Dear Ones,

As promised I'm sending some brief words along as I vacation. I'm well. I'm rested, am enjoying much down time, swimming, boating, am steeped in nature, reading for pleasure, and traveling a bit. I'm hoping to visit some of you in Ottawa, Albany, and the Catskills soon. Montreal is lovely and lively in the summer and I'm here for another few days.

I love the people in and around our home in the north country of New York who show their Appalachian roots. Yes, I'm in the Adirondacks but many, including some family members, are Appalachian transplants. They're quite proud to be rednecks. They aren't fond of the derogatory use of the term redneck but it's original meaning is not an insult but a badge of honor.

Author Jonathan Vankin tells us of the Scottish rebels opposing the religious and political oppression of England's Charles I being rednecks as they signed a 17th century covenant declaring religious freedom in blood. The Scots-Irish eventually immigrated to the American colonies settling in the area known to us as the Appalachians. I, too, can trace my ancestry of individualism, religious freedom, and Scottish descent to those rednecks.

I'm equally fascinated by the more modern understanding of redneck, which is an unsophisticated people living in rural areas. I've learned that not all rednecks are unsophisticated, uneducated, or hold offensive views. I most certainly judged these people at the beginning of the summer. I now appreciate their simple living, their being happy and grateful with what they have versus wanting more. My brother recently invited his friends for a gathering at our home in New York. As they arrived I noticed dress, speech, accent and values I'm not accustomed to in my insulated Unitarian Universalist and privileged life. Honestly, my first reaction was one of judgement. I wonder if you've been in this position. Have you given in to your quick reaction to judge?

I've been thinking about that question on the riverbank lately. I've been examining my reactions versus my accepting and how, like a strong current, it whisks away joy and contentment from my thoughts, my interactions, and ultimately my soul. Not along ago Dr. Paul Ward shared via email this Victor Frankl quote from "Man's Search for Meaning":

  • Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

It is a lovely quote and thanks to Paul one that is etched in my memory to recall again and again.

Choosing my response allows me to practice radical acceptance in the case of the rednecks I've encountered. Just by being born they, we, are entitled to the right of dignity, freedom, and to be loved-entitled to radical acceptance. They may dress, speak and live differently, they may have varying or little higher education, and their unsophisticated living may sometimes not be in my wheelhouse. But choosing to give a redneck a chance, choosing to enjoy their unsophisticated humanness, and choosing to replace judgement with the love and respect we are called to give to all as Unitarian Universalists. I wonder if you too make this choice. Our living faith is one for the times. Our ailing world can be healed by our values of freedom, compassion, and acceptance. I'm sure it begins with us as individuals.  Be well. I miss you all.  Rev. CJ


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