What Does It Mean to Gather With Abundance?

“Living in a World of Abundance”

Parker Palmer writes, “The quality of our active lives depends heavily on whether we assume a world of scarcity or a world of abundance. Do we inhabit a universe where the basic things that people need – from food and shelter to a sense of competence and of being loved – are ample in nature? Or is this a universe where such goods are in short supply, available only to those who have the power to beat everyone else to the store? In a universe of scarcity, only people who know thearts of competing will be able to survive. But in a universe of abundance, acts of generosity and community become not only possible but fruitful as well.”

I asked someone recently how she knows when she is living in a world of abundance and her face lit up as she said, “I just know- there is a generosity about me, about everything.” We then talked about what it feels like to live in a world of scarcity and we laughed as we said at the exact same time (with a frown) “mine.” The image from the movie Finding Nemo came to my mind when a formation of seagulls chase a pelican with a fish, saying “mine, mine,” and ending up with their beaks stuck in the sail.

I agree with Parker, the quality of our lives depends on assuming a world of abundance. But how does our religious life help make that possible? If you Google “abundance” you’ll find Christian theologies of abundance describing stories about people who view e conomic security as a blessing from God. Stories that don’t inspire much help for the poor or offer much guidance for dismantling systems of economic oppression, like ours in this country, in which the top 1% of US households own more than 40% of the nation’s wealth, and the bottom 40% of Americans struggle to get by on 0.3% the nation’s wealth.

How then do we, as Unitarian Universalists, gather as a people of abundance? I’ve been following an on-line chat among colleagues and I’ve come to agree with them that abundance is not about having what you want, but about noticing what you have, and multiplying it through your manner of being in this world. It means to grow your gifts rather than compensating for a lack we see or that is seen by others. It means asking yourself, “What do I want to offer?” rather than, “What should I get in return?”

Abundance means accepting that most of us occupy a place of privilege in our society and are responsible for ensuring the rights of others rather than demanding our own rights first. Which is not to say that we haven’t been discriminated against; most of us have. If we live in the spirit of abundance though, these experiences lead us to be more compassionate and accepting of others and to give what is in us to give. Growth and expansion happen organically as a result of the gifts of time, insight, and care.

For the last seven years our congregation has given the gift of hosting a Fair Trade Fair. My hope is that we keep this spirit of abundance alive and suggest that until we host another fair, we support the UU Service Committee Fair Trade project (see link below). Another thing each of us can give is our signature to the petition to raise the state’s minimum wage and the petition for family medical leave benefits so that both referendums appear on the ballot (deadline is Nov. 12th). I have lots of petitions if you want to help. Just two small ways we can say “yes” we live in a world of abundance.

In faith,
Rev. Jill https://www.uusc.org/celebrate-fair-trade-month-support-economic-justice/