Several years before the beginning of my illustrious career as a UU musician, I had a job in a small health food store. I started as a part-time clerk and over the course of several years gradually assumed more authority. As general manager, I still had many of the same tasks as before (restocking organic carrots, wiping the tofu fridge) plus responsibilities like negotiating with tea vendors or purchasing a new grain mill after our old one had gone bust. It was not exactly glamorous, but I loved it because it was meaningful work that brought me in contact with many people. Still, on slow afternoons it could feel like drudgery; and sometimes I questioned if it was really all that important to advertise for yet another beginners-level class in macrobiotic cooking, or to ensure that we only carried produce of the best possible quality. Sure, a handful of people always benefited from these efforts – but was being a tiny drop in a bucket really worth all the trouble?
One Saturday our principal wholesaler hosted an open house at their headquarters. There were info sessions, lots of food, games for the kids, plenty of mingling with other store owners and employees; and I finally met our sales rep, who until then had only been a voice on the phone.
My key experience on that day, though, was an accidental glance at the wholesaler’s fleet of vehicles outside the warehouses. Six nights a week, they drove through the night all across the region to deliver groceries in bulk to their retail customers. Of course I had long understood my role as part of a larger movement; but it was not until I saw all those trucks parked side by side that it became real for me: each drop of water was contributing to a brook that led to a creek, into a stream, then a river, and finally to the ocean. Suddenly, our little shop and the service it provided to the community did not seem so small anymore.
You may feel you have heard enough stories about this year’s General Assembly (GA) in Providence. But if you still find yourself questioning the significance of Unitarian Universalism, maybe you have not yet been among four and a half thousand UU’s – lay members, ministers, regional and national UUA staff – singing “This Little Light Of Mine” together (led by a rockin’ band) in a hockey arena. If you have, then you know: this is not just what our faith could be, but what it already is.