A few weeks ago I had the incredible honor of serving as a friend’s “chaplain” as she jumped one of the hoops in the path of becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister.
She picked me up at 5am and drove me to Boston. The day began as we travelled and we entered the city before it was really underway. We parked under the Common and drank fancy coffees and reviewed the five or seven Important Points she had memorized for the meeting.
We arrived at the appointed place at the appointed time and entered and waited. And waited, and waited and waited. In nearly an hour no one came to her to say, “Welcome,” or “We are running late,” or even, “Why are you here?”
Her confidence ebbed as the minutes ticked away. She looked at the scraps of paper in her handbag, but nothing confirmed that we were in the right place at the right time. “This is a test,” she whispered, looking for the webcam. “They’re watching me handle this.” She fretted, and tried not to fret, and smiled gamely, and finally put her head on the table.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “I don’t know what to do.”
I thought a moment about whether or not to say what I really thought. I thought, my friend is beloved at Our House of Worship. Any number of kind and grounded and compassionate people would have gotten up at 4am to accompany her. One who might have made her breakfast, or another who would have offered to pray with her. Somebody who could have made her laugh.
She picked me.
I figured she knew what she was getting.
So I said, “It’s true that you don’t know what’s going on. But really, that’s one of millions of things that you don’t know. It’s just the only one that’s got your attention right now.”
It is so easy for me to go to the worst-case scenario. It is so easy for me to imagine the bad outcome—or the several bad outcomes—that might ensue from any set of circumstances. Even now, on my desk sits a permission slip for Small’s upcoming trip to Boston during which she might get into a bus accident or a boat accident or wander away from her group at the museum or aquarium. Or fall ill or become injured or get motion sick or become overtired or forget to eat or feel sad and lonely.
I do not look at that permission slip and think, she might discover a life-long love of aquatic science. She might laugh all day with her friend C. and tell stories and sing songs. She might feel salt spray on her face for the first time, she might have to be dragged away from an exhibit because she is engrossed in the description. She might meet one of her favorite animals—the Emperor Penguin—face to face.
She might feel scared and get through it. She might ask a grown up for help and receive it. She might learn something about her own resilience, her own endurance, her own ok-ness.
Those examples don’t come as easy to me. They don’t leap to the front of my mind. I have to remind myself that in this enormous universe of abundant possibility, there are as many good things I don’t know as there are worst-case scenarios.