Chalice reading,
January 21, 2007

In a sermon almost three years ago, Judith spoke about the
benefits of writing one's life story and sharing it with others.
She thought about the value that might come from church
members sharing their life stories in small groups.

I suppose this idea stayed with me because I am often struck by
how different life is today from when I was young. I would like
my five grandchildren to know about my early life and some of
the memorable events that I have experienced.

I did nothing about writing about my past until last fall, when I
realized that my two granddaughters, now eight, are reading
Harry Potter. I thought "If they are reading things like Harry
Potter, they might like to read about some of my adventures".

The only problem was, my adventures had not been written.
Putting the two ideas together -- church members sharing their
stories and my grandkids' reading interests -- I decided to start a
memoir-writing group as part of the church's Adult Religious
Education Program. With Judith and Melinda's support, this was
announced and a small group of "wannabe writers" met for six
Thursday evenings last fall, ably co-led by Jennifer Westbay who
teaches writing at UCLA.

My goal for the course was to write several pieces that I could
give the grandkids for Christmas. As it turned out, by Christmas
I completed a collection of ten stories.

Don't worry, I'm not going to read them here.

I expected to feel good about finally doing something that I'd
been putting off for years, but what I did not expect was the
other feelings that emerged during and after my writing and
sharing with the group. Something was going on that I didn't
understand, and wasn't able to put into words.

Then something else happened that I'd been putting off - I began
to read Judith's book, "Leaving Room for Hope". In a chapter
entitled "Life is an Odyssey", where she is talking about writing
her own life story, she writes:

"We who tell these stories hear the larger meanings
emerge; they instruct us and make us whole". And
"Through writing and telling, we re-experience our past
from the perspective of who we are today. That knowledge
and distance give new meaning to who we once were". Also:
"Speaking our history transforms our past. Telling our story
can also heal us."

Was this what was going on with me? Was I becoming more
whole? Was the writing giving new meaning to who I once was?
While I don't want to overstate the impact the memoir writing
experience has had on me, I do want to express my belief that
the relatively simple act of writing and sharing parts of one's
history can contribute in surprising and significant ways to one's
personal growth.

Perhaps that is the meaning of the Biblical phrase, "In the
beginning was the word".

I light the chalice in appreciation of those persons who, by their
writing or listening, help others to clarify and enrich their lives.