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  • Rev. Virginia Coakley

Becoming Oasis

Have you ever had an experience that was life transformative but you didn’t know it at the time? Maybe you met someone who would later become a key person in your life, or you went somewhere or participated in an event that was life altering. If this has happened to you then you can testify to how meaningful it was in your life and if you had not gone, met that person, or participated in that event, the entire trajectory of your life would have changed.

I have had more than one such occasion. Interestingly, this is also true of my first experience with the word Oasis. You see, oasis was one of my spelling words and the definition intrigued, inspired and challenged me. According to Merriam Webster an Oasis is defined as

1: a fertile or green area in an arid region (such as a desert

2: something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast

I grew up in some challenging situations. My upbringing was hard. While there was love in the home there was also alcoholism, and domestic violence. If that wasn’t enough by itself, in middle school I was bused to South Boston during the forced-busing era. To say that I experienced some challenging times in my young life would be an incredible understatement.

When I learned of the definition of an oasis, a sanctuary, a relief, water in the midst of a desert or parched place, it was about that time that I challenged myself to start trying to see the oases that occurred in my life on a regular basis. This began a life of gratitude, which I have tried to hold onto. Going to Brighams for a Peppermint Stick Ice Cream Cone with Jimmies (not sprinkles) became an Oasis, as did going to Beverly Ann’s Dancing School for my weekly dance classes.

The Uphams Corner Library became a Sanctuary that I visited several times per week, as was the Christian Science Reading Room. During the summers my siblings and I attended Summer Camp. Crystal Lake Camp in Pennsylvania was a place of refuge and sanctuary. There I was able to be a kid, doing kid things like archery, pottery, talent shows, blueberry picking, swimming and countless other things that I absolutely loved, many that I still do today. Once back home, the YMCA on Huntington Ave became my place of relief. I was a pinball champ, I wrote short stories and plays, I went swimming and my field hockey skills, well let’s just say, I was that good!

At the Y, I met my second family, the Ellises. Over the years, I had countless meals at their home, movies, many overnights, celebrations and shared stories of heartbreaks and they were there for all of it. They were my Oasis. As was going to church and reading the Bible, both provided me tremendous comfort and relief. At church I felt safe and I loved the God that I read about, the God for and with the underdog David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, who could take down giants, come face to face with lions and live to talk about it, and escape fiery furnaces because God was on their side. I came to believe in this God at an early age, and believed deeply that God could and would protect me from any dangerous or chaotic situation I experienced. I listened for the voice of God in these stories and God kept and protected me. I experienced joy in the midst of tumult.

It is my hope that Oasis Spiritual Direction and Retreat will be for you a Sanctuary. A place where you can be replenished and refreshed in the midst of calm or chaos. I strongly desire that you will allow Oasis to be a quiet place where you can ask hard questions, and feel supported and affirmed. God used that spelling word to teach me gratitude and the habit of looking for and embracing the good in my life. I believe there was and is good and purpose in all of our lives, we just have to look for it, follow it.