This is such an important time for me to step out in faith as I can become discouraged by the daily rush of bad news about the state of our environment. As of this writing, forty-nine people are shot dead in a dance club [June 12, 2016] while dozens more are in hospitals in my home town of Orlando, Fla. The Seine in Paris is overflowing its banks and the great works of art at the Louvre are being hurriedly transported to safety on the highest floors. In recent years we’ve witnessed Russia “on fire” for an entire summer, melting ice caps at the poles, Greenland losing land mass, and residents of China’s largest cities going to work wearing cotton masks to lessen the effects of air pollution.
We often aren’t aware when the fundamental values of one’s life begin. I recall the several occasions when my first grade teacher, Ms Ronnie, would excitedly interrupt her lesson plan to have her young charges go to the window to see the first robins of the spring. Soon, her record player would be singing, “When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along.” I believe I’ve been environmentally enthralled ever since.
As an adult living in New York City, I would self-declare a “blue-sky day” and spend an entire day walking Central Park. The natural wonder surrounded me and I was able to engage in some of my clearest thinking and thus made some of my most intuitively inspired life-changing decisions.
When my mother was in her dying process, I was blessed by a friend who, with a home in the northern New Jersey woods, helped me heal by my communing with the forest. To this day, I feel safe and protected by participatory wisdom when I traverse the woods.
I trust in faith. The faith which for decades has always guided me. I remember an early example of how I learned to trust in faith when I was five years old. My mother, a lifeguard, encouraged me to fall backwards into her arms in the community swimming pool. No looking allowed. Just fall and she promised, “I will catch you.” I did as I was asked and landed in womb-like protection.
Movement Toward Awakening
While acknowledging that the daily drumbeat of disappointing (or worse) news can pose an emotional hurdle, I believe we are concurrently witnessing a shared spiritual awakening. In fact, we are living in a time of breakthrough human recognition of higher truths. For example, The Ringling Brothers Circus has just retired all of its elephants. This action is in response to a growing public concern for the welfare of these sensitive beings. We know now that they are very family-oriented. Elephants do love one another. They deeply care for their young. They are gentle. They mourn their dead. They form sophisticated social structures. As we learn more about them, many appreciate their circus predicament. As the so-called bearded ladies, little people (midgets), fat men, and yes, “elephant man” exhibits are no longer desirable, neither is the suffering of animals.
My next door neighbor is Sea World and big changes are happening there too. We now understand that whales are highly intelligent beings. Yet, for a century, some have been made to jump through hoops for a food reward. Further, when not performing, they are placed in pools where they don’t have enough room to even turn around.
Well, the days of whales having to perform for our amusement are coming to an end. There will be no more capturing of whales for marine-themed attractions. No more breaking up pods, no more sentient loneliness. Nearly every nation on earth has banned whale hunting.
Greater Understanding and Empathy
We are living at a time of a great human awakening. I recall that when I was an anthropology graduate student in the 1990s, we were taught that humans were the only tool-using species on earth. We have now identified at least another five. Great apes construct tools of branches to help them eat army ants. Now too, we understand that jelly fish travel many miles with sea floor material to help them construct their homes. The more we study, the more we are understanding that all life is precious. We are called to our highest selves to help us navigate toward empathetic environmental choices.
In Orlando, just after the shooting on June 12, 2016, entire communities which had previously not been supportive of LGBTQ people, or for that matter Latinos, are now uniting to offer any aid they can. Memorial services and financial assistance for death arrangements and beyond are forthcoming from heretofore unexpected places. Our banner is #UnitedOrlando. This is a newly energized broad-based civic perception.
For fellow souls who think antidotes to pain are walls and culturally-based fear and division, may I suggest that life just feels better in community? You won’t find many frowns in the common effort of a community garden. We certainly found that to be true at our spiritual community.
Getting active on behalf of the local environment is so restorative. Members of our Unity green teams report it is uplifting to bless the waters or clean up a lake or river. If you are able, go on nature walk alone or with family and friends and let the trees share with you their timeless wisdom.
If you join an environmental group in your area, or better yet, start a green team at your ministry, congregants will cross-pollinate ways to live a spirit-led, environmentally-sensitive life. Participants will be acting individually, yet as one, as they make the wisdom they’ve learned at Unity their daily life habit.
Special environmentally-oriented faith center events have included passing along gently used clothing and small appliances. Spiritual communities have taken responsibility for the cleanliness of neighborhood roadways. At fellowship time, green teams have created and shared green and healthy recipes. One of our Unity communities even had a blessing of the bikes ceremony (Schwinn and Harley) during the sermon. Yes, from the important action of replacing Styrofoam cups to adding solar panels to the church roof, these practical actions are merely a springboard for us all to become an enlightened and connected, environmentally-conscious family.
Taking Unity’s fifth principle to heart, “I do and give my best by living the Truth I know. I make a difference,” we know that even a seemingly small act like taking our cloth bags to the grocery store, can make a significant difference in the world. As our soul’s wisdom informs our actions, so many in Unity are participating as we are led, to nurture all life forms on this beautiful blue planet.
Yes, the headlines are often discouraging and can understandably lead some to despair. But as we are Unity students, we are graced with a deeper knowing. As our own lives and the lives of our congregants have demonstrated, ultimately, “God’s got it.” Ours is to do what we can to nurture our own priceless corner of the world and then turn it over in peace.
God is the first robin of spring and the one hundred twenty-first. God is the refreshing breeze at just the right moment. God is the greenest green color of leaves. God is the brook, stream or city river. God is that perfect sunset. God is the clear skies and stars at night. God is the maternal/paternal serenity that you feel falling backwards into a swimming pool. God is.
As I literally step out in faith to two emergency Unity healing services, I close with a prayer: May our abiding faith open our hearts to fully appreciate the interdependence of all Creation. Amen.
Unity EarthCare Team
The Unity EarthCare Team (UET), a ministry of Unity Worldwide Ministries, is leading our movement’s churches and faith centers toward a consciousness of spiritual connection between our own human thoughts and actions and those of all our planet’s inhabitants. Specifically, UET has designed the EarthCare Certification Program to assist our ministries in integrating an earth-nurturing spirituality within our congregations. For information on how your church or faith center can participate, go to Unity.org/EarthCare.