May 2020 Newsletter
Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe
[image description: a person wearing a pink sweater, jeans, and a blue cloth face mask sits on the ground against a teal wall with a book in their hands; on the wall there are gold and purple letter balloons spelling out the following quote from comedian Jenny Jaffe: “YOU’RE ONLY UNPRODUCTIVE BY THE STANDARDS OF THE WORLD WE LIVED IN TWO MONTHS AGO AND THAT WORLD IS GONE NOW.”]
I’m sure you’ve seen them. The advertisements, I mean. The ones created since this age of social distancing began.
I’ll be honest: they creep me out. Will one cellular provider actually offer me more community than another? Why, fast food company, are you offering me a comforting message that has nothing to do with food? Just why?This article from The Atlantic
has raised some interesting ideas about how these types of advertisements help large companies turn our attentions away from how underpaid their employees are. Which is an interesting and critical point, but not the message on my mind…
Corporations only know how to advertise to a world where customers can leave their houses frequently. That world no longer exists.
This is a frightening thought, and a liberating one. Which is why I’ve saved the image at the beginning of this article on my personal desktop. The words on the wall come from comedian Jenny Jaffe.
I only know how to measure my work, life, habits, relationships, etc. by the standards of the world that existed before this age of social distancing. That world is gone now. I do not know what of that world will exist again. And, actually, it’s up to me (and you, and you, and us) to decide what the standards and practices of the world beyond this one will be.
That, understandably, is a scary idea. And it is one that can liberate us from that which does not serve us. In the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the deity within those texts says, “Do not be afraid” more than any other single phrase. Fear can yield to liberation, if we let it.
Do not be afraid, we are here for you. Do not be afraid, the Spirit of Life is among us. Do not be afraid, the future is ours to build.
- Rev. Bethany
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Join us Sundays at 10:30 am onUUCT's Facebook page
orour YouTube page
to watch worship. Worship will be pre-recorded, but will go "live" on both Facebook and YouTube at 10:30 on Sundays. You can watch it with a group then, or watch it in either location on your own later on.
Schedule of recorded services
Services are pre-recorded and available on YouTube.
New services premier at 10:30am on the date.
May 3 Southern Arizona CUUPS with Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe.For the ritual gather a candle, lighter, piece of bread, and glass of wine or juice before we begin.
May 10 Baja 4 Congregational Ministersational Ministers
Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe, UU Church of Tucson
Rev. Tina Squire, Sky Islands UU, Sierra Vista
Rev. Matthew Funke Crary, Borderlands UU, Amado
Rev. Sam Wilson, Mountain Vista UU, Tucson
Zoom Sunday Social Hour
(If the link isn't live, copy and paste it into your browser)
Starts at 11:30 by computer (go online to:
Or by phone (call 1-669-900-6833
and put inMeeting ID: 702 589 0260when prompted).
If your group or committee would like to meet on Zoom, contact Rev. Bethany or Jamili to reserve a space and get tech support to learn how to use Zoom.
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Social Justice Committee
UUCT ‘Surrogate Shoppers’
Helping medically at-risk UUCT members
After agreeing to use strategies and techniquesrecommended by the CDC
to reduce the chances of spreading the coronavirus, UUCT volunteer shoppers are helping medically high-risk members of the congregation avoid going to grocery stores.
In order to avoid going to a grocery store, UUCT’s Surrogate Shoppers recommend three options to avoid physically entering a grocery store:
- Several local grocery storesand private Tucson grocery-delivery services, such asInstacartandAmazon PrimeNowoffer home delivery.
- Curbside-pickup in Tucsonof groceries eliminates the delivery person from the supply chain.
- The third option is use of UUCT’s new program, Surrogate Shoppers. They will buy at Trader Joe’s or Sprouts and wear masks, use hand disinfection or nitrile gloves at each step. They will maintain those precautions from picking ordered items to dropping off the bagged groceries at front doors. Our clients can pay surrogate shoppers with personal checks.
Most pharmacies offer free mail delivery of prescriptions. Several, includingCVS
also offer 1-2 day home delivery of prescriptions, over-the-counter remedies, and “everyday essentials.”
UUCT Surrogate Shoppers can pick up prescriptions or other medicines for UUCT members if mail delivery is not available.
To place a grocery order, contact one of the surrogate shopper volunteers:
Deliveries will be made within 1-3 days.
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No More Deaths
Our social justice partner 'No More Deaths' (NMD) and other groups say that desperate asylum-seeking migrants are now being turned away at the Mexico-U.S. border with no hope of applying for asylum. They must weigh life-altering choices of waiting indefinitely in squalid shelters and camps, going back home to face unstable and dangerous futures, or crossing the border and risk contracting the COVID-19 on their journey or contracting it in overcrowded detention centers.
“No More Deaths legal aid team is working diligently to get our clients who are in the detention system out as quickly as possible,” said a NMD email on March 29. “Our staff and volunteers are also working to help our clients find food, rental and utility assistance, and medical help as jobs are lost and no safety net is available for many with whom we work.”
If you are able to make a gift to NMD, please do so via check sent to UUCT with this notation 'STP for NMD'.
Board of Trustees
Our Financial Situation
From the Board of Trustees, Finance and Stewardship Committees, and Minister and Staff
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused grief and hardship for many people in the world and in our community. This is true for UUCT and our members and friends. We hope you and your loved ones are well physically, mentally, and financially. This letter is to keep you fully informed about our church's financial situation, plans for the next year, and to recognize the changed circumstances some of you may be facing.
There is a great deal of uncertainty in our finances, both in this fiscal year (July 2019 to June 2020) and budgeting for the next (July 2020 to June 2021). There are three principle reasons. One is our current transition to on-line services starting March 15th, resulting in changes to giving patterns, as well as in our expenses and rental income. The second is the general economic situation that will have ripple effects for some time to come. And finally there are the changes to the financial situation of our sustaining members and friends.
Before we discuss these further, we want you to know that at this time UUCT is not in imminent financial danger. We continue to pay our staff and bills and to receive income from pledges, donations, and renters. Our staff and the Baja 4 ministers continue to provide pastoral and spiritual services includingweekly on-line worship
) know. We care about you and it is ok if you need to change your pledge.
Current Stewardship and Support
Share the Plate, were largely received during the offertory. These are potentially significantly impacted by loss of the Sunday worship services in our beautiful sanctuary. You are asked to use ourcredit card service
(which can be reached by the link or the
button on our website), the very easy to use Text-to-Give (1-833-361-5796), or checks sent to the office. The on-line giving gives you the option to identify the contribution and use the memo line for checks. A tutorial video on Text-to-Give ishere
. After setting up an initial “profile” these options are easy to use for subsequent donations.
As noted in the introduction, we have been receiving pledges. We are working to understand how this compares to normal times for which we need a month or two track record. Since we closed the campus on March 10thup to April 5th our pledge deposits were $22,711, which is within the normal range of a month. Our non-pledge deposits (donation and offertory) were $2,511. This is similar to giving for July to November while lower than December to February when there were special collections and enhancedShare the Plate. What are substantially down are room rentals, which is to be expected.
Our main renter, theChildren's Center, has been substantially affected as all but essential workers have removed their children. They have made a partial rent payment, which we fully understand. We will be working with them to ensure a just and compassionate adjustment.
On the expense side the staff and finance committee are working to keep expenses down. The FC has requested that non-urgent expenses be minimized as much as possible while they understand the cash flow situation we are currently encountering. A detailed report will be provided separately.
In summary, if you relied on the offertory to fulfill your pledge or make donations learn about the on-line options and keep supporting UUCT but with our understanding that some may have a changed financial status.
In keeping with our values the Board has directed that our employees, including our Sunday childcare providers, continue to be paid. Our minister, LFD director, music director, and pianist are working from home. Our administrator works from home and comes to handle matters at the office, including mailed checks, on a reduced schedule. Our custodian is on campus to keep an eye on things, also on a reduced schedule. Everyone is working as hard as they are able to fulfill their duties.
Something that many of you have asked about is the federal support for employees authorized by Congress. Yes! we have submitted an application with our bank for $124,072 from this program. It is a loan that is forgiven provided the money is largely used for 2.5 months of employee compensation, which of course we fully intend to do. If we get this money it will ensure that our fiscal year will end in the black even with some decrease in our other income. Note, that the amount includes ourNo More Deathsemployees since UUCT is the legal employer though they are managed by and work forNMD. We were in the queue for a loan/grant but the money has run out and we were not funded. We are hopeful that Congress will pass a bill with additional funding for the program and our application will be granted.
The Minister’s Discretionary Fund
). She can refer any UUCT member or friend to
Interfaith Community Servicesand you will receive a call from them within a few days. Beyond that, bills or basic needs that
cannot meet may be able to be paid for through the
Minister's Discretionary Fund.
There has been some interest from friends with stable income in donating some or all of their stimulus payment to support our members and friends. If you are so inclined you may donate this to theMinister's Discretionary Fund. The purpose of this fund is to support our church family members who are in need and from which our minister can confidentially provide help. To do this you can use mail or via the on-line donation to “Minister Discretionary”.
Fiscal Year July 2020-June 2021
Our Stewardship Campaign for the next fiscal year (our church’s financial/budgeting year) was successful due to your generous pledges. The Finance Committee began to build a budget around our expectations for a normal year. However, we are all recognizing that such expectations may not apply because of the economic effects of COVID-19 and the general shutdown of the economy. So the plan is to be conservative with a transition budget to be adopted in June and then a revised budget in the fall as we see where the economy is going.
Again, some of you may find yourselves in a situation where your next year’s pledges are no longer within your means. We encourage you to let us know your realistic pledge by confidentially letting the minister or pledge chair know. This is important to help us plan our budget. Any revised pledge total will be forwarded to the Finance Committee. You can use email or the sameon-line pledge form
(or the Pledge button on our website) with a comment that this is a change in your pledge.
What Is Waning
We held an Intuitive Tarot Class in April by Zoom and it was well attended and informative! Thank you again, Carrie!
What Is Waxing
We have created a Circle of Care specifically for members of SAZCUUPS. We are offering virtual hangouts for our members to connect with each other throughout the uncertain time.
Please note, this is for members only--if you want to join SAZCUUPS as a dues-paying member, let us know!
Our class offering will be an open Q and A CUUPS Chat on May 17th at 12:30 p.m. via Zoom. Use ID#: 823 936 4868.
Our Beltane ritual will be on May 2nd at 6 pm. We will be offering this ritual through our Zoom room. Use ID#: 823 936 4868.
Pagan Tip of The Month
Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the energy in your house right now? Try a salt bowl! Fill a small bowl about half full with any kind of salt that you have on hand. I like to use sea salt but you can use whatever you've got! Add any herbs, oils, or trinkets that signify positive feelings, energy, cleansing, and good communication. Set the bowl by your front door or near a window (away from any pets or kids) to collect any negative vibes floating through the space. You can also dip your fingers in whenever you need some negative feelings absorbed away from you. At the next new moon, toss out the salt in the trash or outside where you don't want plants to grow and start again!
All traditions welcome!
Southern Arizona CUUPS: A Chapter of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans
Mail: Southern Arizona CUUPS c/o UUCT, 4831 E. 22nd Street, Tucson, AZ 85711
Baja 4: Our Creation
On April 19th during the Sunday Service, the ministers of the Baja 4 invited us to join in the creative spirit during these times.
"Whatever it is that calls out in your heart to be made, make it."- Jamili Omar
Find examples and share
your work at:
RE at Home Resources
Are you interested in "doing church" at home? I am collecting resources for at home religious education both on the Parenting Club Facebook page and in a Google drive. The folder is available to everyone! You'll find activities that take 5 minutes and one that take 5 days, so you're in control of how much time you spend on RE.
Circles of Care
Beyond Circles of Care?
We also want to be responsive to all who may be needing a little extra support. There’s so much about this experience that can produce anxiety, grief, confusion. It may cause serious financial hardship. It can bring up past traumatic experiences and crises.
This is in addition to whatever challenge, grief, or anxiety you may be facing in your life already. We are here for you.
Please let us know what’s going on in your world, and how we can best journey with you in this time.
, even if you aren’t yet sure what you might need!
With love from your Program Staff,
Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe, Mary Wiese, Jamili Omar, and Brian Moon
Following is the worship schedule for the next two weeks. This is a joint venture of the Baja 4 congregations, led by their ministers:
- Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe, Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson
- Rev. Tina Squire, Sky Islands UU, Sierra Vista
- Rev. Matthew Funke Crary, Borderlands UU, Amado
- Rev. Sam Wilson, Mountain Vista UU, Tucson
May 3 - Southern Arizona CUUPS, Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe
May 10 - Baja 4 Congregational Ministers
As you all know, everything these days is in flux and subject to change at any time. This is the plan as of today, and it could change.
Worship Committee will meet via Zoom on Saturday, May 9 at 9:30 a.m. to finalize the schedule for the summer.
May 2 Social JusticeWorkshop
UUCT justice activists are invited to a Zoom workshop that will explore how we can better organize ourselves in order to harness the power at the intersection of faith and justice.
Coordinator for Congregational Activism with the UU College of Social Justice, will lead “Faith in Action” workshop.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, May 2, 2020
Who: This workshop is for groups from congregations, social justice committee leaders in a church, ministers and DRE's.
Anyone who sees that the work their church does could be deeper and more effective but who needs help organizing the folks in their church in a way that changes how that work is done.
Goal: Give a framework that helps the church know what their work is, make sure that the work is done in an effective anti-oppressive manner, and firmly root the work in Unitarian Universalism and the mission/vision of the church.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
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More SJC Opportunities
UUCT’sCoffee and Clothes Drive
Sales and delivery - of Café Justo coffee are continuing. This Social Justice Council (SJC) project benefits small-scale, shade-grown organic coffee growers in Chiapas, Mexico. (Kate Schleinkofer and Judy Dare lead this project.)
The delivered-price is $10 per pound bag of Arabica beans and ground, and Robusta beans and ground.
Decaf Arabica beans and ground is $11 per pound bag. UUCT member Sue Watts will exchange your coffee for checks made out to UUCT - with Cafe Justo on the memo line. Please, no cash.
When Social Justice Council volunteers pick up coffee shipments in Douglas, AZ, they also drop off clothing donated for asylum-seeking families a few miles away at the C.A.M.E. shelter in Agua Prieta, Mexico.
UUCT member Beth Britton has spearheaded this clothing effort. All newly donated clothing must be sanitized by machine washing and aseptically folded and bagged while wearing a mask.
Several of our community groups continue to meet while staying apart using Zoom. If you have concerns using Zoom, don’t worry! If you can use a phone, you can Zoom!
Conversations with Friends meets on Wednesdays at 2:30, and many members dial in on phones. Contact Gilbert Moore for information.
Grief Group meets at 9 am on Sundays and is facilitated by Lynne Bradley.
TBirds continues to meet intermittently even though many members have flown back North. (Howard Tolley can tell you more).
The Book Club continues to read thought & conversation provoking books and meets monthly; you can talk to Margo Newhouse for meeting times and the latest title.
Finally, our Care Team has been more active than usual. Phone calls to check in on folks, as well as letter writing, is all done remotely. Touch base with Aston Bloom to learn more and help!
I hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and cool as the weather warms.
Community Life portfolio holder
Your UUCT community is here for you! Start here:
Board & Community Life Portfolio
(Opening photo is Galen Meyer)
We are hoping this message finds you healthy and staying safe. As you are aware, we are all uncertain of when this pandemic will subside and we can begin to start a new way of life. That being said, we are holding our projects and events for now. When we are able to resume, the projects that were in the planning stages will be ready to move forward. Hopefully in the next month or so we will indeed have a better idea of what is to come.
We are thankful to Rev. Bethany and leadership for the wonderful Sunday services that give us hope and support that keeps us together as a family.
As always if you have any questions or concerns, please get in contact with us either via email or phone.
Sending you peace, good health and visualizing immunity.
Stay safe. Stay positive.
Jerry and Bob
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All are welcome!
For information contact:
Jerry or Bob at
or by phone: 441-274-4051
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Small Group Ministry for Trans+ Non-binary UUs
We are opening up space on the UUJAZ Zoom channel, once a month, for a small group ministry (covenant group) facilitated by a trans+ UU minister.
We'd welcome trans+ and/or non-binary UUs from across the state, to let UUJAZ know if they are interested in participating. Together we'll choose a day and time that works best for everyone.
In Praise ofOUR
Front Line Heroes
We regularly hear about the front line heroes of the pandemic; the nurses, doctors, supermarket staff, etc. We all applaud them.
I want to call out our own front line heroes that have kept UUCT going and serving us, the congregants. The key people, even more so than in normal times, are the ministers and staffs of our Baja 4 congregations.
The on-line services prepared by the ministers, who are not normally required to be techno geeks, have been embracing and inspiring. This was done without even missing a Sunday! We sing the praises of the ministers and contributors to these services. We have seen the great work of our own Jamili Omar (a great communicator for all ages), pianist Chris Tackett, and music director Brian Moon.
Behind the scenes our administrator. Mary Wiese has kept our office and weekly emails going and, along with our custodian Jesus Carillo, have been dealing with watching and responding to events on our campus.
Besides worship services, pastoral care is even more important now. Rev. Bethany is there for us personally and through heartening video messages. She and Jamili are making sure we stay in contact as much as possible through Sunday social hour, Circles of Connection and Care, and on-line events of art and support for parents, children, and others.
The Care Team has been calling our congregants who may not have the equipment, skills, or knowledge of how to be connected in our on-line environment. Finally, there are also congregants who have stepped up to shop, make masks, and generally help our members and the community.
Another hero I want to call out is our Vice President for Finance, J.D. Garcia. I hate having to deal with bureaucracy and filling out often confusing forms. He, along with our administrator, bookkeeper, and treasurer, have been navigating the hoops needed to apply for the Payroll Protection Plan to support our employees. He has gotten our applications in (through two different systems!) and we just hope that we get a piece of the program.
Not quite in their league but also continuing to serve UUCT are the Board of Trustees and Finance Committee. They have met multiple times a month outside their normal schedule.
The Board has continued to do its oversight work but, more importantly, charting our path through murky waters in terms of finances, how we will continue to conduct our annual business, and, ultimately, safely come out of the isolation required of us. The Finance Committee has been trying to plan in this uncertain economic time with a budget to meet our expenses extending into the coming church year.
Thank you to all our heroes, including those unnamed, for serving our UU community in this challenging time.
Contact Frank at:
UUJAZ News - Janine Gelsinger
I've been thinking about how to UU the Vote has changed so much since I spoke on our national launch call in January. Our partners, too, have been hard at work thinking about how to shift their work in this time. Now, more than ever, we need to fight for our voting rights! Partners like Mijente, Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club, and UUSC have been pushing for a #PeoplesBailout
in which the fifth principle demands protections of our democratic process.
Locally, we are pushing our state legislature to meet remotely and pass a resolution to send paper mail-in ballots to every eligible voter. Our partners at Outlaw Dirty Money, Invest in Ed, and Save Our Schools are awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit with the state to use online signature collection for their ballot initiatives.
Do you want to participate in Statewide
organizing for the 2020 election?
UUJAZ has the purpose and ability to unite our efforts, and focus us in our tasks: having values-based conversations in a virtual deep-canvassing model, supporting ballot initiatives aligned with our values, comparing primary candidates for city, county, and state seats based on the issues, and defending our voting process from suppression.
Our plan to do that in the next 6 months involves adding a coordinator to our team, who will lead us in monthly organizing calls, virtual workshops on the issues at play, and send lots of opportunities for anyone to get involved! Our choice for this role is a UU, an organizer for Our Revolution, Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, and has held several elected offices in AZ, Bryan Rasmussen.
In these overwhelming times, we want to make it as easy as possible for your congregation to be involved... it'll be like having your own staff coordinator to support you, complete with easy-to-follow calls for action sent to your newsletters!
If your congregation wants to participate in UUJAZ's UU the Vote 2020 teams, here is what we need: UU the Vote can provide mini-grants of $500 per congregation in order to hire our organizer. They require a letter of support from your board, saying that YES, your congregation wants support from UUJAZ in leading these efforts. Can you reply to us by May 15th, letting us know you are "in"?
Join UU the Vote for “How We Thrive!” a LIVE virtual event -Tuesday, May 12 at 4 pm AZ time
What does it mean to practice our principles during a pandemic? What are we doing to guarantee free and fair elections in states targeted by voter suppression?
How is UU the Vote rising to the challenges of COVID-19, while creating a movement towards UU values in the 2020 elections?
This event will feature musicians from across the country, a message from UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, and opportunities for you to get involved and make meaningful impacts in 2020!
Join a nation-wide virtual choir!
Music is powerful. It is there for us when we need strength and inspiration to keep going and when we need rest and discernment to determine our next move. Join the “How We Thrive” virtual choir, by adding your voice, today! Many of us know and love the song“We Shall be Known” by MaMuse.
Its simple lyrics call on us to center the deep spiritual work of community healing, action, and collaboration. We need 50 folks to record videos singing this song, to include in the May 12 event.
Send us your photos
by April 30th.
In community, Janine
Janine Gelsinger on facebook
If you have ever wanted to participate in GA but not been able to attend, thanks to a pandemic YOU can be there!
GENERAL ASSEMBLY VIRTUAL REGISTRATION
Virtual Registrants are able to watch and ask questions in live sessions including workshops and business sessions (mini-assemblies, hearings, etc).
are also able to propose amendments in the live business sessions, participate in debates, and vote in general sessions.
Virtual registration for General Assembly is $150 per person. Registration for General Assembly is the same process for delegates
Events Streamed to Virtual GA Registrants
June 24-28, 2020
Conversations with Friends
and Gilbert Moore
Conversations with Friends has resumed meeting weekly, at 2:30 pm on Wednesdays, via zoom.
Tucson UU Younger Adults
(TUUYA) Meet Ups
Do you identify as a young adult (generations X, Y, or Z)? Would you like to meet up with other UU young adults? TUUYA regularly hosts events and meet ups.
) has your email or join us on Facebook: by searching Tucson UU Younger Adults (TUUYA).
UUCT BOOK CLUB
The next UU Book Club will meet Thursday, May 14th at 9:30 am on Zoom. The group is reading
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
or 784-1198. The Zoom meeting will be listed on the church’s list of Zoom meetings in the weekly Services and Events email with a link to the Book Group meeting.
Join by phone: +1 669 900 6833 Meeting ID: 435 065 98
You fell asleep in one world and woke up in another.
Suddenly Disney is out of magic;
Paris is no longer romantic;
New York doesn't stand up anymore;
The Chinese wall is no longer a fortress;
And Mecca is empty.
Hugs and kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents and friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realized that power, beauty, and money are worthless and can't get you the oxygen you're fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful. Now only humans are in cages. Please remember:
You are not necessary. The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters.
The Old Man Gets a Haircut
by Steve Kraynak
During shelter in place I am writing memoirs and re-reading those written previously, some of which deal with people and situations here in Tucson -- like going into an actual shop for a haircut. I purposely wrote The Old Man Gets a Haircut in the third person.
The old man opened the door of Great Clips and walked in. He stopped at the small counter to check-in. Having reserved his place via his computer before he left home, he saw that his name was first on list displayed on the electronic monitor above the cash register. He would not have to wait, at least not for very long. Since he was retired, he scheduled his days so that he would not have to wait for anything or anyone.
The manager, who was cutting a woman’s hair in the first chair on the left, turned to him and asked his name. Seeing his name displayed on her side of the monitor, she put down her scissors and walked to the counter. She asked him for his phone number to verify his reservation. Once she had checked him in she said, “You’re next, sir. Please have a seat and our next stylist will be with you shortly.” She smiled kindly to the old man and returned to her waiting client.
Before he was able to sit in one of the black chairs along the windows, he heard the voice of a young woman. “Good morning.” She paused briefly to reposition the gum in her mouth. “My name is Melissa Lee,” she chirped, “and I will beyourstylist today. We’ll be in this chair,” she said as she graciously extended her arm in the direction of her work space, second chair on the right. The old man slowly approached the chair and paused before he climbed into it.
Since the chair easily swiveled, he took his time. While he held onto the chair with his left hand he cautiously lifted both feet, one at a time, over the open chrome foot rest and lowered both back onto the floor. Then he sat back in the chair and rested both feet. He was ready for his hair cut. Melissa Lee wrapped the tissue around his neck and draped the black sheet around him.
The old man had assumed his stylist’s surname was Lee. But glancing at her cosmetology license prominently displayed on the wall mirror, he readMelissa Lee Vollner. He knew that because her space was the second chair, she had less experience than both of the other stylists. All of the stylists in this shop were young, but Melissa Lee was the youngest he had encountered.
After he retired he began to scout unisex hair salons because they charged less than barber shops. Living on his meager social security required him to cut expenses. Although he missed having a barber shave his neck and trim the hair from inside his ears, he chose not to pay extra for those luxuries. The latter he could still do himself; and he never looked at the back of his neck.
He considered himself a private person and found it difficult to chat casually with anyone. Now that he was alone he disliked all the more discussing any of his personal life. But he had learned to initiate conversation by asking questions so he wouldn’t have to talk about, or answer questions about, himself.
He found it nearly impossible to find a stylist with just the right combination of hair cutting skill who was also undemanding of conversation. Barbers, men, knew how to take the hint. There was a silent communication among men in a barber shop. If a barber got terse answers to his initial small talk questions, he would typically relent and let his client sit quietly in the chair. Barber shops and men were like that.
But stylists, women, seemed oblivious to this unwritten male rule. All of them seemed like they could talk forever, sometimes about seemingly nothing. He had tried a shop nearer to his home. Once. But, as soon as he had gotten into the chair, the Vietnamese-looking stylist, a woman, began their conversation by asking him, “Are you married?” He had never returned.
He had two favorite stylists in this shop, both of whom met his criteria, but neither was working today. Even if one had been there, he would have refused to wait until she was available. So he always went with the first available stylist. Today, it was Melissa Lee.
“What does your license cost?” the old man asked her.
“Fifty dollars,” interfered Melissa Lee’s cohort from the near-by first chair.
“It’s up ten from last year,” Melissa Lee bemoaned. “I hope they don’t raise the cost again,” she complained. “It’s a lot of money. And I have to pay it every year to keep my job.”
This seemed to be the opening to conversation that Melissa Lee welcomed. She continued talking as she began to use various size clippers. She easily segued from one topic to the next: her cosmetology school and her instructors in Safford, the test she had taken to get her Arizona license, how long she had been cutting hair, the poor condition of her used car. And the weather. In the mirror the old man watched her quick and efficient technique.
“My parents built a house on their property in Vail when they retired. Last year they brought in a double-wide mobile home on their back lot and moved into it. Now they rent the house for income. When my husband was killed in Afghanistan last September, I moved in with my parents. I couldn’t pay the rent myself. My mom watches my two-year-old, Cassie, when I’m here at work. She doesn’t charge me anything. I can’t afford a sitter. Do you want your back tapered or square? It doesn’t say on your computer profile. I don’t know why not. It should say.”
“Tapered,” inserted the old man.
“You don’t have that hairy-neck thing,” Melissa Lee blurted as she worked on the back of his neck. “Which is good!” she quickly added as if to indicate that she meant no offense. “Some men have it, but you don’t.”
“Thank you,” the old man offered.
Melissa Lee finished tapering and offered him a hand mirror. “Why don’t you hold it so I can look?” he suggested. She moved the mirror from side to side so he could see her work. “Looks good,” he said. She removed the black sheet and walked toward the register. The old man carefully climbed out of the chair and went around to the front of the register.
“That will be eleven dollars,” Melissa Lee said without looking at him. She didn’t ask him if he qualified for the senior discount. She just gave it to him. Maybe it was the advancing gray hair at his temples, or the quiet but relentless expansion of male pattern baldness. Maybe it was the deepening wrinkles on his face, or the beginnings of turkey neck, which he sometimes purposely concealed behind the collar of a polo shirt. Maybe it was the appearance of old age spots on his arms, the kind he remembered his grandmother having.
Whatever the reason, it seemed to matter little. He disliked asking for a senior discount. The less he had to say about his aging to anyone, especially anyone young enough to be his grandchild, the better. Without comment he accepted her gesture.
“And fifty for you, Melissa Lee,” the old man added.
Melissa Lee froze. At first, she thought she had misheard him. She hesitantly probed, “Fifty?” The old man nodded. “Fifty –what?” she inquired softly.
“Dollars,” replied the old man. The other two stylists glanced toward him and Melissa Lee. Conversation in the shop ceased.
Melissa Lee Vollner was dumbstruck. She swallowed her gum. It went down her throat involuntarily. It was as if her body was preparing her for what would follow, protecting her from her own unawareness of basic human physiology. To quickly get enough oxygen into her mouth and down her throat and thereby allow her to resume normal breathing, the mouth had to stop moving and the throat had to be open and clear. Visibly agape, she now met both requirements.
She was immobile, as if her slightest wrong movement would obliterate what the old man had just said. Then, a mannequin in slow motion she entered the amount on the keypad. As the receipt was printing, she said quietly, “That will be sixty-one dollars, sir.” She did not look at the old man, thinking that if this were a joke, she would not want to make eye contact with him when he delivered the punch line. She inhaled deeply. Over the small counter she handed both copies of the charge receipt and a pen to the old man. As she watched him sign his name, tears welled up in her eyes.
On the top copy he read the words clearly printed:Seniors Haircut 11.00
Just below that:Charged tip for MELISSA Your Stylist 50.00
And near the bottom: GREAT CLIPS COMMITMENT
Your complete satisfaction on all services and products is fully guaranteed
The old man kept the yellow copy of the receipt and handed back the white and the pen. “Thank you,” Melissa Lee said thoughtfully as she looked intently at her aged client. As he tipped his head forward slightly to meticulously fold his receipt and tuck it into his wallet, she noticed his haircut.It looks good on him, she thought to herself.
“You’re welcome, Melissa Lee,” he replied looking directly at her. Then the old man turned and slowly left the shop.
In The Time of Pandemic
And the people stayed home.
And read books, and listened, and rested,
And exercised, and made art, and played games,
And learned new ways of being, and were still.
And they listened more deeply
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant,
Dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
The earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the
People joined together again, they grieved their losses,
And made new choices, and dreamed new images,
And created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,
As they had been healed.
This is the Reflection offered by GSAM President Nancy Tinsley, on the April 9, 2020
phone conference call meeting of the GSAM Governing Council. The author is Ms. Kitty O’Meara, a retired teacher from Madison, Wisconsin.(Offered here by Aston Bloom)
The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.
- The Buddha
Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness
If I have harmed anyone in any way
either knowingly or unknowingly through my own confusions
I ask their forgiveness.
If anyone has harmed me in any way
either knowingly or unknowingly through their own confusions
I forgive them.
And if there is a situation
I am not yet ready to forgive
I forgive myself for that.
For all the ways that I harm myself, negate,
doubt, belittle myself, judge
or be unkind to myself through my own confusions
I forgive myself
Joy and Gratitude in the Time of COVID-19
(Submitted by Steve Kraynak)
In April 2015 Archbishop Desmond Tutu traveled to Dharamsala, India to spend a week in dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and celebrate the latter’s eightieth birthday. One outcome of their week together isThe Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.During sheltering at home, Bob and I are reading it aloud to each other.
Some quotes of interest fromThe Book of Joy:
· Research suggests that there are only four fundamental emotions: fear, anger, sadness, and joy or happiness.
· “Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness.”
· “We need, ultimately, to have a greater concern for others’ well-being.”
· “The ultimate source of happiness is within us.”
The Book of Joyconcludes with a section of “Joy Practices” suggested by both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. The three which I find most helpful are as follows:
1. Morning intention setting:
a. Either lie in bed or sit comfortably.
b. Close your eyes and take several long breaths through your nose.
c. Now ask yourself: “What is my heart’s desire? What do I wish for myself, for my loved ones, and for the world?
d. Then state your intention for the day, such as“Today may I be less judgmental.”
2. Morning meditation walk without external distractions like talking or music. “Listen to the wisdom of the spirit that often comes through the wisdom of the body.”
3. Journaling for Gratitude at the end of the day:
a. Close your eyes and recall three things from your day for which you are grateful.
b. Write these three things down in a journal. Each time you journal, try to write down three different things. Variation is the key to effective gratitude journaling.
If in need of focus for any Joy Practice, consider repeating the four lines adapted from the Tibetan prayer of the Four Immeasurables:
May all beings attain happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering.
May all beings never be separated from joy.
May all beings abide in equanimity.
A Piece by Ann Lamont
My seven-year-old grandson sleeps just down the hall from me, and he wakes up a lot of mornings and he says, "You know, this could be the best day ever." And other times, in the middle of the night, he calls out in a tremulous voice, "Nana, will you ever get sick and die?"
I think this pretty much says it for me and for most of the people I know, that we're a mixed grill of happy anticipation and dread. So I sat down a few days before my 61st birthday,and I decided to compile a list of everything I know for sure. There's so little truth in the popular culture, and it's good to be sure of a few things.
For instance, I am no longer 47, although this is the age I feel, and the age I like to think of myself as being. My friend Paul used to say in his late 70s that he felt like a young man with something really wrong with him.
Our true person is outside of time and space, but looking at the paperwork, I can, in fact, see that I was born in 1954. My inside self is outside of time and space. It doesn't have an age. I'm every age I've ever been, and so are you, although I can't help mentioning as an aside that it might have been helpful if I hadn't followed the skin care rules of the '60s, which involved getting as much sun as possible while slathered in baby oil and basking in the glow of a tinfoil reflector shield.
It was so liberating, though, to face the truth that I was no longer in the last throes of middle age, that I decided to write down every single true thing I know. People feel really doomed and overwhelmed these days, and they keep asking me what's true. So I hope that my list of things I'm almost positive about might offer some basic operating instructions to anyone who is feeling really overwhelmed or beleaguered.
Number one: the first and truest thing is that all truth is a paradox. Life is both a precious, unfathomably beautiful gift, and it's impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It's been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive.It's so hard and weird that we sometimes wonder if we're being punked. It's filled simultaneously with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, desperate poverty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together. I don't think it's an ideal system.
Number two: almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes -- including you.
Three: there is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way,unless you're waiting for an organ. You can't buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind. This is the most horrible truth, and I so resent it. But it's an inside job, and we can't arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world.They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can't run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero's journey. You have to release them.It's disrespectful not to. And if it's someone else's problem, you probably don't have the answer, anyway.
Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don't get your help and goodness all over everybody.
This brings us to number four: everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy and scared, even the people who seem to have it most together. They are much more like you than you would believe, so try not to compare your insides to other people's outsides. It will only make you worse than you already are.
Also, you can't save, fix or rescue any of them or get anyone sober. What helped me get clean and sober 30 years ago was the catastrophe of my behavior and thinking. So I asked some sober friends for help, and I turned to a higher power. One acronym for God is the "gift of desperation," G-O-D, or as a sober friend put it, by the end I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.
So God might mean, in this case, "me running out of any more good ideas."
While fixing and saving and trying to rescue is futile, radical self-care is quantum, and it radiates out from you into the atmosphere like a little fresh air. It's a huge gift to the world. When people respond by saying, "Well, isn't she full of herself," just smile obliquely like Mona Lisa and make both of you a nice cup of tea. Being full of affection for one's goofy, self-centered, cranky, annoying self is home. It's where world peace begins.
Number five: chocolate with 75 percent cacao is not actually a food.
Its best use is as a bait in snake traps or to balance the legs of wobbly chairs. It was never meant to be considered an edible.
Number six -- writing. Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts, but they keep their butt in the chair. That's the secret of life. That's probably the main difference between you and them. They just do it. They do it by prearrangement with themselves. They do it as a debt of honor. They tell stories that come through them one day at a time, little by little.When my older brother was in fourth grade, he had a term paper on birds due the next day, and he hadn't started. So my dad sat down with him with an Audubon book, paper, pencils and brads -- for those of you who have gotten a little less young and remember brads -- and he said to my brother, "Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Just read about pelicans and then write about pelicans in your own voice. And then find out about chickadees, and tell us about them in your own voice. And then geese."
So the two most important things about writing are: bird by bird and really god-awful first drafts. If you don't know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should've behaved better.
You're going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions and songs -- your truth, your version of things -- in your own voice. That's really all you have to offer us,and that's also why you were born.
Seven: publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and evil people I've ever known are male writers who've had huge best sellers. And yet, returning to number one, that all truth is paradox, it's also a miracle to get your work published, to get your stories read and heard. Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, that it will fill the Swiss-cheesy holes inside of you. It can't. It won't. But writing can. So can singing in a choir or a bluegrass band. So can painting community murals or birding or fostering old dogs that no one else will.
Number eight: families. Families are hard, hard, hard, no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be. Again, see number one.
At family gatherings where you suddenly feel homicidal or suicidal --remember that in all cases, it's a miracle that any of us, specifically, were conceived and born. Earth is forgiveness school. It begins with forgiving yourself, and then you might as well start at the dinner table. That way, you can do this work in comfortable pants.
When William Blake said that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love, he knew that your family would be an intimate part of this, even as you want to run screaming for your cute little life. But I promise you are up to it. You can do it, Cinderella, you can do it,and you will be amazed.
Nine: food. Try to do a little better. I think you know what I mean.
Number 10 --grace. Grace is spiritual WD-40, or water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin and me exactly as much as He or She loves your new grandchild. Go figure.
The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and heals our world. To summon grace, say, "Help," and then buckle up. Grace finds you exactly where you are, but it doesn't leave you where it found you. And grace won't look like Casper the Friendly Ghost, regrettably. But the phone will ring or the mail will come and then against all odds, you'll get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness. It helps us breathe again and again and gives us back to ourselves, and this gives us faith in life and each other. And remember -- grace always bats last.
Eleven: God just means goodness. It's really not all that scary. It means the divine or a loving, animating intelligence, or, as we learned from the great "Deteriorata," "the cosmic muffin." A good name for God is: "Not me." Emerson said that the happiest person on Earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot and look up. My pastor said you can trap bees on the bottom of mason jars without lidsbecause they don't look up, so they just walk around bitterly bumping into the glass walls. Go outside. Look up. Secret of life.
And finally: death. Number 12. Wow and yikes. It's so hard to bear when the few people you cannot live without die. You'll never get over these losses, and no matter what the culture says, you're not supposed to. We Christians like to think of death as a major change of address, but in any case, the person will live again fully in your heart if you don't seal it off. Like Leonard Cohen said, "There are cracks in everything, and that's how the light gets in." And that's how we feel our people again fully alive.
Also, the people will make you laugh out loud at the most inconvenient times, and that's the great good news. But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you. Grief and friends, time and tears will heal you to some extent. Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate and moisturize you and the ground on which you walk.
Do you know the first thing that God says to Moses? He says, "Take off your shoes."Because this is holy ground, all evidence to the contrary. It's hard to believe, but it's the truest thing I know. When you're a little bit older, like my tiny personal self, you realize that death is as sacred as birth. And don't worry -- get on with your life. Almost every single death is easy and gentle with the very best people surrounding you for as long as you need. You won't be alone. They'll help you cross over to whatever awaits us. As Ram Dass said, "When all is said and done, we're really just all walking each other home."
Night Talks by Sue Barsky
Upon my nightly sojourn
Through manicured golf lawns
I’m headed to our meeting place
Beside the shadowed ponds.
My steps grow ever quicker
As I near familiar ground
With hopes of sighting him alone
I wait without a sound.
My glance strains in the dimming light
My neck cranes to the sky
Searching bridges, trees and roof lines
Swaying palm trees gently sigh.
My eyes hold all the memories
Of the roosting spots he favors
Where will he be this evening?
Anticipation makes me quaver.
Ahhh....there he is! So clearly framed
Against the soft-hued palette of the dusk
My steadfast feathered friend
As raucous daytime sounds grow hushed
I pause beneath the full-branched tree.
He perches at the top
He twists and dips his feathered head
And spots me as I stop.
I call to him as best I can
“Whoo Whoo...whoo Whoo!”
I know it’s sadly lacking
Second best, not even close.
Yet still he answers surely
As he does most every night
And I thrill to hear that calling voice
That sets my heart alight.
But wait! I see another shape
That wings across the sky
To land upon a nearby branch
As she gives her soft reply.
It felt like it was meant for me
Our duet in the night
But really it was meant for she
True object of his 🦉 delight.
If The Trees Can Keep Dancing,
So Can I
What I'm learning about grief
is that it sits in the space between laughs
comes in the dark steals the warmth from the bed covers threads sleep with thin tendrils
is a hauntingly familiar song,
yet I can't remember the words...
What I'm learning about grief
is that it rolls like a heavy mist settles into the crevices lingers on the skin.
Visits, then visits again
Lurking under my chair.
And, when I'm not watching
Reaches out her tiny claws
And bats my ankles —
Grief sneaks up on you.
You find yourself on your couch with a well of rage living in the pit of your stomach and nowhere for it to go.
And, It chokes you.
What I'm learning about grief,
is that it can come like a whisper or storm through loud as thunder
it leaves a hollow, to be filled with a new planting.
And, when you wake for another day that feels oddly the same as the last, It crawls right back into your lap.
an ocean of tears So, you vary the crawl with the butterfly, the backstroke with breaststroke. At some point, drowning is no longer an option.
What I'm learning about grief
Is that it is a language.
Suffering is its own speech
it will not go away just because you won't look it in the eye
He rides shotgun when you go by old familiar places
Eventually, you will get closer and he will say
"See, it's not so bad. I got your back."
Editor's note: Many thanks to those who provided photos, poems prose! UUCT is an amazingly talented and generous community.
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