I read novels for relaxation, and lately I found myself pondering my enjoyment of the stories by one of my favorite authors, Robin McKinley – wondering what it was about them that captured my affection. I finally realized that a reason her stories resonate for me is that there is an “ugly duckling” theme that unites many of her narratives. You may remember the baby fowl in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, who is called “ugly” and “awkward” by the fluffy golden ducklings with whom he is growing up, making him feel ashamed and isolated. Similarly, McKinley’s heroines and heroes often feel they are misfits when they are young; they learn early on that they are not pretty or talented or socially adept in the usual ways. And then, much like the little bird in the famous fable, as they mature they discover that they are actually not ducks at all, but swans, and that their beauty, talent and personal charm are greater than they ever suspected. Perhaps that is a story line that may resonate with many people I know.
A key to McKinley’s protagonists discovering their unique swan-ish characteristics is finding what they are passionate about, whether it is raising a puppy or riding a horse or slaying a dragon, and being able to immerse themselves in those activities, rather than trying to do things that are not really a good fit for them. Once they find their passion and hone their emerging skills, they really start to shine, and that makes all the difference in transforming their lives into both pleasure and power.
One of my commitments for a faith community is that it will be or become a place where everyone can discover the unique ways in which they are swans, whether they grew up feeling like a cygnet, an odd duckling, or some other sort of bird altogether. That is why I am so excited about the new member engagement and leadership development initiative that is being launched here at UU Schenectady this month. As the initiative unfolds, there will be pathways for everyone to find their own particular passion and best fit, in ways large and small, at the same time creating meaningful community connections as they work in volunteer teams with shared commitments. There is a role for everyone, and with intention and awareness, we can discover our individual and collective power, and create something larger and better than any one of us could do on our own.
So I invite you to watch for the announcements and the opportunities, and step up to take part and discover your own inner swan. Everyone is welcome to participate or contribute in the ways that best suit you at any point in time. As you know, it is my deep pleasure to join you in this beautiful work, and as always, I look forward to seeing you in church!