Recently I watched the documentary “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War.” It’s the story of Unitarian minister Rev. Waitstill Sharp and his wife, Martha Sharp, who travel to Czechoslovakia in 1938 to help Jewish refugees, including children, and political dissidents escape from Nazi Germany. To be sure, this is a dramatic story grounded in Unitarian values.
What I most recall in the film, however, came before the Sharps’ travel to Europe. It was the moment when Rev. Sharp received a call from Rev. Everett Baker, the VP of the American Unitarian Association, asking that he and his wife to consider the mission. On the call, Rev. Sharp asks Rev. Baker, “How many others have already declined?” The response: “Seventeen.”
It is powerful when the right request is made to the right person, at the right time. Being a part of a community often means asking one another to consider doing something. It’s wondering if just maybe the person you ask will be challenged and fulfilled in the work. Maybe the request isn’t the right fit at this time, but it might open doors to other considerations. Maybe the request is met with what a colleague of mine calls ‘The Sacred No’ – a thoughtful decline and a sense of honor in being asked.
Without making possibilities known, and doing some stumbling around in the asking, opportunities are missed. The ‘asks’ open windows to belonging. When we then listen for the honest response – “Yes” – “No” – “Maybe” – we are keeping the circle open.
That American Unitarian Association VP used his spiritual gifts of matchmaking and persistence to find the candidate, and in Rev. Baker’s willingness to take seventeen rejections in the search for the right fit, he too had an important role in saving the refugees.
In connection and love,