Once, in a time much like this one, and in a city much like this one, there lived a young man called Navadina. He had grown up in the city and he knew its ways well. He knew the way the weather could change very quickly. He knew when to be friendly and when to keep to himself. He knew that one must never, ever make eye contact with a stranger when riding on public transportation.
New Year’s Eve had rolled around once again. Navadina had no family living in the city now, and he prepared to go out to meet some friends to celebrate the coming of the New Year.
Leaving his small flat, Navadina passed by Mrs. Aziva. She lived alone just next door, but Navadina and Mrs. Aziva never exchange more than a word or two. Today was no exception. As they passed one another, there was a brief grunt of acknowledgement. Mr. zaGkita, downstairs, was coming into the building as Navadina left. A nervous-seeming older man, he avoid Navadina’s eyes - another grunted greeting, and Navadina was on his way to meet his friends.
The party was loud and boisterous. Midnight came and went with the usual popping of corks, cheers, streamers and air kisses. When it became a bit quieter, Navadina found himself sitting with a few of his closest friends. In the early morning hours, their conversation turned to New Year’s resolutions.
The resolutions were predictable: Lose a stone, get to the gym more often, smoke less, get a pay raise…
Navadina was quiet and seemed lost in thought. “What about you, Nava? Any resolutions for you?” asked one of the friends.
“I’ve been thinking about the state of the world” said Navadina. Too much hatred, wars, people being killed, people in poverty and living on the streets even in rich nations…”
“Ah, so your resolution is to bring world peace Nava?” laughed one of his friends. “What you need is another pint!”
Navadina laughed along with them and headed off to the bar to buy another round.
At last, in the small hours of the morning, Navadina got to bed, weary, but his head still filled with the contrasts between the narrow perspectives of his friends and the enormous problems of the world. “I am too small to make a difference” he thought, “but how can there ever be change if we only think about ourselves?” His thoughts quickly faded though as exhaustion drew him off to sleep.
Maybe it was that fifth pint and maybe it was the fact that he had recently watched ‘a Christmas Carol’ for about the 200th time when there was nothing else on the TV in the run up to Christmas… We may never know why, but in his dream, Navadina was visited by three wise creatures.
First came a zebra…
“Navadina”, said the zebra, “I am the first of three visitors you will meet this New Year’s night. See my skin. I am not black and I am not white. I am both. I have come to tell you that each of us is a part of all things. You must know that all beings are one and that peace will not come to any of us until we know this oneness in our hearts. This is my message to you Navadina, all are one.”
The second visitor was a bunny.
“Nava”, it said in its quiet little bunny voice. “Navadina, “We rabbits must always be alert for the slightest changes in our environments and I have come to tell you that possibilities are not closed unless and until you give up. Even when things seem their worst and danger is at your heels, an opening may arise. Never give up. I have come to tell you that change is always possible.
And the third visitor was a lion…
“Navadina” he roared in his great lion voice. “Navadina. We lions are able to sense our prey from great distances. We know when there is the slightest change in the environment. We are also known for our courage. No animal dares to challenge us. I have already sensed the change you seek Navadina. It has come and is here with us now. You can grasp it if only you have the courage to do so. I have come to tell you that the change you seek is here and that you must have the courage to bring it into its fullness.
Navadina woke on New Year’s Day feeling refreshed. In front of him were the three stuffed animals he had kept from his childhood – a zebra, a bunny, and a lion. He laughed aloud. “what a strange dream” he thought, “maybe I should resolve to drink less after all!” Noticing the time, he realised he needed to hurry to meet a friend for a late lunch. He showered and dressed and rushed out of his flat only to run smack into Mrs. Aziva, who wore a particularly sour expression on her face. Before he had a chance to think he found himself saying “oh Mrs. Aziva! Happy New Year! What a wonderful day and you look lovely today! And he gave her a hug.” Realising what he had done, he stepped back in horror, prepared to for her angry response.
Mrs. Aziva looked stunned, and then her lips turned upward in a broad smile and her eyes filled with tears. She put her arms out and gave Navadina a great warm embrace. “Happy New Year to you too Navadina. And thank you.”
Navadina continued on his way. He greeted Mr. zaGkita with a hearty Happy New Year, and that nervous gentleman’s face quickly changed as he responded with his own very uncharacteristic “Happy New Year Navadina!”
Navadina left for his lunch date, and as he travelled, he began to notice that everyone looked different to him today. He began to really see people – catch sight of their emotions in their eyes. He wondered what made that woman glow with apparent joy. He felt worry along with a man whose brow appeared deeply furrowed with concern. “Where were all these lovely people before?” he wondered. What a wonderful world this is!
And he went off resolved to tell his friend an odd story about a zebra, a bunny, and a lion.
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year?
Do you know have any idea how many people fail in their New Year’s resolutions? 78%! That’s right, less than one in four people succeed in meeting some goal that they set at this change of the calendar year.
It’s hopeless, isn’t it? Should we even bother trying? Why not simply have another pint and try to forget the idea of resolutions altogether?
Despite the poor success rate of those personal resolutions, change happens and growth happens. Hope grows and expands like divided irises shared through caring connection.
This is a community that has successfully changed itself. From two tiny congregations of just a handful of souls seven years ago, we have become a vital and growing community of over 70 people. Are we done growing yet? I don’t think so!
And we have begun to change the larger community around us. People in Islington and Hackney know where we stand on women’s rights, and it matters to them. It gives them strength to continue to move toward justice.
People in Islington and Hackney know that we stand on the side of love – that equal marriage rights are for all people, not just all straight people. And this matters and it strengthens the resolve of others to continue to work for justice.
In the journey of our lives, as in any journey, we must set a course in order to get somewhere. Resolutions serve that function, but making resolutions of the usual sort is not big enough.
Victor Frankl, who survived the Nazi death camps concluded that what we need “…is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some [worthy goal.] What [we need] is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by [us].”
We need high aspirations. We need big goals and towering dreams.
Hear these words from German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance--
and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;
a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave . . .
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
We are changed by what we move towards, even if we never reach it. The quest itself has value.
Today, I hope that we will turn not to our own personal resolutions, but on what we can do together – what this very special community can do.
What should the Newington Green and Islington Unitarians resolve to do in 2010?
Should this be the year to help more people in the larger community?
Is it the year to speak out more loudly in sharing our inclusive values?
Is it the year to support one another more fully?
This community is you. How would you choose to have us live our mission in the world for 2010. When we go in for coffee, you will find paper waiting for you to write your own suggested resolution for this community.
I offer only one word of guidance…
Aim high. The zebra, the bunny, and the lion will be watching.
With love as our guide, may it be so.