Weekly Message from T. J.

This Is Thriller…

It wasn’t unexpected. Weather in Boulder, Colorado in late October can be a little tricky. But that moment when the snow and ice send you skidding on the less-than-optimal tires of the rental car, when the traction control switches on, when you’ve already eaten the last of the vegan Rice Krispies treats, that’s the moment you wonder what you were ever thinking leaving Hawai’i. And then there are the looks: checking into the hotel, when they look at your license then back at you or while explaining to someone where you live. All of the raised eyebrows and slower-than-usual handshakes betray the thought going through their minds: “Why would this person leave Hawai’i?”

One of the reasons I ever leave this place is so that I can perform weddings for close friends when I am called upon to do so. And this weekend I had the honor of performing the wedding of a friend I’ve known for the better part of my life. And present at the wedding were a number of teammates from my friend’s college soccer team, many of whom I’ve also known for more than two decades.

The ceremony went well, and as the reception went on, so did the conversation. We relived a lot of our twenties and thirties, which was embarrassing and fun. But I had a chance to catch up one-on-one with some of my friends, too. And it was very hard to hear from my friend who is a veteran and now is a manager of a large department at a VA hospital on the East Coast how tough it is for him there. In particular, he shared about the spiritual toll of losing so many friends (really family, as far as he is concerned) who served in combat to opioid addiction and who then succumbed to the impulse eventually to take their own lives.

Because this was a wedding reception, as we were discussing this very real and painful reality, mere feet away from us, a DJ was flashing lights in coordination with thumping music meant to pull us to the dance floor. And I don’t know if someone tipped off the DJ, but soon Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” came on. And as every one of our other friends knew, this same friend, who just shared the pain of his soul with me…also knows all the moves to the dance break of “Thriller.” And shortly after our conversation he took the dance floor to the delight of everyone at the wedding.

A few days later I got a text from this friend asking how I keep the faith in a world where so much hypocrisy seems to reign. I responded by text, but so much more than words were the real answer. Leaving a place of comfort and familiarity I love to show up and honor the love of others, saying YES to inconvenience and possibly danger when NO is so much simpler and safer, and holding the same heart that breaks in one moment and then cheering as that same heart glides and churns across a dance floor the next—these are all part of how I do it, how we all do it…that and vegan Rice Krispies treats.

Love and blessings,
Rev. T. J.
minister@unitariansofhi.org

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