Last year a writer friend invited me speak at a service for the local Unitarians.
The pagan in me was intrigued.
It seems each month they invite a guest to deliver a speech on a particular topic -- from an extended list of virtues. They call this presentation a sermon. And yes, one stands behind a podium on a Sunday morning, flanked by a chorus, a minister, burning candles, the works.
It had been many years since I had attended church, and the very idea of delivering a sermon, (on the subject of Dignity, no less), had set my impostor syndrome on alert. This was a venue in which I couldn't just blithely dispense with the podium, or the microphone, for that matter. I knew there would be one. A microphone, that is. But it was the word sermon that had really set me on edge. I'd certainly delivered sermons in my life, but those were ...spontaneous effusions, generally regretted.
In the end I decided I was incapable of writing a sermon, but I was capable of explication, deconstruction, free association, and sharing bits and pieces of poems and strange or unusual insights into the subject at hand, from a variety of sources. In other words, rambling. And it turned out to be a delightful experience; these folks were intelligent, curious, and a wonderful sense of humor was in evidence among them.
This year they've invited me back, and have asked me to speak about Courage.
What on earth have I to say of courage...
Has my own courage ever really been tested..
If a courage falls in the forest ...
Anne Sexton tells us:
It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.