R.E. NOTES – March 24, 2015

Dear Old Ship,

As I hustle hustle hustle to raise funds (Faithify, concert, flowers, potatoes, etc.) and get a group of 10 teens and 8 adults to Appalachia (our THIRD big service/learning trip) while doing all the regular Sunday stuff and teacher-recruiting and budget stuff and annual report prep… etc. etc.,  one might think I’d be tempted to say “Ah, the heck with it… It’s too much trouble… Hardly worth it.”

But I don’t think that… ever.

Please read the piece below and maybe you’ll understand why.

Bright blessings and fabulous young people…

Beverly Tricco

Director of Religious Education

In Defense of Teen-agers  – by Elizabeth Gilbert  

 “….I was recently speaking at a public event, when a lovely 17-year-old girl stood up in the audience to ask me a question. She said, “What advice do you have for my generation? And where do you think we are going wrong?”

I looked at her sternly and said, “You know what’s wrong with your generation?”

She braced herself bravely and said, “Tell me.”

I replied, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I love your generation. You guys are wonderful. And don’t listen to anybody who says otherwise.”

The relief on her face was instant and immeasurable. It was clear she had never yet heard a good thing said about her generation.

But I meant it.

Today’s American teenagers are the most sensitive, least violent, least bullying, least racist, least homophobic, most globally-minded, most compassionate, most environmentally-conscious, least dogmatic, and overall kindest group of young people this country has ever known.

They were raised to be nice to each other. They have always been encouraged to be tolerant with each other. They weren’t allowed to hit each other in the sandbox while adults looked the other way and let them “work it out on their own”. They don’t smoke as much as my generation did, they don’t drink (or drink and drive) as much as my generation did, they don’t beat each other up as much as my generation did, and they aren’t as mean to each other as my generation was. They don’t even have as much sex as my generation did.

Are they a little bit coddled, a little bit “soft”?

You bet. And I love them for that. This world could use more a bit more softness, and a lot less toughness.

They’re gentler than we were at their age, truly.

So let’s be gentle with them, in return.

Let’s give them a break, and stop complaining about them.

Are they perfect? Of course not — they’re teenagers. Do they live on their cellphones, and say “like” too much? Do they have short attention spans? Sure, but was there ever a teenager who had a long attention span? Do they listen to music that offends and even scares you? Whatever. [  ] Are some kids today jerks? Sure, but show me a generation without jerks. I submit, in fact, that this is the least jerky generation yet.

Do today’s teenagers seem somewhat less motivated and ambitious than generations in the past? Could that possibly be because they have watched their elders drive themselves into a frenzy of debt and depression through constant consumer striving? Could it be that maybe they are questioning the whole rat race?

And are there perhaps better virtues to cultivate than mere ambition?

I think so.

Like consider this, for instance: I know a 17 year-old straight boy who recently took his gay 17 year-old neighbor (his childhood best friend) to the prom. The straight boy wanted his gay friend to enjoy the experience of prom, and the gay boy didn’t have a date, so the straight boy gallantly invited him. They rented tuxedos, a limo, took photos, danced, and had a ball. Nobody in their school batted an eye. And the real miracle is — the straight kid couldn’t even understand why i thought this was such a big deal. To his mind, it was simple: He loved his buddy, and saw no reason why they couldn’t go to the prom together as friends. Nothing about the situation made him feel threatened in the least. Nor did their classmates see it as strange.

Such a scenario would have been unthinkable in my high school back in 1987, where kids who even seemed gay were routinely bullied — not only by their fellow students, but sometimes even by their teachers. And I went to school in the liberal Northeast. We considered ourselves PROGRESSIVE!

Do we still have farther to go? Of course, but my hopes are that this generation will keep showing us the way to greater kindness.

If you have a teenager in your life, then, do try to appreciate him or her. I know they can be maddening, but they are also something quite special. (And as my 102 year-old grandmother once said to a room full of her descendants, who were complaining about KIDS THESE DAYS, “Hey! I knew ALL of you when you were 14, and you were all difficult. But you all turned out pretty good. These kids will turn out good, too.”)

In fact, I think they will turn out great.

And if you ARE a teenager (which I know is unlikely, because this is Facebook, not Instagram, or Snapchat) just know that I think you’re terrific. I admire your generation immensely. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that we were better than you were, back when we were your age. Trust me: we were not better. I was there. I remember.

I can’t wait to see what this generation is going to make of the world, with such decency and such compassion bred into their bones.

It’s an exciting time in history, and a good time. Believe me.


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We’ve been having technical difficulties… It seems things work differently down here in the mountains and hollers, signals and power-wise…

The Coal House, museum and gift shop... I bought an Appalachan Dictionary...We're all good now...

The Coal House, museum and gift shop… I bought an Appalachan Dictionary…We’re all good now…


This is the Williamson High School/ bed and breakfast… We were a little disappointed about missing out on the Habitat house at first, but the hot showers and the gym have turned out to be a great boon…


Shopping at the coal house…


Apparently, the boys went running… This sign has been getting a work out… I tried to tell Sam he could slack off… It turns out, he was dopey enough to go on a trip WITH his track team captains… (face-palm)


This is the buiding across the stree from where we do our meals… It’s lovely and melancholy… SO many of the houses are abandoned here…


The high school track is abandoned too…


View from our “office”…

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So, it turns out that Williamson is in Kentucky… and West Virginia… and Kentucky again…


Sunday sunrise; leaving Waffle House…


Sunday sunrise; leaving Waffle House…


Sunday sunrise; leaving Waffle House…


The room where the girls are sleeping used to be the football room…


Some of their strategies are still useful today…


Morning view from the high school…


A pig, at the Coal House; museum and gift shop…


Two very cute houses on our Williamson tour...

Two very cute houses on our Williamson tour…

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Here in Williamson, West Virgina… (note to self: it’s further than we thought)


This is where the girls are sleeping… and where the football team used to plan their strategy… The school has been closed since 2011.


We found that some of these bits of advice apply to us as well…


This is the room the boys refused to sleep in…


A house across the street…


What i found when I got up this morning… Early!!


That same house across the street…


The high school track that the boys ran on… and will run on again, I bet…


Mist in the holler…


A skink/salamander that ran across our path…


The town is packed into the holler… There’s very little flat space here…


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Day one… It was long… and fun… and companionable… and silly… and long… and we’ve arrived safely and happily at Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley.

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Almost heaven… We’re on our way!

We’re on our way… Tomorrow morning at 5:30…

I’m hoping we have this song memorized by the time we get back.

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The Age of Reason by Mary Jo Salter

tree 2

“When can we have cake?” she wants to know.
And patiently we explain: when dinner’s finished.
Someone wants seconds; and wouldn’t she like to try,
while she’s waiting, a healthful lettuce leaf?
The birthday girl can’t hide her grief-

worse, everybody laughs. That makes her sink
two rabbity, gapped teeth, acquired this year,
into a quivering lip, which puts an end
to tears but not the tedium she’ll take
in life before she’s given cake:

“When I turned seven, now,” her grandpa says,
“the priest told me I’d reached the age of reason.
That means you’re old enough to tell what’s right
from wrong. Make decisions on your own.”
Her big eyes brighten. “So you mean

I can decide to open presents first?”
Laughter again (she joins it) as the reward
of devil’s food is brought in on a tray.
“You know why we were taught that?” asks my father.
“No.” I light a candle, then another

in a chain. “-So we wouldn’t burn in Hell.”
A balloon pops in the other room; distracted,
she innocently misses talk of nuns’
severities I never knew at seven.
By then, we were Unitarian

and marched off weekly, dutifully, to hear
nothing in particular. “Ready!”
I call, and we huddle close to sing
something akin, you’d have to say, to prayer.
Good God, her hair-

one beribboned pigtail has swung low
as she leans to trade the year in for a wish;
before she blows it out, the camera’s flash
captures a mother’s hand, all hope, no blame,
saving her from the flame.

“The Age of Reason” by Mary Jo Salter, from Sunday Skaters.

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The Guest House ~ Rumi ~ (The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~   (The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

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Nothing forced works… by Kay Ryan

Nothing forced works.
The Gordian knot just worsens
if it’s jerked at by a person.
One of the main stations
of the cross is patience.
Another, of course, is impatience.
There is such a thing as
too much tolerance
for unpleasant situations,
a time when the gentle
teasing out of threads
ceases to be pleasing
to a woman born for conquest.
Instead she must assault
the knot or alp or everest
with something sharp
and take upon herself
the moral warp of sudden progress.

(Kay Ryan, 1945 – )

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Peace by Nicholas Gordon

Peace is not the product of despair.
An army’s most invincible least used.
Strength engenders weakness when abused,
Serving best by merely being there.
One conquers in the end by being just,
Vanquishing the conscience with the right.
Each child that’s passed over in the night
Restores just one-half bullet’s worth of trust.
(Nicholas Gordon, 1940 – )

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