Faith In Action – Corinna Whiteaker-Lewis

I enjoy singing the Seven Principles song with our children so much. During Children’s Chapel this past Sunday, it was especially meaningful. After singing the song, we talked about Hurricane Harvey. We talked about people who had to leave their homes, people whose homes had been flooded and damaged, people who were scared. We were scared for them. We wanted them to be okay, and to be safe. We then talked about the toys and supplies each of us had brought. We hoped that these things would help children and their families – bring a little comfort and joy to their lives while they shelter in a safe place. And I asked, why do we feel this way? What did we just sing about in our song? How as Unitarian Universalists, we believe every person is important, and that we try to be kind in all we do, and that we help each other and the Earth. And we understood that it is right and good that we care for those who are suffering, and we do what we can to help. And even little things can help. Knowing this, we then made cards of encouragement and caring to send along with our gifts. Later that day I brought the donated items and the cards to Wildflower UU, a congregation hosting and assisting evacuees. This is what faith in action looks like.
Someone once said, “Woe to the man who has to learn principles in the time of crisis.” As a religious educator, I need to strike a careful balance between offering comfort and challenge. After Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast, and its resulting destruction became apparent, I knew that our children, just like any adult, would need a safe space to process and reflect. They would need a time to share their fears and concerns, and receive validation of those fears.
When children are faced with frightening imagery, we can offer the wise words of Fred Rogers: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Knowing that even in times of disaster, we can find people who are helping to make things better can help a child cope. In Children’s Chapel I read the story “A Chair for My Mother” by Vera B. Williams. In this story a family comes home to find their apartment on fire. While no one is hurt, they do have to start over. And they get a lot of support from their family and friends. We could easily find the helpers in that story.
And herein comes the challenge – the opportunity to amplify an important teachable moment. We were very fortunate that our community did not suffer any great impact from Hurricane Harvey. And in our gratitude, we can be called to act; we can think of others and come to their aid. Suggesting to children that they can not only look for helpers but be helpers themselves supports agency, develops compassion, and builds empathy. And when promoted within the context of our faith, it also helps create Unitarian Universalist identity. It is as Unitarian Universalists that we are called to do this work, and it is our Unitarian Universalist principles that show us the way.
Guiding the children of San Gabriel as they navigate their world is a deeply meaningful and spiritual work. I have often said that it is Social Justice work, right here within the walls of our church. Are you interested in helping to raise up the next generation of Unitarian Universalists? Please join me!
In faith,

Corinna Whiteaker-Lewis