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The Big Question

"The Big Question" by Betsy Williams is taken from uu&me, Summer, 2006 (Church of the Larger Fellowship). Used by permission of the author.

Milo liked numbers. He often found himself counting people when he stood in a line, and he always checked how many pages there were in a book before he started reading it. For Milo, numbers were a way of connecting to the world. So when Milo's family moved halfway across the country, the first thing he did was to Google his new town and check out the numbers. Here's what he found:

Population: 9,248

Schools: 2 elementary schools, 1 middle school, 1 high school

Grocery Stores: 2

Pizza Places: 3

Movie Theaters: 1

Roman Catholic Church: 1

Lutheran Church: 1

Neighborhood Christian Church: 1

Zero Unitarian Universalist churches like the one his family used to go to.

On the first day at his new school, his social studies teacher, trying to be friendly and welcoming to Milo, asked him what church his family went to. He answered, "Unitarian Universalist."

Everyone, including his teacher, looked at him with the same blank expression. Then the teacher asked, "What's that?"

Milo's head flooded with numbers—the number of kids in his Sunday school in his old congregation (56), the number of Unitarians who have been presidents of the United States (5), the number of UU congregations (1,042)—numbers that he knew wouldn't answer the question. So he just answered, "It's a religion," and sighed with relief when the teacher didn't ask the big question: "So what do you believe?"

But Milo knew it was only a matter of time. So Milo and his parents came up with an answer for him—they called it his "recess speech." It had three parts: 1. Unitarian Universalism is an old religion that grew out of Christianity. 2. UUs decide for themselves what they believe about religious ideas like God and Jesus and life after death. 3. UUs believe we have a responsibility to make the world a better place, and that starts with treating people and the earth with love, kindness, and respect.

Milo liked that—he could remember three parts, and three was a lucky number for him!

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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