Platinum Rule

By Lisa Romantum Schwartz, UUFA Interim Minister

About twenty years ago I was introduced to a man who knew my husband well, but whom I’d never met. I extended my hand for a shake, and he took it and used that leverage to pull me into a hug, saying, “Awww, I’m a hugger!” It was shocking and felt intrusive and wrong to me, but I couldn’t even find anything to say in the moment. (Because of shock? Politeness? The power differential between a large man and a small woman?  All of the above? I don’t know.) The fact that I so clearly remember it two decades later tells me that I learned something significant that day, and I’m still processing it.

As we’re finally (!) able to gather again as a Fellowship community, one of the gifts of the pandemic (!) is to examine our practices and assumptions about being together in real time and space. Though some may desperately want and need to return to a Fellowship culture of warm and close embraces, others may not be ready for any physical touch, and some don’t welcome it in casual social settings, ever.

We’ve all memorized the Golden Rule: Treat others as YOU would like to be treated. Turns out there’s a higher standard: The Platinum Rule, which says: treat others as THEY WANT to be treated. And as we honor each other’s worth and dignity it’s important to acknowledge that everyone has the right to set their own boundaries.

Since it’s sometimes hard to read cues, UUFA will start offering different colored stickers to put on nametags. Green means, “come on in for a hug!” Yellow means, “How about a fist bump or handshake?” Red means, “No physical contact, please.” The Pastoral Care Team is piloting the program starting this Sunday, but all are encouraged to put the stickers on (we’ll use easily removable stickers in case your comfort level changes from week to week).

As we so joyously come together after the pandemic-enforced separation it’s a great opportunity to honor the diversity of lived bodily experience. I encourage you to wear your name tags, and wear your stickers proudly!

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