Unitarian Universalist Church of Cortland

A Different Drummer
Julia's notes from the service Sunday, June 3, 2012
Service by Julia E. Schult
Musician: Abbey Phelps

Welcome & Announcements
Lighting the Chalice
Reading 453
Opening Words
"If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away. " - Henry David Thoreau
Hymn 305 Des Colores
Responsive Reading 444
Sharing of Joys, Sorrows & Concerns
Musical Interlude
UU Cortland Choir, Director M. Folley
Offering [674]
Story for All Ages: My Travelin’ Eye
by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Singing the children out:
Go now in peace, go now in peace; may the spirit of love surround you, everywhere, everywhere you may go.”
Responsive Reading 661
Hymn148 Let Freedom Span Both East & West
Sermon or Message: Meeting Differences

Note: The following is my original write-up of my sermon/message. What I actually said differs somewhat from what is written here.
I’m going to start off today’s message by reading a blog post from the
Being UU at Home blog by Amy Peterson Derrick of Flint MI or Natalie Spriggs-Trobridge of Indianapolis IN.
When I was growing up it was always safe to assume that the only Unitarian Universalist kids attending whatever school I was enrolled in at the time also lived in my house. In other words, UU kids were kind of hard to come by outside of our home and church.

I remember how hard it was for me to know just how to handle conversations about religion when I was really young; I was acutely aware that my church was different from the churches that most of my peers attended, but I was always unsure of how to respond if religion ever happened into a conversation. Generally speaking, my anxiety would result in a giant lump in my little throat and I would hurriedly search for a way to excuse myself from the impending blank stares that were sure to come my way after I revealed the lengthy name of my home church. Religious discussions meant either chiming in and letting my faith be known, or simply keeping my mouth shut and avoiding eye contact in hopes that I would simply disappear.

For most people whose faith traditions are not the
cultural norm , conversations like these can take a great deal of energy, no matter how old you are. Like other UU kids, I had experienced the heartbreak of losing a friend because her parents didn’t approve of my family’s faith, and this added yet another dimension to my anxiety. But as I got older, I found I could have religious conversations quite easily and, nine times out of ten, I knew more about the other person’s faith than they did (or ever wanted to). I even started seeking these debates and discussions wherever I could find them; but I still found it very difficult to make friends who could put up with my convictions, my love of debate, and…well… I was kind of on the annoying side.

My peers would innocently ask me what they thought was an incredibly simple question: “What IS Unitarian Universalism?” Of course, they were suddenly blindsided with my
awesome religious history lecture as I shared with them more than they ever wanted to know about my faith and the history of the Protestant Reformation.

What I didn’t get at the time is that those who asked me about my faith really didn’t want to me to present a dissertation on the history of Unitarian Universalism (shocker, I know). What they really interested in was, “What does it
mean to be a UU and what does this look like in your life?”

They didn’t want to hear about some guy they have never heard of being burned at the stake; they wanted to know if Santa still came to our house. They wanted to know if we said a prayer at dinner, if we went to church every Sunday and if we had a Bible. In short, they wanted to know how my life was different from theirs because of my religion.

I think that the tendency to lecture instead of opening a window into our lives is common amongst Unitarian Universalists. Sometimes we, understandably, get so excited by all knowledge we think we have obtained as a result of our faithful journeys and we forget that what we ought to share with the world is not a list or a lecture, but our passion for exploration and learning. There is always space for lectures and dissertations; they are a necessary element to our faith, but to someone who isn’t on this journey, or even for someone who is, the
real power of Unitarian Universalism may just be when a UU kid stands up for someone else who is being bullied because, to him, that is what it means to be a UU. Unitarian Universalism shines when we lift the voices of those who would otherwise go unheard and when we strengthen our own spirits through a practice that fills our hearts. The power of our faith is in what we do every day of our lives. It is in how we celebrate our holidays and how we are with the people we love (and the people we don’t).

To me, our faith means that I never stop looking for new ways to grow and learn. It means that my family lights a chalice at dinner every night and we enjoy each other’s company in a sacred space. It means that I pray on some days and meditate on others and I celebrate holidays that make sense to me and in ways that honor me, my family and my earth home.

We should celebrate the ways in which our faith enriches our lives and the lives of those around us; perhaps even more than we celebrate the theologies we reject. Perhaps it is time to shift our focus: What does our Unitarian Universalist faith mean to you?
That’s the blog entry I found to help my thinking while writing this service. My idea for this service was on how we treat people who are different, and also how we are treated because of our differences. This blog post speaks to me because I absorbed the idea of the inherent worth and dignity of every human being way before I had that phrase in my vocabulary. However, when I treat everyone with complete respect some people are surprised, and I have discovered this is a way I am “different” and I like it. This was particularly true when it comes to disabilities. As a kid, I had 3 friends at different times from 2nd to 6th grade when I ran into this unsuspected strength of mine. In 2nd grade, a younger friend of mine from our neighborhood wore a body brace. I never asked her about it, but I always assumed she would either play normally or else let me know if she had to alter something. While playing at her house, I sometimes was told it was time to go home so she could do her therapy. But after a while, they said I could stay and read her books while she underwent therapy. Turns out they took off her brace, put her on a body board in various positions, and then ran a vibrating machine over her back and chest. I was interested, but when they told me what it was for I didn’t really understand and it didn’t matter. I later found out she had cystic fibrosis, and while most people with that condition die before they reach 25, my friend lived into her 30s, probably because of all the therapy her parents did with her at a very young age. My point is, I was her friend, and later I found out that a lot of people wouldn’t be her friend because she wore a brace and therefore was too “different”.

Then we moved to Long Island, and I wound up as a friend to a younger girl who lived across the road on a big hill. It never occurred to me that her tics and twitches were a problem, but for some reason other people avoided her. When I was talking or playing with her they avoided me, too, but I hardly noticed. As she got older, she started making grunts and verbal tics as well, but when I asked her about a noise she made, she said, “oh, I’m sorry, I don’t even know when I’m making those noises. I just don’t notice.” So I blithely continued playing with her, ignoring her oddities just as much as she did. Later I found out her mother was extremely grateful to me for being her friend. My mother ran into her mother several years after we had moved again, and she said that had been a very difficult time for her family, as they tried to figure out what was “wrong with her” this was the early 1970s. They tried treatments for hyperactivity, and various other conditions. After I had moved they got a name for her condition: Tourette’s Syndrome. I gather that I was about the only “normal” friend this girl had ever visited or had over to play at their house.

Those 2 friends of mine both had quite visible disabilities, but I never saw them as disabilities, only as differences. And we are all different from each other. So it wasn’t an issue.

So this whole question of how you behave when you’re around someone “different” has stayed with me. As a librarian I have actually been trained on how to accommodate the differences people have when I am helping them in the library. Some people need eye contact, others including many native Americans cannot listen to you very well if you make eye contact. Some people are really nervous until you come out from behind the desk and stand beside them. Others need the reassurance of a solid piece of furniture that defines their role as patron and my role as question answerer. Some want me to get the book for them, others just want me to point in the right general direction. There is no such thing as a “generic library patron” for me. That means I work very hard to accommodate their needs when there’s a lot of people that need help at the same time.

I am now in the process of learning about the special needs of people on the Autism Spectrum. June is on the spectrum somewhere, apparently, even though up until now she had not been identified with this particular set of special needs. I’m learning all kinds of terms: autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, all of which are ASD’s Autism Spectrum Disorders. One thing that’s true of all kids with ASD’s. They are all different. They have different levels of ability and disability. There are different symptoms, and no one has them all it seems to me that every person I read about has a different set of symptoms, but there are certain categories that tie them all together. Add to that that I’m living with a teenager, and I’m having quite a roller coaster of a time figuring out what I need to do or not do for this person I live with and take care of. One thing I know I can rely on, though. I respect her, and I love her.

Being a UU has given me some strength in this. The 7 principles act as a touch-stone for me. Not just the first principle the inherent worth and dignity of every human being although that wording is the most obviously helpful principle when it comes to meeting people who are different. Which is to say everyone. Unitarian Universalism helps me feel confident in my beliefs, and this church makes me feel empowered by our community, our principles, and our fellowship I know I am doing the right thing. So thank you all for helping me to live out my principles in my life. I hope that you are encouraged by your contact with this church as I have been, and that for you it is a cradle for our dreams, and a workshop of our common endeavor.

Silent Meditation
Closing Words
"Let’s stop "tolerating" or "accepting" difference, as if we’re so much better for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference, because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different." - Kate Bornstein
Hymn 318 We Would Be One
Extinguishing the Chalice (456, unison):
We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment. These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.”

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_did_the_phrase_'march_to_the_beat_of_a_different_drummer'_originate#ixzz1wgX9sB8d
Disabled World - A collection of famous and not so famous interesting quotes regarding disability and health related disabilities: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/disability-quotes.php#ixzz1wf1EeyLC
“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” - William Arthur Ward
"It is a lonely existence to be a child with a disability which no-one can see or understand, you exasperate your teachers, you disappoint your parents, and worst of all you know that you are not just stupid." - Susan Hampshire
"Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings." - Helen Keller
"Having no expectations shows pity, which shows sadness, sorrow & regret. A child with a disability needs support. Stand behind him, champion and back him! Believe in him and have expectations! They inspire hope, excitement, eagerness and success! Which would you want others to give you?" - Joan Scanlon-Dise
"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses." - Alphonse Karr
"Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too." - Lawrence Bixby
The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity. Benjamin Franklin
Everyone is different. Sometimes it's very exciting; sometimes very scary.
Emanuel Ax
"I discovered early that the hardest thing to overcome is not a physical disability but the mental condition which it induces. The world, I found, has a way of taking a man pretty much at his own rating. If he permits his loss to make him embarrassed and apologetic, he will draw embarrassment from others. But if he gains his own respect, the respect of those around him comes easily." - Alexander de Seversky