Holy Conversations: Yearbook Universalism

How long has it been since you looked at your high school yearbook? Inspired by our recent graduates (which we honored at the May 16th Bridging Service), I looked at mine. There I was— Anthony from 26 years ago—weird hairstyle and all. On one of the pages, a girl I secretly liked wrote, “Anthony, you are a super guy! I’ll never forget your sweet smile and your sweet spirit. Good luck in everything you do.” Did she say this because she secretly liked me back? Or did she write something like this in everyone’s yearbook? I know that I always tried to write something upbeat, no matter who was asking.

On the other hand, there were always a couple of jokesters. One was none other than my high school principal, Mr. Fistko. He wrote, “God made the Earth and rested. God made the Sea and rested. God made Anthony David, and since then, nobody’s rested.”

Then there was Ms. Starkey, my English teacher. Five feet tall, pudgy, with sparkling dark eyes and a razor sharp intellect. At the time, I was a fundamentalist Christian (Church of Christ), and she was a liberal Christian (Presbyterian, I think). For me, there was only one way to salvation. For her, there were many.

When I asked her to sign my yearbook, she said of course and then told me she’d get it back to me the next day. This surprised me. I expected her just to write something down then and there, like everyone else. But she wanted to say something especially meaningful.

Here’s what I read when I got my yearbook back: “My dear little Anthony. This is from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. It says a bit of what I believe. ‘Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.” Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.” For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.’ Your petals are, so far, a joy to behold. Thank you for sharing your mind and spirit with me for the past two years.“

I remember the moment I read this. My eyes teared up. Blood rushed to my face. Intellectually, I still disagreed. But emotionally, something clicked. Gibran’s words pointed to something far larger and nobler than I knew at the time. It would take 15 years for me to give a name to it: Universalism.
Let us honor the teachers and mentors that enter our worlds and plant seeds of the Larger Life. Thank you, Mrs. Starkey.

Rev. Anthony David, Senior Minister