Dear fellow church members,
Starting with me, each of the church’s nine Board members will be answering the same set of questions once a month for nine months. We hope this will help you to get to know us better, and also see where we align and how we are different.
1. What is something that most people don’t know about you?
At the age of 44, after 20 robust years in show business, I had two dollars to my name and no prospects. I had worked my way up from an assistant on set at $200 a week to an executive in charge of development for the most successful producer in box office history. (She is now the head of Lucas Film and has produced the new Star Wars films.) That summer when I was 44, a new position with a major studio fell through, and what resulted was that I was out of work for so long I literally had only two dollars in my pocket. When you are at a point like that, it’s exhilarating because you are free as you have ever been, and whatever comes next can only be a step up. Out of nowhere I had a chance to transition to the nonprofit sector. Not only was it a kinder and gentler field, it enabled me to devote more time to my writing…and earn a steady income. I also feel I’m doing more for the world. I’m so happy I made that transition.
2. What has been a spiritual turning point for you?
I read Huston Smith’s book on the world religions 10 years ago. Upon reading the chapter on Hinduism, I realized that my core beliefs that I had come to through personal experience – the practice of a UU – aligned with the tenants of Vedanta, a form of Hinduism. While I worship at a UU church and identify as UU, I am a follower of Vedanta.
3. What is your greatest sorrow and/or accomplishment?
Greatest sorrow – The love of my life, a man have known for more than 40 years, suffers from mental illness and is unable to realize a full relationship. Greatest accomplishment – At the height of the AIDS crisis in 1989, I turned my anger, fear, and frustration into action by volunteering at an AIDS hospice. That work was the most important thing I have ever done. Very often it was just sitting with someone and laughing together at The Golden Girls or taking them down Hollywood Boulevard in a wheelchair…knowing they had only had weeks or days left to live. The courage of the dying is not only astounding, it can bring you much closer to what truly matters.
4. What is the best advice that you’ve received or given?
“Bloom where you are planted.” We can’t always be where we want to be so we should make the most out of where we are. I only heard this two years ago from one of the donors I work with at UC Riverside, and it put new wind in my sails.
5. What book had a major influence on you?
“The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner. It is still very innovative, a stunning portrait of a Southern family in the early 20th century. I was only 17 when I read it and so in awe of Faulkner’s power, integrity, and range. I realized that a novel could be much more than a mere narrative. It could truly be its own world.
6. What inspired you to become a Board member?
I was flattered to be asked to be a member in, I believe it was, 1999 or 2000, when Gillian Symonds was president and did such a spectacular job. I felt it was an honor to contribute to decisions on behalf of the congregation then, and I still do.
7. What would you tell someone new to Neighborhood Church?
Be a joiner. There are so many opportunities to connect with others. Reach out and teach in RE or be an usher or sing in the choir. Welcome newcomers to church, put your shoulder behind a social justice cause, or pour coffee. The connections here are so rich and fulfilling when you contribute to the life of the church.
8. What is one way that you try to live the Seven Principles?
As much as possible, I try to keep #1 at the forefront of my day. It is so fundamental that it solves all problems. If we remember each person‘s inherent worth we can make our way in the world with peace and openness. It’s not easy. These days I find humankind very challenging.