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Spirituality Essay:

Palestine    ( June 2009 )

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Our third "UU Quality of a Spiritual Life" is being of service: the free and conscious directing of part of our life energy into others' betterment (with special awareness given to helping those less fortunate than ourselves).

Of course the first, and most important, requirement is feeling that desire to enrich others' lives, rising up from the surplus of good fortune and blessings we feel in our own lives ... a natural sharing of our bounty. For some this feels instinctive ... for others (who feel a deficit in the give-and- take of life), it needs cultivation.

Personally, I feel blessed with some form of innate caring for the less fortunate. I don't know where it came from: I can just say I'm glad for it. I can't take any particular credit for it; it just is, just as my eyes are brown it seems. It's been there as long as I can remember. Back in 4th grade, studying various countries around the world, I remember learning about the poverty and misery in Uruguay - and somehow deciding, in a 9 year old way, that when I grew up I'd move to Uruguay. and run for President so I could fix things and make everything better for everyone.

But translating those desires into action is what matters. Easy the dollar dropped into the homeless hand - harder when real sacrifices are involved..

I've felt most grateful for my Lay Leader UU position. It came about back in 2001 - a gift unexpectedly landing in my life: it has become, despite the often hard tribulations, a mother lode for me of stimulation, enjoyment, good friends, and exceptionally rich spiritual growth.

Lately, I've come to realize just how much bounty I've got - and wanting to do something really meaningful has become an itch needing release.

I've always felt badly for the Palestinians. The Gaza war last winter reopened my concern. As I spent more time looking at the Mid-east situation, I learned more about the horrible lives most Palestinians have - the underlying poverty and hopelessness, worsened by the continual harassment and degradation inflicted by the Israeli government, military, and (mainly) the West Bank "settlers" ... a condition largely and purposely ducked, as you may know, by the US media.

Few in life get real opportunities to take bold actions for important causes. I'm indeed fortunate: I have the money, the time, the absence of dependents - and the blessings of a very comfortable American life and a rich accumulation of meaningful life experiences to help a people so deprived of all those things.

Many of you know that I've decided to spend the summer in the West Bank. I'll be working with two organizations: the first, being as a "Western observer" peace activist ... someone "monitoring" the Israeli-Palestinian interactions (when Westerners are present the harassment and violence decreases exponentially, I'm told); and the other, helping a refugee camp secure funding for a children's recreational program.

(Note: I'll try to send out occasional email posts of what I'm seeing and doing, depending on computer access. If you'd like to receive these, please let me know: email your interest to me via the link at the bottom of the page.)

I feel most honored to be allowed to participate in their work. I feel most grateful that I can use some of my life energy for such noble humanitarian goals.

I realize also that there are small, but not insignificant, dangers to my future well-being, if not my life. I fully expect to return in late August with wonderful stories to share. But life is full of unknowns.and should unexpected events intervene, I hope so very much that others will pick up the flag of the Fellowship I've carried and assure that its vital spiritual gifts always continue on, in and for our community. It's so very important.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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