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  • Writer's pictureJoe Cherry

Just One Key

When I started working in high school, the manager of the restaurant I worked in had a set of keys to the store. Each manager did. The key not only gave them access to the “store” but allowed them to control the cash registers.

Those keys became the symbol of power and authority for me. I saw that set of keys as some sort of affirmation of earned responsibility. Perhaps in the way many people who take up smoking see it as a “grown up” activity, I saw those keys as a trapping of adulthood. And I really wanted a set.

There are a lot of keys I’ve wanted over the years: the key to my first car, my first apartment, the key to a certain man’s heart. And yes, even work keys.

I’ve developed quite a key-ring over the years.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I gave back the keys to my house; my congregation; my friends’ keys for when I would cat-sit (three sets); the keys to my seminary, too. I have one key left--to a seven-year old Honda Civic with 118,563 miles on it.

My life is in transition right now. I believe that everyone’s life is in transition at this very moment, but sometimes it’s more obvious than others. Like when all of your possessions fit into a car because you’ve given up everything else.

There was another time in my life when everything I owned fit into my car, and I had only one key left. It was a far less happy time. For a period of a couple of months, after my brother and I lost our apartment, we were homeless. My car became my shelter, my storage locker, my way of moving from place to place. It was a very scary time for me. With help I was able to recover from it, but it took years and years to repair my credit and has left me scarred for life.

This time, though, is much different.

For the next 24 months I will be in transition. Moving from Chicago to Dukinfield UK and then to Amarillo, Texas and then back to Chicago, with a potential summer 2010 in Germany.

Whereas before I looked at my single key as a symbol of powerlessness, this time my single key is empowering.

I have chosen to have only one key this time. I have leapt full-force into the future, with few guarantees. It’s different this time because I have faith and a goal, and faith in my goal.

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Rev. Joe Cherry

Rev. Joe is a biracial, gay, Unitarian Universalist minister, and history nerd. He lives in North Easton, Massachusetts, with his husband, Rev. Denis Paul, and their dog, Toulouse.

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