by Ellie Lagarde
On a lovely summer Sunday, our last service before the holidays, our little Amsterdam congregation received a visit from Rev. Diane Rollert, our UUA Ambassador from Montreal. After a friendly dinner with the board, during which she gave us useful advice on how to grow our fledgling community, she began the service, cheekily named ‘Call me Maybe,’ by quoting film director and cult icon Guillermo del Toro. Monsters, he tells us, are created to address the crooked parts of ourselves, that we’d rather keep in the dark. But they are just as deserving of love as our sunny selves because they shape us into who we are. And so Diane invited us to go back to where those monsters are often made — in our earlier years and, more specifically, through the broken human connections we have left behind on our path.
Diane is a wonderful storyteller, witty and warm, and her knowledge of the craft shows through in her ability to engage her audience. But what made the experience truly transformative for me was the vulnerability with which she shared moments of her own difficult past, creating a space in which we would feel safe to do the same. This is why UU increasingly feels like home to me: our speakers all come to us as fellow seekers instead of as depositories of all-powerful knowledge. And in that space of openness, we are able to meet old buried moments of loss, shame and regret with understanding and acceptance. We face the truth of what we could have done differently and what we have learned since that allowed us to heal or become better people. We honor the twists in the road that held capital lessons, and we are one step closer to that golden ability of letting go without losing ourselves.
“Life is a narrow bridge, the important thing is to not be afraid,” as is said by Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav in the song Gesher, which we then sang together. Freedom from fear, to me, is a building enterprise; if we are to face the difficult days ahead, we have to own the shadows in our past, both individually and as a society. Once we engage with this work, we are free to trust again and to root our future in love and hope, to open ourselves up to a deeper and more genuine way of relating to our fellow human beings. It sounds grand, but it is done in small steps like these. Diane finished the service by asking us what and who we wish to connect with more in the future. For me, it definitely will include looking for more moments of honesty like these.