My whole life has been guided by the story(s) about the way life is, i.e. my world-view. As my life unfolded, new chapters were added and changed my story. The story or stories I learned as a child were largely determined by my parents, their economic status and particular biases, and the geography and culture of the place where I was born. As I grew out of childhood I discovered that choices I made, such as who would be my friends and what classes I took, would influence my choices in the future.
My earliest life story went something like this: I have a family that will take care of me, give me opportunities to have fun without expecting much of me other than good behavior. I knew that our family struggled to meet our basic needs while there were wealthy families who lived in big mansions and could have anything they wanted. I also knew that our family earned our living by working for those wealthy families. My family let me know that this did not make for a happy situation. My family also let me know that everyone wasn’t to be trusted, that Italians and Roman Catholics were not my friends, or should not become close friends. As I grew older and went to public school with them I couldn’t understand why I shouldn’t trust these classmates. They didn’t seem different to me except how they spell their names and the fact that they didn’t eat meat on Fridays. A chapter in my story, or at least a paragraph, was being questioned and my story changed. If I had grown up in the south or somewhere else the focus of the bigotry would be different.
My family’s participation in church set me up for exposure to the Christian faith that was to become a cornerstone of my story. This was particularly true during my formative adolescent phase of life as I chose peers who were strongly connected to the church. My understanding of the Christian story went through many revisions as I was growing up and even more so in later life. At the heart of the story was the understanding that the man Jesus was very special, that he lived a special life that was worthy of following. As my understanding matured it became clear to me that Jesus understood what life was really about and lived it authentically, even at the cost of his life. His life was one of compassion and social justice. I was looking for a sense of direction and this story gave purpose to my life. If I had been born into a Muslim, Buddhist, or Jewish family I may have had a similar purpose but the storyline would have been different.
As my life unfolded and new chapters were added my story continued to change. The reality of the way life is did not change but my understanding and relationship to that reality went through many transformations. In this final phase of my life my primary relationship is one of gratitude for all that is. I live and participate in an evolving and expanding universe. I have a kinship with all the life forms that exist today as well as those that came before will come later. Planet Earth is my home and I have a deep affection and sense of responsibility for its care. My life has meaning in the relationships I have with family, community, and other human beings, as well as with other life forms in nature. Compassion continues to be the focus in these relationships. Recognizing and being present to the divine nature of my story is to know its sacred quality.