There Is No Failure But Not To Try

We do not have to wait until we are perfect to practice our faith.

While the perfection of Jesus is lifted up in many congregations on this holy weekend, it is humanity that has always drawn Unitarian Universalists towards his prophetic message of love and justice.  Our faith tells us that it is not perfection that is the goal – but transformation.

Within our own religious heritage, we often find flaws in the prophetic men and women who worked to bring visions of respect and mercy for all into this world. Alice Walker, writer and international activist, skillfully names this humbling truth:

“People who go about seeking to change the world, to diminish suffering, to demonstrate any kind of enlightenment, are often as flawed as anybody else. Sometimes more so. But it is the awareness of having faults, I think, and the knowledge that this links us to everyone on Earth, that opens up courage and compassion.”

Ms. A—, a wise soul who once managed the cafeteria of a New Orleans public school, sealed this lesson into my heart. Her “food counts” were always high by accounting standards and, no doubt, the administrative office was concerned that she was skimming off the top. The accounting couldn’t show the extra helpings she slipped onto lunch trays of ravenous teenagers with bottomless pits for bellies and this their only hot meal of the day. She was forever tucking fruit and snacks into the backpacks of children going home to empty pantries. Many afternoons she would pull out food for the young ones – hungry and tired- who were stuck at school after a long day, waiting for their guardians to get off from work and come get them.

The administrative faults of Ms. A— were, in fact, often the tools by which she, with courage and compassion, worked to diminish suffering on a daily basis. She was not perfect. She was practicing her faith.

“Deanna,” she would tell me “there is no failure but not to try.”

May we who dream of justice and mercy, of diminishing suffering, be not afraid to practice our faith today and every day.    May we seek not perfection, but wholeness and healing for all of creation.  There is no failure but not to try.


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