A Good Cry

A Good Cry

Robin Mitzcavitch, Director of Religious Exploration and Education

Please don’t worry; this article will not depress you, feel safe in reading on!  It’s true, though, that at church this past Sunday, I almost cried three times, and actually did cry once.  It couldn’t be helped.  I’m normally very stoic, but the intensity of all things that are good just kept building and building until my eyes floweth over.

It began at 8:30 AM. I walked into church and was suddenly circled by fourteen happy high school teens who had just spent the past eighteen hours at our church. Please note, for eight of those hours, they were participating in our Grade 10-12 Our Whole Lives (OWL) Human Sexuality Education Program, and they were headed out to cover another 3 hours of programming. This was their first weekend; they have another one coming next week as well.  Our OWL facilitators are Joe Delgizzi, Lynsey Heffernan, Lydia Proulx, and Evan Wilson.  Our parents provided all the food and overnight support. The energy, the smiles, the commitment and dedication, the obvious way these teens appeared comfortable and cared for.  Well, you know, it all hit me at once, and I almost cried.  It was just that amazing.  Please hear me say, we have a rare and wonderful community that provides all good things for our children here.

Next, after the service began and children were dismissed to class, I watched as our 1st and 2nd grade children excitedly scooted down the hallway to attend their own OWL class with Rachel Keyo, Jennifer Moore and Mara Pentlarge.  Again I noted the good nature of the children, and the dedicated facilitators who spent their weekends prepping lessons and materials: copying pages and setting up individual binders for each child to have.  I thought about all the work they invest.  At that point I was too busy to almost cry, but soon, it would come.

I entered into the Lessons of Loss class where I was substitute-teaching.  Lessons of Loss is a death and dying curriculum that I brought into the church last year.  Evan Wilson and Polly Murillo assisted last year, and then agreed to run it together this year on their own with our 5th and 6th graders.  I am very grateful to have facilitators who care enough to do this class, which, like OWL, can have “comfort- level challenges.”  Brave souls are alive and well at UUCW!

In the Lessons of Loss class I was immediately struck by the openness of every child participating. My goal was to prepare kids for their field trip to a funeral home that afternoon. They would be attending with their parents.  We talked about loss, and what it feels like, and ways to cope with our feelings.  Rituals and support from others help: thus the importance of memorializing our loved ones and of the funeral. When I asked the class how they felt about the trip, some looked nervous, some said they’d never been to a funeral, some said they’d been to a few, some felt anxiety, some comforted others, and many stayed busy coloring on their sheet of paper.  But no one laughed at each other’s heartfelt comments.  It felt like it was natural for them to participate. Kids shared what they could share, stuff that is hard to share, even for adults. There was a moment, when Polly was speaking about her experience being a counselor in a hospice setting, when I felt so connected with every other person in that room. Polly was so calm, so reassuring. The kids sat quietly listening to her. The kids were wrapped in that calm.  One child asked, “Are you going to be with us at the funeral home too?”  “Yes,” Polly said.  “Oh good,” replied the child.  “Good,” said some other children, looking relieved. I saw a small smile on the child who had earlier shared that they were feeling anxious. Yup, I almost cried.

After church, our Coming of Age class had a gathering with their mentors. Our church lounge transformed into a busy room full of teens and adults; Twenty- seven to be exact. We were talking about values and ethics, defining the words, and thinking about what our personal most important values were and how those values can inform action taken during ethical dilemmas that may come up in our lives. I split the group into three teams and challenged each group to write an ethical dilemma scenario to give to another group to “act out.”  They soon were all exchanging their scenarios and writing skits that they would perform.  After each skit was unveiled, the whole group would offer opinions:  “What Would You Do?” I watched the middle school teens, alongside their adult mentors-laying it all out on the line- acting their hearts out in front of their peers, sharing their honest feelings. The adults were learning from teens just as teens were lifted up and encouraged by adults. The shy teen, standing up proudly in front of an audience, comfortable in their own skin. The quiet teen, finding a new voice, stated his opinion and his values, loud and clear. There was engagement, vibrant discussion, laughter, and yes, you got it: potential tears for me. These would be tears of good fortune because every month I get to experience this interaction when we have the mentors and teens gather. I revel in our solid community of engaged adults who nurture our young people with empathy, wisdom, and humor!

And then the final curtain.  Youth Group.  We meet every Sunday evening from 6-8pm.  I wasn’t sure if the teens would want to come back, since they had already given up all of their Saturday and half of their Sunday for OWL.  But they all came through that door, like they do every Sunday night, and no matter how tired I may be from the day, my energy ignites yet again. The check-in circle is comfortable, it feels like a homecoming. The teens have fun stories to share about their experience together over the weekend. They are a bonded community of friends, full of compassion, respect, and some really bad inside jokes. During my check-in moment, I shared my earlier experience teaching the Lessons of Loss class. Some teens were astonished that we were taking a class to a funeral home. One very wise youth group teen spoke up and said, “Hey, it’s only natural for a church committed to teaching OWL to be a church interested in teaching about death and dying.”  Right?  Yes, so right.

 We went into the sanctuary to run through the upcoming (March 22!) Youth Group Service. I sat in the darkened pew. I listened to a young man read his reflection about how thankful he was for his parents who brought him to this church and who let him explore his dream of performing. He walked to the center of the altar and began to move to a dance he had choreographed for his mothers. When his dance concluded, the applause rose up from around the room and the entire Youth Group joined him on the altar. They stood shoulder to shoulder, the music started, and they sang. A beautiful song emerged, as did my tears, finally letting loose. These kids. This community. This moment.  Tears appeared because of the intensity of all things good- glowing so bright and outshining all the bad things that could pull my focus away. This is how the universe balances. This is a good cry.