By Rev. Joe Walker, Minister of Congregational Care

When I was in elementary school, then as now, everyone was both excited and somewhat anxious as the new academic year got underway. For me, the beginning of school coincided with the onset of my fall seasonal allergies. Colloquially we called it hay fever but actually I was allergic to ragweed pollen. My nose would run constantly. My eyes watered. I sneezed, wheezed, coughed, and hacked. You can imagine I was delightful to have as a classmate. I had to sleep sitting up and my nights were restless. What about medicine, you ask? It just made me sleepier. All this was before schools were air conditioned and our farm house only had the one window unit. I was miserable and sleepy and started every school year lagging behind in my studies and having to catch up as the semester progressed.

I mention suffering with those childhood allergies because they made me feel really different from my classmates and teachers. Occasionally another student or two would be mildly sneezing or such but I was never around anyone whose allergies were as nightmarish as mine. If there is a bright side – a “gift” if you will – from those allergy-addled days, it was that the experiences contributed to developing an interest in those things that make us different and pondering the questions of how we can be different and still be in meaningful relationships. I have found those inquiries to be enriching pursuits.

With that in mind, let me offer you a heads-up about two resources available as of this Sunday. The first is the Fall Programming Guide, a listing of classes, activities, and events to help us explore our own and other people’s beliefs, cultures, and situations. As just one of many fine examples, an evening on Rethinking Disability will be presented by my friend, Rev. Dr. Letiah Fraser, of The Open Table.

The other resource is a Share Your Gifts Form, a list of some ways to serve in the church and the community. These are simple but important tasks, requiring no special training, with short, episodic time commitments. One tried-and-true way to get acquainted with other folks is to bring your unique story and gifts and pitch in on the work of building community at whatever level you are able.