When I snuck outside to see if I left my phone in the car I didn’t realize the news that was awaiting me when I found it. I swiped my news reader as I ran towards the house. Nelson Mandela had died. It wasn’t unexpected, 95 years is a long life under any circumstances. When someone’s life is the catalyst of change so profound it’s hard to imagine their return to soil and particle, though, it’s as if their spirit had already achieved permanence.
I sat down at our kitchen table, crying lightly. Twinkle Toes asked me what was wrong. I explained that someone really important had died. She asked me about it and I told her that a man who believed that all people were important and equal, and that all people should vote and that their votes should be equal, died. We grabbed my hand and asked if there was something we could do to feel better. We decided to have a Chalice Circle.
The symbol of our Unitarian Universalist faith is a chalice alit with flame, a symbol creating during WWII. The flaming chalice design was made into a seal for papers and a badge for agents moving refugees to freedom. In time it became a symbol of Unitarian Universalism all around the world. We lit our family’s chalice, one we made from clay together and had the children paint long ago, and held hands in a circle. We spoke about our seven principles of being a Unitarian Universalist and how people stand on the side of love and freedom are our heroes.
Our children are young, they cannot yet understand what apartheid means, nor can they understand that human beings have as much power to do evil as they have to do well. But they can understand that holding hands in a circle and sending prayers of thanks into the universe for examples of human goodness sends a message that we, too, are making the choice to live lives of value.