“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
I first came across this quote as I was preparing for the 2011 CanUUdle in Toronto. I think it was in an old Pre-Packet or maybe scrawled into a past schedule beside the line for the final closing circle. Either way I was struck by how perfectly this simple, “Seussical proverb”,if you will, captured the bittersweetness of a Con’s ending and how kind and direct its advice was. It was, and still is, I think, a perfect sentiment to offer the departing participants of a Con. Not that I want to discourage anyone from feeling their feelings, but this seemed a gentle reminder not to hold that sadness too tightly either.
And so as I prepare for my own bittersweet departure — leaving the CUC after serving for almost seven and half years — its seems fitting that this silly little phrase I learned so long ago has returned to me. And I will admit that I feel the challenge of its charge more tenderly than before.
Coming to work for the CUC as the first Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development staff has been, without exaggeration, life changing for me. This was my first “real job”, my first experience managing programming and events at a national level, the first time working for my spiritual community. It has been an incredible journey and privilege to do this work and to have been able to share and learn so much from all the deeply committed UUs I’ve crossed paths with.
And although I got to work with leaders of many ages and stages, it is to the Youth and Young Adults I worked with over the years that I most want to say something:
Some of you reading this might be tempted to think that it was because of me that the CUC has all the Youth and Young Adult programs and events and offerings it does. But you’d be wrong. It’s because of you.
You are the ones who pushed for my position in the first place. And you are the ones who planned and attended all those Cons and Trainings (and the many, many meetings to make them happen!)
You are the ones who showed up again and again when I put out a calls for participants and leaders.
You are the ones with hug buttons and mail bags and the fire of commitment who let me learn about building radically inclusive community with you and from you.
You are the ones who are always looking to draw the circle wide and welcome in one more. You are the ones grappling with what it means to be part of our faith as a young person – with what does it mean to come of age, to cross the bridge and to grow up and into Unitarian Universalism.
It has been such a gift to serve you all — to meet new teens just joining “youthdom” and new Young Adults newly joining our UU tradition. To get to mentor new leaders and be wowed by the knowledge and experience of seasoned youth and young adult leaders. To get to play games and share stories and write notes and braid friendship bracelets with you. To be trusted to hear your disappointments at the ways in which your congregation or our tradition has let you down. To worship with you. To witness your pain when the world has ground you down. To hold your wonderings and questions. To hear your dreams and hopes for the future.
You welcomed me to walk alongside you as worked and planned and learned and cooked and ate and sang and worshiped together. As you built sacred, alive, messy, changeable community together – in short as you were “church” together.
Although at times stress-filled and difficult — heart wrenching even in its moments — getting to do this work for and with you and getting to meet you all in the process has truly been a blessing in my life, more than I could have ever known at the outset seven years ago. And for this I am deeply grateful.
I want to leave you with some these words by Rev. Alison Barrett; in her poem she is talking about the art of worship, however I think they are just as apt to describe the creation of community too:
Do you know what work you do?
It is holy, ancient, alive
It is the work of the people
And always has been.
May we do it well, and with joy.
In faith and affection,