Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day, UUA & a Missed Opportunity


This is a man, singing here with the late Odetta, who is a treasure in my hometown. He has an internationally syndicated radio show, Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour, and we are blessed to be able to go to the live tapings here in Lexington, KY.

His name is Michael Johnathan.

He's not a UU, but he loves Henry David Thoreau, and a few years ago he wrote a charming play based upon what might have happened during Henry's last few days at Walden Pond. The play is full of direct quotes from Emerson and Thoreau and hence, makes an accessible, enjoyable, and entertainig way for young people and all people to "get" the gist of Thoreau, even if they didn't "get" his writing.

You can learn a lot more about the play, the DVD, the thousands of schools that Michael has made it available to free of charge, by visiting http://www.waldenplay.com/

Last year Michael approached me and asked whether I'd help him connect with the UUA, to encourage them to either be a sponsor, a supporter, or simply a contact point through which UU churches could be a part of this project. I did try, but my many calls and e-mails were either politely put off, or went unanswered. Too bad...

Michael and his staff sent DVDs and promtional materials. They heard nothing back.

The UUA missed an opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of people in local communities with a message that directly connects us to the arts, education, history, environmentalism, and more. Maybe there was someone I should have talked to that I didn't, but it shouldn't be that hard. Michael, his assistant Anna, and I really tried. The one person who was gracious and gave us encouragement was Keith Kron.

Let me tell you what people are like in Kentucky. When they give their word, that's enough. When they ask for your help, and don't get what they hoped for, they still treat you well. I have been given so many generous invitations and favors by these people that I feel a bit ashamed. I didn't promise him anything on the UUA's behalf, but I thought someone would at least give him an ear. I guess lots of people come to the UUA wanting money & lots more, but when he said he didn't even need money, he meant it.

Last Sunday, Michael played guitar and sang at an Earth Day service at our church (believe me, he has bigger fish to fry!) even though he'd broken his thumb the night before. He was gracious and excited as he talked about the many UU churches that had ordered the play. They did a direct mailing, and I hope you have received it! This is a quality way for you and your church to connect with your communities & become known for so many aspects of UUism's "good stuff."

At the very least, order the free materials and share them through your Lifespan RE program.

I'm not dissing the UUA! I support the UUA, and I know that WE are the UUA. But I wish the people who are in charge of this sort of thing had done their jobs more humanely. I keep talking about how it doesn't matter to be politically correct or environmentally sensitive if you treat people like crap, because people are part of natural resources, too. I keep looking at the list of sponsors who are there along the side of the web page and imagining the UUA among them.

All I can do is try to make sure I don't dismiss others as easily. I can think about how and when I have done so and try to make amends. Meanwhile, enjoy Michael Johnathan, Woodsongs (you can listen on line http://www.woodsongs.com/) and Walden!