We all need a little help sometimes. When my cough morphed into pneumonia just after our December Revels service, I knew I needed to take the doctor’s instructions to rest for at least a week seriously. I also felt confused. How could I rest? This was new to me, taking a break from the work I am honored and called to do with you, the members and friends of the Unitarian Church of Sharon. Very quickly, you all and others in my community showed me the way. Our worship committee, adult choir, and other lay leaders did not hesitate to take over our Solstice service and Sunday worship. My colleagues immediately offered to be on-call in case of pastoral emergency. My friends and neighbors helped me get to the doctor, brought me soup, and helped me and Adam get our kid to daycare each day. And your messages poured in. I have felt all your love and care surrounding me. Thank you for your concern and well-wishes.
By the time this newsletter comes out I should be well on my way to recovery. That said, everyone I talk to about pneumonia – including my doctor – tells me it takes a long time to bounce back. I promise to take it easy upon my return.
This experience of getting sick, pushing myself a bit too hard, and getting a clear message to stop, has reminded me that it is counter-cultural in white supremacy culture to accept my limitations and ask for help. Over three decades ago, members of a training collaborative called Dismantling Racism Works built on previous generations of cultural work to identify the hallmarks of white supremacy culture. It may not surprise you that two characteristics of this culture are individualism and perfectionism. When we grit our teeth and do it alone, when we operate with a sense of urgency that squashes the possibility of collaboration, when messiness and mistakes seem unthinkable rather than part of being human, we might be under the spell of white supremacy culture. We have inherited an old tradition, famously described by sociologist Max Weber in the early years of the 20th century in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, that equates our self-worth and individual salvation with work, with the outward appearance of productivity and wealth. Creation groans under the impact of these centuries spent pursuing productivity and wealth, these centuries spent ignoring our commonalities for the sake of individual gain.
There is another way. Our UU principles ask us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all, to respect the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part. When we embrace our collective interdependence, when we recognize our inherent worth and dignity regardless of how much we have or how hard we have pushed ourselves, we are answering the call of Unitarian Universalism, the call of humanity. Let us keep practicing our faith by continuing to take care of one another, resisting the impulse to do everything ourselves or expect perfection. As we head into a new year, a new decade, let us do so the most life-affirming way we know how: together.
Rev. Jolie Olivetti