Dear Advice Columnist:
My late husband and I joined the Ethical Culture Society many years ago. We believed in its mission and felt lucky to discover it. Our children loved the Sunday school. In our enthusiasm, we took on many different roles. My husband and I took our volunteer responsibilities very seriously and never complained.
Looking back, I have wonderful memories from those days, but I don’t think people realized the value of our contribution of time, expertise and leadership. If they did, we didn’t hear about it then, and I don’t hear the appreciation now. Did I choose the wrong place to invest my commitment?
Dear Taken for Granted:
I understand your disappointment. You feel let down by a community that hasn’t openly acknowledged the debt it owes you in your active, long term commitment.
Of course, there’s no way for you to know what beautiful sentiments people felt about you and may have shared with each other about your dedication. It’s not even possible to measure how much the vibrancy of the community is due to your work. Every time you showed up to meet a need, we all benefited.
My dear, sweet Taken for Granted, I bet you know, in your core, that by giving back to the community you say you love, you were able to influence its direction, grow personally and make precious friendships. You answered your own question about choosing the wrong place when you said you have wonderful memories. Cherish those memories, and let the doubts go.
Dear Advice Columnist:
I’m stuck. I was born into a religious family filled with warmth, tradition and high expectations for mutual support. I recently got divorced. My ex-wife and I had raised our children in the customs of our tribe, continuing to observe our religious holidays.
After we separated, I fell in love with someone who is not from the same background, and I want to make a life with her. I was never really a believer, anyway, but I’m scared that my children and my extended family will reject me, even ostracize me. I’m feeling frightened, guilty and torn.
Also, my fiancé wants us to join Ethical Culture. I’ve made my mistakes, how can I be certain this is the right choice for me?
It’s hard to leave a tradition that you’ve grown up with, raised children with, and binds all of your close relatives together. When the family learns you are a non-believer, it may get very uncomfortable. Your dear children will come around, but there’s not much you can do to make that happen faster.
How can you be certain this path is right for you? You can’t get certainty on the cheap. An ethical and evolved life entails telling the truth about yourself and living out that truth. That truth will eventually win out.
I think your fiancé is right about the Ethical Culture Society, as it will nourish your clarity. In this transition, be sure you treat your relatives with dignity, and allow for yourself all the compassion you can muster.
P.S. Your fiancé sounds like a keeper.