struggling to cope with addiction, domestic violence, poverty, mental illness, gang warfare and all of the trauma, grief and rage that is associated with these circumstances. Every day.
There is a high cost to doing this work – both on the system as a whole and on each individual person. As a member of that system, the cumulative trauma impacted me deeply.
Sundays mornings I arrived at UUCC carrying with me children who had suffered that week. They were invisible to all of you, but nonetheless very much present in our congregation, along with my own grief and trauma in varying degrees. The rituals of our service – and the fellowship of the congregation – allowed me to catch my breath and be still for a moment, to connect with something larger than myself. Each week, UUCC healed me just enough to go back and put my shoulder to the wheel for another round.
One of our weekly rituals is to put stones of joy and sorrow into a communal bowl of water, representing the ripples of our lives touching one another and moving out into the larger world beyond. Each of us is one of those ripples, going out and living our lives to the best of our abilities. For me, the best I had to offer the adults, families and children across the city was better because of UUCC. For this, I am grateful. More significantly, however, I am humbled to be part of a community that has such a such an impact on the world around us.