I write my first column as Chalice’s incoming congregational president while processing the death of my mother Pat. Many of you know that my mom spent the last four years in a memory care facility in Escondido, where I visited with her once or twice a week and monitored her care.
My family and I were fortunate that Mom had such great care. We marveled for years at the kindness and professionalism of the staff and caregivers, who never showed anything but patience, love and creativity in caring for my mom and the other residents despite the difficulty of their work. It’s certainly not a job I could do. In the years I visited with Mom and became friendly with her caregivers, I heard over and over again, “It’s a calling.” “My own family doesn’t understand, but I could never do any other work.” “They’re so sweet and innocent; no pretense.” “I just want their last years to be happy.” During her weekend in hospice, her caregivers came in one by one to cry with us and say their own goodbyes. If you can imagine – they thanked us for being kind to them over the years.
In talking about this after her passing, my brother observed, “You don’t have to believe in God to recognize people who are doing God’s work.” This comment stayed with me. Rejecting the punitive patriarchal God of my upbringing left me cynical for years about the very concept, but I’ve never stopped seeing people doing God’s work – in friends who are public defenders or teachers or ministers, in those who spend their free time engaging in social activism, in promoting diversity, in welcoming all. Of course this is simply another word for humanitarianism, for caring for our fellow beings. Yet with my upbringing, “God’s work” resonates.
As we begin our congregational year together we face a summer of anger, violence and divisiveness in our nation and the world. Feelings are raw, people are passionate, people are afraid. Our UU message of inclusion and respect for all is needed more than ever. I hope to do my own little bit of God’s work within our community, and in doing so, maybe contribute in some small way to spreading the love beyond our campus. I hope we can be gentle with one another as we face whatever challenges might lie ahead.
Peace to all.
Kathy Zapata, Congregation President