Whenever I am invited to think about times I experienced hospitality and generosity, I think about my visit to Puerto Rico. I went when I was young, just a couple of years out of college. After months of saving and planning and reading, I was over the moon when I finally arrived. I went first to San Juan where I walked around for hours just taking in the sights and sounds and flavors of the city. From there I traveled to the island of Vieques where I camped in my little backpacking tent on a beautiful white sand beach and swam in a sea so clear I had to keep reminding myself it was really real.
So many years later, the details about what happened next are sketchy in my mind. I met a young man on a bus trip across the island, talked for quite some time and somehow decided to go with him to the hotel where he was staying. It wasn’t long before it became clear to me I had not made a very wise decision. He went to the bathroom and I took that moment to gather my things and head right back to the bus station. I was dismayed to find when I arrived that there were no more buses out that day.
Not knowing what to do, and a little worried he might come looking for me, I walked over to a park near the bus station. A family having a cookout noticed me in my sorry state and called me over. They introduced themselves, invited me to sit and have some food, asked where I was from and what I was doing. One of the women told me I reminded her of her daughter. She didn’t approve of my traveling about all by myself and wondered if I didn’t know anyone on the island who I could visit after my unsettling experience. The only person I knew was my former Spanish professor, who the woman persuaded me to call. Luckily mi profesora remembered me. She quickly invited me to come stay with her for a couple of days and I gratefully accepted her invitation.
Two decades later when I think of my trip to Puerto Rico, what stands out for me are the unexpected blessings I received there - the gift of hospitality, the grace of generosity and the communion created by simple human kindness. These are among the blessings that our government should be extending now to the people in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, people who are citizens of the United States of America. So many are suffering and in desperate need of shelter, food, water, medical care and the ability to communicate with their loved ones. We have a moral imperative to care for one another. Unitarian Universalists name this in many ways: a commitment to the common good, an ethic of compassion, the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves …. However we name it, our faith calls us to remember this imperative. Our faith calls us to enact this imperative. Our faith calls us to proclaim this imperative for the sake of us all.
The Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman is the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St. Croix. She has written a letter to Unitarian Universalists. Please take a moment to read her letter and then take another to consider how you and your Unitarian Universalist community can help.