The Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Reflections from the President of the UUA

May/June 2000

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W hen I was asked to speak at The Million Mom March on Washington—scheduled for Mother's Day—I wondered whether I met the biological criteria.

"It's open to everyone who has ever had a Mom," my friend Tina Johnstone assured me. I've known Tina since I was minister of First Unitarian Church of Dallas and she and her husband, David, were parishioners. I dedicated their children. I shared meals with them. Eight years ago, at our church on Staten Island, I also conducted David's memorial service.

He had been shot by a 16-year old with a handgun. The bullet didn't kill him right away. It just paralyzed him. I went to see him in the hospital. He was worried about what would happen to a society with so many guns that children can easily get hold of them. He was hoping to adapt successfully to life in a wheelchair. Then a blood clot in his legs came loose, went to his lungs, and he died.

At the memorial service, I included a story, a hadith, from the Islamic tradition:

One came and said to the Prophet: My mother has died, what shall I do for the good of her soul?

The Prophet thought of the panting heat of the desert, and he replied: Dig a well, that the thirsty may have water to drink.

The man dug the well and said: This have I done for my mother.

Tina must have taken the point. She helped organize what became known as The Silent March. Forty thousand pairs of empty shoes—a pair for each person killed each year in this country by guns—were placed around the Reflecting Pool in Washington. They then were delivered to members of Congress who resist the need for common-sense gun control. Later she joined a woman who had lost a son to gun violence in a path-breaking suit against the handgun industry. Recently she has been asked to run for Congress herself.

I hope that on Mother's Day all of you who ever had a mom will consider joining Tina and me in Washington, if only in spirit. The goal is gun licensing and registration (to learn more, go to Mother's Day, after all, originally meant more than greeting cards and phone calls. Unitarian activist Julia Ward Howe organized it as a day for mothers (and others) to rally for peace. Her Mother's Day Proclamation (#573 in our hymnal) puts it this way:

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, ‘Disarm, Disarm!' The sword of murder is not the balance of justice! Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Then let them solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace. And each bearing after her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
If you grieve over the ills of the world, start to dig a well in a dry place. Then say to yourself, "This I have done so that those who come after me may drink. This have I done for the sake of the too many who have died."

Yours faithfully,

John A. Buehrens, President
Unitarian Universalist Association

P.S. By the time you read this, I will also have been a speaker on the Mall in Washington for the Millennium March for Equality, supporting the end to discrimination against America's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens. (Click here for a report.)

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