Opening Words by W.E.B. DuBois
“Give us thankful hearts.
May we be thankful for health and strength.
For Sun and rain and peace.
Let us seize the day and the opportunity
And strive for that greatness of spirit
That measures life not by its disappointments
But by its possibilities.
And let us ever remember that true gratitude and appreciation
Shows itself neither in independence nor satisfaction
But passes the gift joyfully on in larger and better form.”
The Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holloway writes, “Appreciating something makes more of it. We make more of it than when we haven’t noticed it and named it. And when we tell others what we appreciate maybe they come to appreciate it to. Authentic appreciation grows more of what we are appreciating like the Catholic nun I knew who praised her roses and they became prolific.” When a church has a culture of abundant appreciation, it is easier to hear dissenting opinions and constructive feedback with an open heart and mind.
In the gospel of John, Jesus says to his disciples when the end time is near, “I give you a new commandment. That you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.”
Jesus is telling his disciples to accept each other just the way they are. He knows the disciples are imperfect; he’s foreseen Peter’s denial and Judas’s betrayal, and yet he tells them simply: Have love for one another. Love each other unconditionally. Don’t try to change each other. Affirm, accept, and appreciate each other, just the way you are.
That at its essence is what we are here at church for as well. We are in church, in Laila Ibrahim’s words, “to learn to love better. And learning to love better can only happen when we love past our disappointments and create a place of acceptance and affirmation.”
We are all doing our best, with all of our imperfections, with all of our quirks, with all of the ways we interact with each other. Let us imagine that everyone we meet here is wearing a sign that says, “Love me... Appreciate me. Notice me.” Because they are. Let us approach each other knowing that everyone here is just as needy, just as insecure, just as lonely as you sometimes are -- that everyone wants to be loved and appreciated. Say thank you, often. Thank the Board, the committee members, the greeters, the ushers, the gardeners, the people who bring the food and make the coffee, who put up the chairs, who make the music. Send each other handwritten notes, post appreciations to Facebook, smile at each other. Hold back the critiques and complaints unless they are kind, true, and truly necessary. Just like you, everyone here is doing their best.
The good news of Unitarian Universalism is that all of us deserve to be loved and appreciated. Let us create UUCR as a culture of appreciation. May we find love and appreciation here.