Unitarian Universalists promote seven principles. The first principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person. This week I was reminded that my eight year old is a far superior Unitarian Universalist than I may ever be. Because after she told me what happened to her on the school bus I was really struggling to see the inherent worth and dignity in one particular little girl.
She was crying when she came up to the front door so it took me a short while to get an answer. “Did something happen at school, Em?”
“Mom, she said I am a bad person. She said I can’t be a Girl Scout if I don’t believe in God. She said if I don’t have God in my heart than I have the devil in my heart.”
I wrapped my arms around her tightly while she caught her breath. And the words, the words that came tumbling from her lips next made me more proud than I have perhaps ever been. “I told them that I am a Unitarian. And that I do go to a church actually. And that my church says you can believe in whatever you want. I am a good person. I am. How could that God want to punish me when I didn’t even say anything mean when they were telling me that I was a bad person?”
The part of me that wants to start talking and never stop when I don’t know what to say exactly worked hard to stay quiet. The less I said the more she spoke and the more I realized I needed to say nothing.
“The Girl Scout pledge says God but so does the Pledge of Allegiance. You don’t have to believe in God to be an American so I don’t think you do to be a Girl Scout.”
I kept quiet. I was waiting for the shame, for the doubt, for the “what if they are right, Mom?”
“There is only one thing that I wish was different about our church. I wish it wasn’t in the woods. It’s kind of hiding and if we were right next to the road more people would know about us and more people would come because I bet a lot of people actually think that it is okay to believe whatever you want and just be a good person.”
She knows. She knows she is a good person. And it doesn’t matter what the Girl Scouts think. Or a kid on the bus. Or God. She just knows.
In the last year I have thought frequently about our first principle as it applies to others. I think about it in the moments that I try to apply my reality to another person and I see them coming up short. I remind myself that they are their own person, they live their own reality, they have their own inherent worth and dignity. It never dawned on me that if you believe in your heart of hearts in your own worth, in your own dignity, if you do not have self-doubt – it is so much easier not to condemn others.
My sweet Emily June, you have taught me more in your eight years than I may ever teach you. This can’t be your first rodeo, kid.