Epiphany is big for me this year: to see God, to hear God, to taste, touch and feel the sacred. Not in daily life, mind you, and not inside myself. On the contrary, my new life — settled into my second year of living with Lynne and providing for her needs as she lives with Huntington’s Disease — reverberates with a spiritual energy I haven’t known for decades.
But the new life somehow doesn’t resonate with my familiar faces of God. How to pray? How to hear? I have been away from UU worship for several years now, more often than I’ve been in it, and the absence is confusing — because it doesn’t feel like an absence. What’s up with that?
What feels holy to me right now – what makes me feel God’s presence inside me and my community — are human caring connections. Neighbors help us rescue stray cats. Family help us deal with our household necessities. Individual UUs pitch in with household lifting tasks.
So Lynne and I have negotiated a new arrangement for giving as we have received. Instead of putting our loose change into the several bowls, we are going to put up three boxes. One will be for UNICEF — thanks to the Montpelier Unitarian Church RE Director, who can spare it to me. UNICEF meets emergency needs for the world’s least fortunate. The second will be for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, which carefully chooses development projects to address injustice through practical uplift. The third — which I have to make myself — will be for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, whose purpose hardly needs introduction.
This saving of coins for others is just the latest version of gleaning, the commandment from Leviticus that we leave the loose bits of fruit and grain lying in the field, for poor folks to collect as they come by. “Crumbs from the rich man’s table table,” Jesus said derisively, but in our case, crumbs are pretty much what we live on as well. It’s a different kind of sharing, because when I’m really really poor, I treasure my loose change to pay for groceries and such. And I still save out my quarters for parking meters. That will have to change, too: it shouldn’t be hard to ask for a roll at the bank (and put it in the “parking meter stash” I keep in the car), in order to save the loose stuff and increase the financial impact of each donation.
We will empty these and send in the proceeds on the Equinoxes and Solstices, as part of my growing return to neo-paganism.
So that’s how it works. But the feeling is what I sense from the elders who return, with utter confidence, to childhood prayers or rituals in times of crisis. Somehow, as different as everything is, these are still the same hands that put those coins in those boxes, poured them out, counted them, carefully sending in the check at an appointed holy moment.
Maybe these are my prayer beads, these little round metal tokens. They only mean what we spend them on… so why not invest them, each time we spend them, as prayer rituals that start when we’re kids — Trick or Treat for UNICEF, followed by Guest at Your Table during Advent-Christmas-Epiphany — and grow as we grow. Why should we grow OUT of childhood instructional activities — why not grow INTO them?