Because we are all connected

Elisa taught me a lot. She was a member of the first congregation I served. She loved the children of our congregation. She loved the times when I would preach about spirituality and God. And mostly she loved to show up at every Social Action event our congregation hosted. She taught me about the connection between Social Action and Spirituality. “Look what we can do together,” she would say grinning at me as if revealing a secret.

Elisa was talking with me one afternoon about one of our justice projects. I made some off-handed comment about the division I thought lived between social justice and spirituality, as if they were opposites. She looked at me and said, “To me, doing social justice work is the essence of my spirituality.” Elisa’s career had been in the field of drug and alcohol addiction recovery. She saw the individual level of the addiction as well as the systemic level. “One of my core beliefs is that we are ALL connected. So if my fellow travelers suffer, I suffer. If I work to improve the lives of those around me, I will be better off as well as will future generations.”

Elisa always struck me as one of the strongest and best-grounded people I’ve known. Whenever I saw her, she seemed at peace, smiling. She wrote, “Although sitting on a mountain meditating can be helpful at times, I see little value in it if I do not then spread the love that such a connection to the divine affords me to others.” That was the heart of her commitment to our faith community. She could go off on her own to do spiritual work, but she needed a community to make a difference.

Over the years since co-officiating at Elisa’s memorial service, I have tried to integrate her perspective and all she taught me into my ministry. She would say we all have light. We need to let our light shine, she would say, “so others may not feel so alone and in the dark, and know that there is always hope.” That’s what she was doing at all those church Social Action events – shining her light, letting people know they were not alone and in the dark. Look at what we can do together! It is all connected.