Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about family. Right before the New Year, my nuclear family welcomed our third child, Lyra, to the world. We were thankful to receive tremendous help from our extended family, but Josh and I had no idea we’d feel so much love and support from another family, UUCA. In mid-December, one of my covenant group members offered to start a meal train. I imagined it would consist mainly of our closest friends, which itself would have been an incredible help. Josh and I never dreamed our fellow congregants would provide an entire month’s worth of meals! And yes, many people who signed up were our good friends, but some we’d only met a few times, and a couple incredibly generous souls Josh and I had never even met previously. (I’m so glad that changed when they dropped off their meals!)

I cannot over-emphasize what a blessing it was—not just the food itself, but the stress it spared me of trying to throw something together while my kindergartener and preschooler sparred for attention and I tried to nurse the baby. Indeed, each day as the meals came, I became more overwhelmed by gratitude and the generousness of fellow congregants. Our hearts were nourished as much as our stomachs.

Whenever someone asks me why I first came to UUCA and why I stay, I invariably answer “community.” This past month, however, as we felt so deeply supported and cared for while adjusting to life as a family of five, I realized that UUCA has become more than a community for us. It’s another family, of which we’re honored to be a part.

One of our congregation’s new ends statements reads, “we create a community where people of all ages and backgrounds experience belonging, and feel loved and needed.” My family certainly felt this over the past month, not just because of the meal train, but also from much smaller acts of kindness: people reaching out via email or Facebook to check on us; Lyra’s birth announced in church; cards of congratulation. It’s gotten us thinking more than ever about how we can pay it forward.

In this trying political climate, many in our church family are in need of daily heart/soul nourishment. Many in our collective human family as well. We sometimes forget that the simplest, smallest acknowledgment can make a huge difference to another person, making them feel like a truly loved and needed member of a larger family.

It’s easy to get lost in our individual crazy-busy lives. Inspired by our incredible UUCA family, I’ve been challenging myself to increase my offerings of daily small kindnesses: more smiles at strangers, letting someone ahead of me in traffic, taking an extra minute to talk to a fellow frazzled parent and really listen. And if you’re up for it, I challenge you to do the same. It might not seem like much to you, but it just might be the thing that keeps someone else going.

Nora Carpenter, Board of Trustees