Implementing SpiritUUality and ValUUes in Our Lives

BulletinChildren’s Story

Our High School Youth Group wants to connect with you at our annual Youth-led worship service. This intergenerational service will explore what is most meaningful in our UU tradition for youth today. Come catch the spirit, get inspired and share your truths with our youth. Log in to hear from some of our youth.

Homilies

Kalen Woolwine

Hi. I am Kalen Woolwine, and I’m a Junior here and a member of East Shore’s High School Youth Group. Throughout my life, I’ve been raised by people who, while maybe not religious in the typical sense, have been extremely attuned to spiritual values. Personally, I would like to believe that I myself am also spiritual. I believe in the principles of UUism, even if I can’t always remember them off the top of my head. I believe that all health is interconnected, mental, physical, spiritual. I believe that helping people is the right thing to do.

However, while I’ve thought about what to write for this, I realize that just speaking my beliefs isn’t enough. One of my main frustrations with the world right now is in the public’s ideal that sharing ideas and thoughts and information is what changes things, and while yes, it has been proven that sharing information does help, it is the action of individuals and communities that really end up shaping our world. I don’t mean violence, I never want to promote violence, and personally, I don’t think it helps anything. I do mean acting, truly acting, on our beliefs, however. Even if you’re older, and think that it’s up to the children now, the teens, the young activists going out there and standing up for change, you can make a change as well, and a positive one.

Our beliefs are UU’s speak of how we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and I will admit, it can be hard sometimes to understand that. Personal prejudices based on first encounters with others, or even hundredth encounters with others, can make it near impossible to see the change they are trying to make. Recently, I had to deal with someone in my life who I’ve barely shared a happy moment with, who, in the years I’ve known them, I have always been in conflict, or some sort of disagreement, with. For years, I myself had pushed this person away, thinking that all they ever wanted to do was make me hurt. And even after I let go of the initial year in my life of anger, the feeling was still there. I couldn’t see that they were trying to become better, and this year was really when I did realize that. Sure, I don’t agree with them all the time, and sometimes they can get on my nerves, but they’ve improved leap and bounds past who they used to be.

As a people, in today’s society, we tend to look at what is wrong with the world, and we attempt to make things right. And sometimes, emotions get in the way of doing so calmly, or without harsh reactions. There are so many people, especially online now, who go around just to make others feel like they’re wrong. And being angry with those people, feeling hurt, being unhappy, is completely valid. It is okay. I’ve been told that reacting is only making matters worse, and for many children and teens learning how to navigate the world, that can be misconstrued as something else. For me, I’ve found that I took it as “feeling hurt and angry is the wrong thing”. I’ve since moved away from that line of thinking, but for myself, it’s still a work in progress. Being hurt, experiencing pain, isn’t wrong. It’s alright, and I’m beginning to accept that for myself.

What we do is what matters the most, so today, and every day, I implore you to go above and beyond what you normally would, even in this limited environment. If you go onto social media, comment on people’s posts there with kind words. If you don’t, text or call a loved one you haven’t talked to in a while. A parent, a child, a nephew, a sibling, or even a friend. Tell them you love them and miss them and have a conversation. Chances are, they miss you too, and even when you can’t go out and help people on the streets, you can help people by talking to them, and letting them know you care. It can help lift the burden that some are feeling to know, even if they would otherwise. I know that I’ve been reaching out to others, and when others have reached out to me, it makes all the difference in the world. So spread messages of joy and positivity through the world, because you never know who may need it most. 

Francis Sherley

“Radical” has several definitions. Radicals in math are roots of a number, a radical plant springs directly from the root, and in linguistics, radicals represent the root forms of words. Each definition of “radical” mentions a root. For me, the root of every person is their humanity. I identify with a faith that centers not around dogma, but rather value-based principles. The first principle explains the inherent worth and dignity of every person, represented through radical inclusivity. Remembering the importance of this value greatly affects how I move through the world.

One particular example sticks out for me. The room at the Regional Youth Conference was an open space, however, a closed circle of people were talking and laughing. Being my social self, I wanted in on this, but I didn’t see a way to insert myself since they closed themselves off. I put my hands in my pockets and retreated to the people I came with. As my back was turned, I heard someone yell “Robbie Rule!” I turned around and watched people move back and to the side to make room. I took my invitation to step in and tested the waters of these new people. I asked what “Robbie Rule” meant, and they explained a kid named Robbie created a rule to keep the space inclusive. The rule was to open your circle to new people, voices, and perspectives as Robbie would have wanted. My emotions quickly shifted from fear of exclusion to confidence in myself and my ideas. As we continued talking, we made sure to leave room in our circle. Each time a new person joined in, we would back up a little more.

As a member of the dominant culture, I am inherently included in American society. People who look like me are commonly represented in the media. Band-aids are made to match my skin color, and I do not worry that a rejection for a job is based on my race. As I became more aware of the lack of radical inclusivity in the world, I recognized that although I was not being excluded, my family had been excluded my whole life. I remembered cutting out a heart, gluing it to a blue card, crossing out the word “Father” in “Happy Father’s Day!”, and writing “Baba” in its place. It felt unfair that I had to change the project to fit my family. We always did projects for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but we never did anything for Baba’s Day. I was too young to realize my reality was not the norm and Baba, the name I use for my mom’s non-binary partner, was specific to my family. I felt separate and alone. I was the only person in my class with queer parents and my teachers did not think about the effects of their heteronormative messages.

I sometimes find it difficult to apply things I learn to my every-day life, but it is getting increasingly easier as I become increasingly authentic. I find myself standing in a group with my friends at school and, without noticing it, I move to make room for people to join, leaving an open space physically and mentally. Sometimes I catch myself closing the circle and think “Robbie Rule” and move accordingly. Although I am often included, I know how it feels to be excluded, and I strive to ensure I am not contributing to anyone’s exclusion. I plan to continue this practice every day of my life and learn more about how I can make the world a more accepting place that adheres to the Robbie Rule and acknowledges the root of every person.

Amelie Heise:

Good morning and my name is Amelie Heise. I use she/her pronouns and I am a graduating senior here at East Shore. When I agreed to write a homily for my last youth service, I had no idea what I was going to talk about or if I was going to even be able to find a time to write it. After our Spring Youth Conference got canceled, I suddenly found myself with a lot more time and a plethora of inspiration. Con has had a bigger influence than I could have ever imagined it would in my life. I have made life long friendships and learned more about myself each and every hour I spent at Camp Cispus. 

Con is a youth-led and planned conference. Cons happened in youth communities all over the nation. People come from all over each district, twice a year, to connect and learn from each other. Ours takes place at a small camp called Camp Cispus, in Randle Washington. The campsite has no wifi and no cell connection. Basically, no contact with the outside world unless there is an emergency. It’s a time to really connect with the people around you and to deepen your spirituality. 

I attended my first Youth Conference in Fall 2017, I never thought one group of people or one event would have so much impact in my life. Like every new con-goer, I was very confused about what was happening. I was suddenly shoved into a group of random people with a lot of noise and activity going on around me. I was surrounded by new faces playing games of lap tag, brand new surroundings covered in lake-like puddles from the rain and a lot of new information being thrown at me. 

Over the past three years, I found myself leaning more and more into things that I used to be uncomfortable with. I found myself being one of the last ones to leave our worshipful spaces after worship, really thinking hard about questions surrounding our faith that were being given to me, but most importantly, really internalizing the con culture and bringing some of that culture back here to East Shore to our youth group as well to those around me outside of our faith. 

Con has led me to greater heights, leadership wise.  I have found myself serving the youth board (YES Team We’re actively looking for new youth members right now too), and serving on staff for two youth cons as Touch Group Coordinator this past fall and Dean/Con Chair this spring, as well as Junior Dean at our UU summer camp for High School Youth in our district, Camp Blue Boat this summer. These leadership positions have given me a chance to not only give back to the youth community but especially when I was the Touch Group Coordinator, a chance to deepen my spirituality.

At Con, we are huge on inclUUsivity. We promote it using the Robbier Rule. The Robbier Rule comes from the original “Robbie Rule” which means we always leave a space for Robbie in a group or circle. The Robbier Rule basically expands on that and includes actively inviting people to a conversation and catching them up if they happen to come in during the middle of a conversation as well. Inclusivity has been becoming a core value in my life. I have found myself subconsciously always leaving space for Robbie when I am with others, not only in UU spaces but everywhere in my life. 

Con has also helped me better understand my values in terms of race. Race caucusing is something that confused me in the beginning, but is now something that I embrace and love. Race caucusing has given me a community of empowering POCs to be around and a safe place to talk about the problems I face based on my race. As I said early, when I was looking for words for this service, I really wanted to be intentional about the voices we are lifting up. Our faith is predominantly white, so there are a lot of words by white folx. And that’s okay. But it also means that we have to work harder to find those voices of marginalized folx and lift them up. Con has helped me realize that I need to be more inclUUsive of the voices I am lifting up. I need to be aware of the voices I am using.

InclUUsivity is the most important valUUe in my life. If it wasn’t for con, I don’t think I would be aware of being as inclusive as I am today. Con has taught me a lot about life, the values I want to hold in my life, but most of all has given me some of the best friendships I could ever ask for. My con friends are my second family. They are the one group of people I can always rely on to love me at my lowest points in life and to always be there to support me. These are friendships to last a lifetime and I cannot be more thankful for the event that has brought me these friends. I know that everything I have learned at Con will be carried with me throughout my life after I graduate because this community has had a bigger impact on my life than I could have ever imagined. I know that I will carry these ideas and values with me through college as I attend Seattle University in the fall.