Worth the Risk
I met my Irish friend Eibhlin (pronounced Ev-leen) Walsh in 2012. She was at Drew University as a Fulbright scholar who taught Irish language (Gaelic) to students. That was the year that hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. Because students and staff needed to evacuate campus and she had to find some place to stay, she moved into our tiny 990 square foot apartment with Elías, me, and the kids for a week and half.
We survived the storm and the week with no electricity – a week of parties with neighbors all trying to use up food that would spoil. We became fast friends and spent the rest of the year together exploring the east coast together, sharing dinners, and just generally doing all of the things that friends do together. When her parents came to visit the U.S. at Easter, we shared the holiday dinner together. She watched our children and even attended Luna’s preschool graduation. It was a short year but we filled it with all of the things we possibly could.
And then, one spring day, it was finally time to say goodbye. I have had many goodbyes in my life, a good number of them of the more permanent kind. When it came to saying goodbye to Eibhlin, my heart wondered if maybe I should have kept my distance more. It is so painful to say goodbye when we deeply love and care for people. We feel their absence from our lives even before they leave.
I knew Eibhlin was going to leave – she had a year as a Fulbright scholar – and yet, my family and I chose to risk getting to know and love Eibhlin. It was worth the risk of the painful goodbye.
I knew that I would leave you – I had two years as your ministerial intern. I chose to get to know and love you all anyway. It was worth the risk again.
We are transformed by the people we encounter – the new perspectives and relationships we get. It is worth the risk. Even when the relationships are difficult we learn and grow. Even when we know we will have to say goodbye sooner rather than later, it is worth the deep engagement to be transformed into something new.
In fact, I would venture to say that the pain of the goodbye means that we had a deep real connection, that we truly experienced the interconnected web of creation. The experiences that we share with those we care about transform us into something new…and that transformation stays with us forever.
Eibhlin returned to Ireland. She is now married and has a child. She and I are still friends. We chat on occasion and I hope to visit her there in the future. She is a true friend.
Unlike Eibhlin and I, you and I are not friends. (Check out Rev. Dawn’s message on being friends with your minister here!) I cannot come back to visit with you and we cannot chat on occasion. While I will certainly be in the area and it is likely that we will see one another – at regional meetings, at General Assembly, or maybe Meadville Lombard events – I will certainly wave and say “hello!” but I cannot engage in more with you. When I leave here I will be away from you for a long while to make room for another intern some day and to move away from the relationship of teaching congregation and student minister.
That does not mean that I do not carry you all with me – because I do. You all have impacted my ministry and my life. I have learned so much from you all about myself and about my identity as a minister. I have deep gratitude for the two years I have been with you all and the relationships I have developed with so many of you. You are a part of me now, even if we cannot be together in ministry.
My official last day with you all is May 18. I will be preaching on May 15 and I hope you will join me to say goodbye. I wish for you all only the best as you continue your interim ministry journey with Rev. Dawn and as you embark on your developmental ministry. May you be transformed by and transform others as you embrace the mission of Unity Temple and Unitarian Universalism.
Blessings to you all!