At our recent Board of Trustees meeting, Bruce Larson, inspired by this month’s worship theme of Journey, challenged us to reflect upon our individual life journeys. Where are you now? Where did you come from? What are you hoping to see on the horizon? The conversation that soon traveled around the table glowed with gratitude while also offering hints of the bittersweet. It was one of those contemplative interactions that gently reminded me of what I love about serving on the UUCA Board with such good people as well as about being a part of the larger UUCA community of good people in general. It also happened to remind me of another Journey-inspired moment that had taken place in my life 20 years prior.
In my mid-20’s, I was living in Seattle and desperately trying (not trying) to determine in which direction I was heading and if it was actually where I wanted to go. However, my metaphorical traveling song at the time seemed stuck somewhere between “Life is a Highway” and “Highway to Hell” and there were many a moment in which I found myself, despite having been the one behind the wheel, somehow losing track of long stretches of road. Perhaps “Road to Nowhere” would have been more apropos. Anyway, the point is that I was young and unsure of where I was going.
Returning home in the early hours after sunrise from a 3rd shift job, I passed a man on the sidewalk asking for change. Having none, I offered him a smoke and sat down beside him to talk. The story that quickly unfolded was both unexpected and unbelievable. A young drummer’s band had made big. A world tour had unfolded. Wealth won rapidly. Wild excess run rampant. I remember him telling me that despite being “a sharp tack,” the sheer reckless speed of his life had left him driving blindly into each new day. Sadly, tragedy ensued and he was soon without a band, a plan, or a purpose. “I had been living with a reckless ‘Be here now’ now attitude without any reflection on my past or my future. Don’t make the same mistake,” he warned me. “Be present in the moment but keep in mind your sense of purpose if you want to stay on track. Without some kind of map of what matters to you, life might throw you a detour and you’ll wind up lost.” As we parted ways, he smiled, raised his fist and quoted from one of his band’s most famous songs: “Wheel in the sky keeps on turning brother.” I raised my fist back at him and returned “You don’t know where you’ll be tomorrow.” Yes, according to my momentary friend, he had been a member of the band, Journey.
I have never attempted to see if his story was true. Finding out if it was fact has never seemed to be the point. All I know is that in 1999, I sat on a sidewalk with a stranger who told me a surreal story that, at the time, I needed to hear. And now, 20 years later, my journey having led me to a family, a job, and a community that matters immeasurably to me, I still remember it vividly. My past has shaped me, my present helps ground and make meaning for me, and my vision of a future I believe in helps me stay more awake at the wheel as I travel onward. Being a part of UUCA has become an integral part of my navigation. Be it Mark’s and Claudia’s Sunday reflections, my work with the Board, or my participation at the Wednesday Thing, I maintain a better balance between where I currently am and the horizon I seek. Like the song says, I may not know where I will be tomorrow, but UUCA at least helps me stay aware of the journey itself. My hope is that it helps do the same for you as well.
Ryan Williams, Board of Trustees