When I returned from the conference, I shared this story with my son and told him to find his greatness. He is starting his senior year in high school, so earlier this month he and I went on a West Coast college tour. While we were there, we stopped at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon. While browsing the enormous used book room Willa Cather’s book The Song of the Lark practically jumped off the shelf at me. Later, balancing a stack of books, I considered putting it back because I had already read it. Something told me that I needed to read it again. So I did, and am glad.
This both thrills and frightens her, because she has already felt it stirring within her. She had felt it as a “friendly spirit” more than a part of herself, a somewhat elusive spirit. Cather writes that when Thea brings everything to it, it answers her. There are obstacles along the way to Thea finding her greatness, true, but there are also those who love, understand, and help her as much as they can.
Each of us has some sort of greatness to us. It may seem a humble thing to the world but it is what we can best contribute to the common good. I believe we are each called to find that greatness in our selves, just as Thea did. We are called to struggle, if we must, to bring it into the world. I also believe we are called to recognize it in other another and to help bring each other bring it into the world.
A year from now I will be sending my son out to find his greatness in the wider world. I will not embarrass him by naming the greatness I see in him, but know that part of my “job” as his mother is to help him find it. I hope that along the way he will meet helpers and guides who will help him gain the confidence to bring it fully into the world.
Speaking to 400 Unitarian Universalist ministers eighteen months ago, the Reverend Kay Northcutt gave her outsider’s view of our religion’s greatness. She told us we are the hope of the world. She said,
“You are lifesavers. You are mosaic makers called to put together broken bit by bit—creating patterns of beauty and meaning out of pain and loss. You are bone carriers, like the Israelites, who lifted the bones of their ancestors and took them out across the boundaries into the desert. Bones are heavy things, but what you inherit from those who come before is rich, so make sure you carry them with you.”
As a minister in this fine tradition, it is my calling to help congregations find, develop, and serve their greatness. It is my calling to help people within those congregations do those same things, and I am called to do that for myself as well. Our greatness may seem like a friendly, somewhat elusive spirit. But like Thea Kronborg in The Song of the Lark, I believe that if we give everything we have to it, it will answer us.