You know how you might see a thing nearly every day, and it becomes part of the background such that you don’t notice it anymore? And then one day you look at it and unexpectedly see it anew?
This week I noticed an old chalice sitting on one of my bookshelves, and suddenly I was traveling down Memory Lane, thinking about how this object represents a life that has been formed, shaped, nourished by varieties of relationships and experiences.
This chalice was a gift from two staff members at the San Diego church where I served as ministerial intern. They made it specially for me, their intern who, as a native of the Southeastern US, was a bit of a novelty there. You see, it’s a chalice made of grits, and it was crafted with tender and whimsical affection by Ralph and Joe, using resin (in which the dry grits are suspended) and a Coke bottle (for the base shape) and a pill bottle (for the stem) and a plate.
It was made for me, and was in some ways about me, but it also was entirely an expression of them—creative, thoughtful, practical, fun(ny), loving, sturdy.
Over time, I grew to feel quite comfortable in Southern California, but I was always a long-term guest without plans to stay permanently. And it was fascinating to notice the many relatively “small” things about that part of the country that were different from anything I’d experienced before—outdoor, open-air shopping malls; post-worship fellowship hour on a patio, year round; almost no tall shady trees; incomparable Mexican cuisine (and margaritas!); fish tacos; the sun setting—not rising—over the ocean (and ocean-on-the-left meant I was traveling north, not south!); racial and ethnic diversity that was different from the Black-and-White world that was so familiar to me.
The work of church consumed almost all my time that year, and memories of the church—its people, its physical spaces, its music, its programs, its artwork—dominate most of my California memories.
But that internship year was also about growing me as a person in ways that weren’t only about ministry—exposing me to new realities, expanding my worldview, reminding me that my particular life experience was not necessarily normative.
It was probably that year that I began truly understanding the truth that has been a touchstone of all the ministries I’ve served: My perspective is not the perspective.
So, I look at this grits chalice and I’m grateful for all the places and people and experiences and cuisines that have shaped the person, the parent, the spouse, the friend, the minister … who is me.
Who are you?
I realize the only question I can answer is who am I today and that I can only partially answer. Like you there are things on my shelf that point out the many me’s there have been. Thanks for that insight
My daughter has asked me to write down for her the many who’s I have been since birth in a country store in the hills of Shenandoah Valley Virginia, the community there, the people I schooled with in Warren County ,my college years in U of Richmond where I discovered a lot more about me and finding my beloved Segar White Guy with whom I shared 59 years, my career at NSA from a PFC through to Executive over nearly 40 years, to Segar’s and my 30 years with Rev David Eaton at All Souls Church in DC ,to my fun with horticulture in Columbia ,to the loss of Segar while retiring in Columbia ,to Gail and me finding each other ,to our continued worship at UUCC. And now I find myself approaching 90. And I wonder what remains for a legacy to give and share with daughter Judi ,friends ,and community . Life is full and abundant . John Guy
PS I still need to write all that down . Oh , dear.
As a native Southern Californian, your impressions make me smile. You have expressed very well some of the unique traits of that area that I have tried to tell people about for most of the 60 years I have lived in Maryland. The me I was there has informed the me I am now. For example my California education about the Civil Way was that a war was fought between the north and south over slavery. The north won and the war was over. Only living here did I learn that, in fact, the war isn’t over at all. It only touched California through veterans migrating there for new opportunity. I also never ate grits until my here and now. Not bad. And now I add that grits can be shaped…just like the rest of us. This time of being pummeled daily will shape us too.