When we introduce ourselves to another person, we usually extend our hand and summarize ourselves with one word, usually our name. "Hello, my name is Naomi…" These are the kinds of face-to-face greetings that initiate relationships, that open our hearts and act as a bridge of connection from one person to the next.
But there's another kind of one-word naming that goes on in our larger society that burns bridges, locks down relationships, and keeps us from living our promises to each other. We know these words. These are not words I need to repeat here, for repeating them simply gives them more power. But they're the more horrible terms equivalent to "shark" and "monster" and "demon." These are words denying inherent dignity. These are the words that undermine and attack inherent worth, for these words have one powerful hurtful message: you are not worthy. You are not human. You are not enough.
Throughout my life I've had plenty of those words, those labels ascribed to me. So many that although I may stretch out my hand and say, "Hello, my name is Naomi …" what I feel I'm saying at times is "Hello, I'm Worthless…" or "Hello, I'm Bad and Wrong…" I came into our religious community because we promised to counter those messages. I am part of a religious community because we promise not to reduce each other to terrible labels, not to strip each other of our humanity, not to ascribe levels of worthiness to one another.
Most of us need to celebrate life, to feel our inherent worth, to be restored our dignity, to practice justice, equity and compassion in human relationships. Most of us yearn to say, "Hello, I am Somebody…" and to be greeted "Hello, Somebody, welcome! We're glad you're here!" Most of us hunger for affirmation and celebration in who we are and in the gifts and blessings we bring this world. Most of us come here to be greeted as the loving, generous, compassionate people we are.
Each of us has at least one blessing—I believe each of us offers MANY blessings—to this world in who we are. But sometimes we and our world, even our beloved community, might have a difficult time affirming and seeing those blessings.
[The following indented portion is an exercise that can be included with the reading. If you exclude the activity, the reading ends below.]
So right now, we're going to have a little exercise.
Find a blank label or nametag and a writing implement. You can even do this with a stickie note.
Now, look into yourself and discover again one of your blessings, one of your gifts to the world. Loving, peaceful, generous, compassionate—there are so many traits and blessings. What is yours?
Write that blessing onto your nametag.
Put on the nametag.
Greet yourself in the mirror with that name.
Share that greeting with another person today.
We are all blessings to this world. Our work of building bridges of connection by finding and naming and affirming those blessings we are is the work of nurturing our spirits and healing our world. Amen.