“There”

I wrote this poem for my “African Americans, Unitarians, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists” class at Meadville Lombard Theological School, Fall 2015.

“There”

Feels like we’ve been traveling forever
but we’re still not there.
Lord knows we’ve tried – each in our own way – to get there,
wherever “there” is.

Working groups, task forces, coalitions, allies.
Resolutions and programs.
Catch acronyms and fancy names.
We think and think and talk and talk,
then think and talk some more.
Lord knows we’ve tried – each in our own way – to get there,
wherever “there” is.

They try so hard to include me.
But I thought I was already included.
Now I feel like an outsider.
Lord knows we’ve tried – each in our own way – to get there,
wherever “there” is.

I know it’s better than it was.
But it still feels like I’m supposed to
set aside a piece of who I am
in order to belong.
I won’t do it.
My Unitarian and Universalist ancestors worked too hard
for me to give up now.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper whispers softly in my ear,
“Keep going, child.”
Yes, ma’am.  It’s a struggle sometimes but
I don’t feel no ways tired.

We’ve made some progress and we’ll make some more.
We’ll keep trying.  We’ll get there someday.
Wherever “there” is.

 

Copyright © 2016 CMSimon. All rights reserved.

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New Beginnings

You probably noticed that I made quite a few updates to my LinkedIn profile.  That’s because I’m making some major changes in my life.   If you know me even a little bit, you know how committed I am to combating issues of economic injustice in our society.  Unemployment, underemployment, discrimination in the workforce, inadequate training and education and financial illiteracy have a chokehold on many of our cities and towns.  The generational poverty and hopelessness I’ve seen in the urban areas of Philadelphia and Wilmington break my heart.  People lack the education and skills to get a decent job that pays a living wage.  Neighborhoods are plagued by crime and drugs.  Schools are underfunded and, in many cases, unsafe.

For many years, I’ve tried to help through my volunteer efforts.  It’s not enough.  I can do more.  The late Dr. Stephen Covey said, “[v]oice lies at the nexus of talent (your natural gifts and abilities), passion (those things that naturally inspire, motivate, energize and excite you), need (including what the world needs enough to pay you for) and conscience (that which assures you of what is right and actually prompts you to do it).  Engaging in work…that taps your talent and fuels your passion – that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet – therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.”

I first read those words in 2004 but I don’t think I fully understood them until these last few years.  My family background, every job I’ve had, my education, my time spent practicing law, being unemployed and underemployed, my volunteerism, my health and financial struggles, my music, my teaching experience and my religious study – all of it was for the purpose of bringing me to where I am today.  I’ve found my voice.  I am called to be a Unitarian Universalist minister and to use my energy working in the community to heal our world both from the “inside-out” and the “outside-in.”  This means meeting people wherever they are on their journey and helping them find their way to their personal truth.  If people are spiritually healthy from the inside-out they can do the outside-in work our communities so desperately need.  It means leading a congregation in its efforts to promote peace, justice and love in our world.  It means working one-on-one with those who most need help and joining forces with other people, other congregations, corporations, organizations and government to build a global Beloved Community.  That is my soul’s code.

I’ve spent the last 18 months focusing on my health, getting my mind and body strong again.  Through meditation, reflection and counsel with trusted friends and advisors, I’ve refocused professionally as well.  Now, I’m ready to take the next steps.  I was accepted to the Master of Divinity program at Meadville Lombard Theological School and begin classes this month.  Next week, I will start my new role as Director, Center for Employment and Training at the People’s Emergency Center in Philadelphia (http://pec-cares.org).  I’m honored and excited to be part of this amazing organization that’s been a pillar of the community for more than 20 years.  I’ll also continue to make speaking appearances in the Delaware Valley and, of course, will remain an active Toastmaster, helping others find their voice and communicate their message to the world.

Thank you to the friends, family and colleagues who’ve supported me and continue to encourage me on this journey.  I love you all.

Connie

May 8, 2015

Word for ME Today!

I’ve gotten into the habit of reading “The Word for You Today” (WFYT) each morning as part of my routine.  Some of the more hard-core biblical messages are a bit off-putting but I usually find some value in the readings.  Yesterday, Sunday, I got up and read what I thought was the entry for January 18th.  It was something about dating.  I’d love to be dating a nice man right now but WFYT wasn’t going to help me find someone. (That’s a story for another post.) I went about my day and didn’t think anything more of it.

This morning I woke up in a funk. I’ve actually been feeling this way for a few days – criticizing myself for poor food choices, wasting time, not getting everything done, not being involved in community affairs as much as I could be, etc.  Then I looked at WFYT.  What I read yesterday was actually the message for today so I went back a day.  The message for January 18th was “Don’t Be So Controlling.” It was written with husband/wife relationships in mind, talking about how two “become” one and that the process takes love, patience, kindness and hard work.  You can’t “influence the outcome’ by fixing, judging, nagging, scolding, arguing, criticizing and regulating.  Then it hit me – this message was brought to me today because I needed it today.  It was about my relationship with myself!  I’m making all kinds of changes in my life right now – I applied to seminary, I’m looking for a new job, I’m 2/3 of the way to losing 100 pounds, I’m healing my finances and I started training for my first 5K race.   I’m doing well.  I am becoming a new person.  The use of the gerund here is intentional.  I’m still a work in progress.  So maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  I’ve come a long way.  No more self-judging, self-nagging, self-scolding and self-criticizing.  I will be more patient, loving and kind with myself.

Welcome to my blog.  I’ve been thinking about blogging for years but didn’t want to be one of those people who felt compelled to vomit every detail of their personal life all over social media.  You know the people I’m talking about – the ones who post every meal on Facebook and give us hourly updates as to their whereabouts.  But I find myself in an unusual position:  I’m starting my life all over again at the age of 51.  Since 2008, I walked away from a high paying job because of principle only to find and lose my dream job to layoff.  I lost my precious black lab to cancer, got left at the altar by my fiancé, duped in a real estate deal, survived two cancer scares, lost my older brother to illness and moved two thousand miles to care for my sister and her disabled husband after she suffered a series of strokes.  I’m overeducated and grossly underemployed, pretty much broke financially and overwhelmed emotionally.  I could be bitter – and to tell the truth, sometimes I am – but instead, I choose to view it as simply BEGINNING AGAIN.  As we start 2014, I’ve got a plan in place that will get me on the road to becoming a WHOLE person again and serve as the foundation for the scholarship and empowerment organization I intend to build.

What does it mean to be “WHOLE?”  I’ll share more details in the next installment.  Basically, a WHOLE life is one in which your health, finances, career and relationships are all in alignment and working together for your greatest good.  When you are WHOLE, nothing is too big for you to achieve.

So why am I writing this?  Because in the past five years I’ve had dozens of people tell me I should share my story.   I now know that my WHOLE life involves using my education and experiences as an attorney, teacher, counselor, musician, coach, writer, realtor, speaker, etc. to help others define and achieve their own WHOLE lives.  As one of my favorite authors, SARK, says, “when someone asks what you do, tell them ‘I am a creative spirit.  I just came here to help.’”  I’ve been helping in a multitude of professional, personal and volunteer capacities for years.  I realized in 2013 that everything I’ve done has been driven by my desire to help.  That’s why I’m writing this – to share my story and document my journey back to being WHOLE and, hopefully, in the process help you become WHOLE, too.

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