I’ll Leave This Here
Friends, I’m writing to you from under the gray, gloomy clouds of Portland, Oregon. I am here because over the coming days I will have the honor to serve the UU Musician’s Network as the conference chaplain for the UUMN annual meeting. In my role I have the chance to provide spiritual support to the conference attendees and to participate in some of the worship and celebration experiences. It is an honor to take part in this conference and this service. So first and foremost, I want to thank you all for sharing me with the UUMN this week.
This is not my first time in Portland. I lived here for a year before coming to be with you. And in my time here I had the rare fortune to make some close and very dear friends. Not unlike Honolulu, Portland and its residents do a lot of coming and going. One of the best friends I made in Portland doesn’t live here any more. He got a pretty amazing job in Asia after he finished his graduate degree here in Portland.
I don’t know about you, but when I meet someone with a graduate degree who is working in their field of choice somewhere in the world, I confess I draw a lot of conclusions about the advantages that person might have had in life. That is why I am so grateful for the memory of a night walking through Portland with my friend when I saw a waterproof pullover hung over a low wall in front of an apartment building. I made a crack like, “Yeah, you can just leave that anywhere,” imagining someone just couldn’t be bothered to wear the jacket anymore and tossed it aside. Then without missing a beat my friend said, “Nah, someone found something better to wear and left that for someone else who might need it.”
It flashed in my memory in that moment that my friend had shared his story with me about a time in his life when he had nowhere to stay. It was while he was getting by on the streets and moving on from place to place, trying to care for himself, that he learned this custom of sharing, of caring for others on the streets. And his response was remarkable in how unremarkable he considered this gesture. It’s just what you do.
I began my journey here to Portland by taking the bus from church. When I approached the bus stop, there they were on the bench: two unremarkable used boots waiting for their next wearer in need. And in an instant of abandoned pullovers in the rain and lives transformed and thriving across oceans, I felt a wave of utter gratitude. Knowing how those boots got where they did, how my friend got where he did, and how I would soon get where I am going, the sometimes silent way that caring is shared among we humans sounded loud in my chest, keeping the time until I see you all again.
Until then, many blessings.
Rev. T. J.