On lists that track the most used words in the English language, the word “and” appears at #3 or #4, depending on what list you are viewing. The word has no real definition of its own, but rather is it used to introduce additional information and/or to connect other words, clauses, and sentences. This word exists solely to provide more insight and to connect. For many years, I never gave the word much thought. Obviously, I used the word liberally, but there were so many other words that seemed far juicier; words that carried cache and felt good as they rolled off my tongue. The word “and” didn’t seem to warrant much of my attention.

In the years that I have been working at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, I have learned countless things from every staff member with whom I have served. Among those who have shared their wisdom with me is one in particular, and it is she who unearthed for me the gifts of this hidden gem of a word. I’m sure that she had been using this word with intention throughout my tenure, and I have no recollection of when I noticed, but somewhere along the way, it clicked and entered my consciousness. I realized that this little word that I had been taking for granted had a unique ability to encourage me to take in new information, to connect me to other points of view and ultimately, to allow me to hold two truths at the same time. I noticed its power to help navigate difficult conversations, and how it seemed to create space for endless possibilities. This unsung hero of words had been begging for my attention and once I noticed it, I could no longer resist it. Suddenly, it rolled off my tongue, and in using it intentionally, it felt every bit as juicy as any word I had ever uttered.

One of the things that first stood out to me about Unitarian Universalism was the way that it celebrated the notion of being curious. In reaching for the “and” even when, and especially when I think my viewpoint can’t evolve, I have, with what feels like very little effort on my part become more curious. As with anything else, it requires practice and I am still unearthing everything this little word has to offer but I am more curious about how the person across from me is feeling, I am more curious about the endless number of ideas and viewpoints that are available to me, and perhaps most of all, more curious about what other juicy words have escaped my attention.

So, next year, when the lists of most used words come out, I’ll be rooting for this undefinable, unsung hero, hidden gem of a word to crack into the top two!

With Curiosity,


  1. Becky Reese

    Thanks, Kelli!
    Your post feels especially relevant right now at UUCC and the invitation to more curiosity leading to dialogue is very appealing!

  2. John Guy

    Hello Kelli – You have a unique ability to arouse intellectual curiosity in UUCC with your narrative. While you arrived at the value of AND in conversations I am glad you relate its role in holding more than one truth can exist simultaneously . From my world of mathematics and computer software the word AND is actually an active verb in what is called Boolean Algebra. There are three active verb words in Boolean Algebra including AND , OR ,and NOT . I leave it to your research for further analysis of the three operators. The current issue of UUWORLD makes very clear there is more than one truth in UUISM ,and allows for UUs to thrive in any one , many ,or the ability to search for another truth not well known . That is the UU world I entered in 1968 . That is the UU world that must prevail going forward. Thank you for opening those doors here.

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