Stewardship Testimonial by Jason Delaney

Hi, my name is Jason Delaney, and I’m on the Stewardship team, and a Coming of Age mentor. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

My birthday is coming up on November 2 (it ends in a five, but it’s still a pretty nondescript one) and every year I struggle to respond to requests for gift ideas. I like to say—and to think—that I struggle because really I don’t want much, but that’s not true. I love getting stuff! My life is great, don’t get me wrong, but there are lots of ways it could be different and better.

When I was a kid, it was easy. I would spend hours poring over the Sears catalog with a magic marker, and it felt like magic—every carefully posed and lighted photograph of a smiling child playing with a well-assembled toy on a clean and non-cluttered play room floor was a promise of a fun afternoon, an end to boredom, a world of limitless imagination. A rocket that can fly higher than your house! Cars that drive up the wall! Stilts! That seems like a great idea! An air-hockey table! Every year, I think, I asked for an air hockey table. I think I tried to convince my parents that we could just push the dining room table against the wall. “Don’t worry, Mom, there will be plenty of room!” Each of these, I would circle with that marker and write a big “J” for Jason, claiming it as my own. In this way, I would spend fictional thousands of dollars on myself every year.

And in the frenzy of opening presents, I would see some of these claims made real, these dreams come true. And then, eventually, inexorably, the toys would migrate to the back of a closet, to the bottom of a toy box, to a bin in our unfinished basement. Sometimes we would excavate them and they would make a dull afternoon less so, but mostly they just disintegrated—scratched paint and bent axles on Matchbox cars; lonely, disarmed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles whose accompanying weapons had filtered down to the lowest sedimentary layer: the well-known “action-figure accessories” layer.

It wasn’t that the toys were flawed—it was that they couldn’t best the competition. It wasn’t the catalogue’s fault. Sears employees in purchasing really did the best job they could at finding the things to sell to facilitate children’s dreams. But the best things, the things I valued the most, you can’t get them at Sears.

There’s a saying that “the best things in life are free”, but we economists know that people say that because we don’t have a very precise vocabulary regarding money. A more accurate, but less pithy, aphorism would be that the best things in life are non-traded goods and services.

And knowing that, that what I want is not for sale, makes it hard to say what I want for my birthday. What I want could maybe be had with money, maybe, but they would take much more than my own money to make them happen.

So what do I want for my birthday?

  • I want my commute to be seven minutes shorter.
  • I want true, deep and abiding racial and gender equality to find their way into not only our country’s laws, but also our hearts.
  • I want an excellent rock climbing gym within convenient driving distance of my house.
  • I want a healthcare system that helps and respects everyone, regardless of their means.
  • I want the Mets to win the World Series.
  • I want to serve my fellow human beings.
  • I want my students to be willing to try harder to get better at algebra, and then to succeed and go on to have full and fulfilling lives.
  • I want an end to the violence in Syria—I’m not even sure how that would look, but it’s on my wish list.
  • I want my favorite band to release another record.
  • I want my family to live close by.
  • I want no one to feel alone.

I want a faith community where my very specific and weird beliefs about the universe (I am, after all, a Taoist Christian Agnostic Atheist Scientist) are valued and where I know my family will be welcomed and loved and supported, where my children will be raised to stand on the side of love, and to love themselves no matter their path, or their gender identity, or their preferred source of truth and wonder.

I can’t make all of these things happen. Most of them are out of my hands. But if the universe conspires to make them available, then I will give and give and give to keep these things going. For years, I felt spiritually alone, a wanderer in the wilderness, and I treated it like being a Mets fan, or a witness to life’s vicissitudes—there is little I can do but to try to find meaning and acceptance in loss and loneliness. Some things are simply out of stock—not available for purchase.

But if the universe is compassionate enough to present me with a place like UUCA, I am sure as hell going to bust out that magic marker and circle it again and again and again, with a big J for Jason, and then spend the time I have before I fall asleep smiling with anticipation at how awesome it will be when I get to tear through the wrapping paper.

This is why Cheryl and I are increasing our pledge this year to become 5% givers at UUCA, and why we also strive to give of our time and talent. If you’re in the October circle and have confirmed or increased your pledge, thank you! What a thoughtful gift! I love it; how generous of you! If you’re in the November circle with me, our chance is next! I never thought I would be lucky enough to have the opportunity to support a place like this: that makes change in our hearts and in our community; that creates such beautiful art and such consideration, compassionate conversation (have you been on the City?); and that makes me cry with joy and wonder on a weekly basis. This place has changed me! It wasn’t in the catalog! But it’s here now, and it’s just the best thing a kid could hope for.