I remember the moment in college when I realized for the first time that doing the right thing was not always a black and white choice. I was attending a protest rally after the shooting of Amadu Dialo, and in the midst of chanting the numbers 1-41 (the number of times Amadu Dialo was shot by New York City police officers) with the rest of the crowd, I looked up and suddenly noticed that I was the only white person in the crowd. Suddenly my confidence in the rally was shaken. It wasn't because I was uncomfortable being the only white person; it was that I didn't understand why there weren't more white people there if there had clearly been an injustice that needed to be witnessed. Wasn't this shooting of an innocent black man a clear instance of racism? Suddenly I wasn't sure. Suddenly I was swimming in that gray area of conscience. Suddenly I was figuring out what I believed simply by being there, just like Richard Gilbert speaks of in his article, "We learn by doing."

In this article Gilbert talks about the time when he and his son visited a vigil and he was tempted to leave because it was an uncomfortable situation. His son stopped him from leaving and together they reflected on the situation and their feelings. He says, "We both clarified our values and what they meant for our behavior. Out of a simple gesture of social action came enhanced life meaning."

I think that we as UU's are fairly good at exposing our children and ourselves to "gestures of social action." What we can improve upon, and must improve upon, are the moments of reflection when we clarify our values and talk about what they mean for our behavior (praxis). This is the key component that is so often missing. We are embarrassed to talk about what made us uncomfortable or that we still have lingering prejudices, that we were unexpectedly moved…or not moved, by what we had seen. We as Unitarian Universalists feel that we should already have done all this growth work and are embarrassed to still be in the midst of it, and letting others see it.

My goal for myself and for those I work with in my ministry is to sit with this discomfort so that it might be productive. My work at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry has given me the opportunity to work with hundreds of Unitarian Universalists as they explore how to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk, of their faith. Together we clarify the difference between charity and solidarity, we dismantle our own preconceptions, and we form real relationships across cultural differences and societal barriers.

Our churches, too, should be spaces where people are held accountable for their own actions, asked to work toward making the world a more just place in concrete ways, supported in the discomfort that this work brings, and guided in making meaning out of the struggle for justice.