Tag Archives: love

Revolutionary Love on the Streets of NYC

18 Apr

NYC

Last Friday through Sunday I attended Revolutionary Love: Tools, Tactics, and Truth-telling to Dismantle Racism. The conference was held at the Middle Collegiate Church on the Lower East Side in New York City. With session titles such as “The Art of Sacred Confrontations,” “The Moral Crisis of Whiteness,” and “Dismantling Unconscious Racial Bias,” it was an intense two and half days.

By Sunday morning, my introverted self was feeling more than a bit drained. While there was a nice balance of breakout sessions and “all hands” sessions to provide small group opportunities, the noise and pulse of the city had plain worn me out. Although I live half way between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, my little neighborhood features deer, owls, foxes, squirrels, and a great variety of birds. My head longed for a piece of that quiet.

I decided to lounge in a bit Sunday – sleeping in would be a misnomer with the whirl of traffic and the slamming of the balls on the nearby blacktop –then head for a nearby bakery to get some goodies to take home. On my way into the shop I noticed a man sitting on the ground outside and on the way out I decided to stop and say hello.

I put a few dollars in his cup, for which he thanked me, and I asked him what his story was. “It’s this,” he said, pulling down his shirt from the collar to reveal a nasty heart surgery scar. He went on to explain his defibrillator, which he said the doctors hadn’t even explained to him – he thought he only got a pacemaker.

The man appeared to be in his mid to late 60s, but he soon told me he was all of 53. I call him Fred to protect his identity. Fred said he lives on the streets because the shelters are too dangerous. “They are full of gangs,” he explained. “You can get shot, stabbed. I’d rather take my chances out here.” Fred said he has a mother and a sister but “My mother is too set in her ways to take me in and my sister won’t talk to me because of my homosexuality. She’s a Baptist. So here I am.”

Fred asked me if I wanted a bagel. He said people coming out of the bakery give him items, but he can’t eat many of them either because he can’t chew them (he doesn’t have many teeth) or because of his diabetes. He is able to trade them with other homeless people for things he can eat.

As I went to sit next to Fred, he told me not to do that and get dirty. “I don’t care,” I said. I felt more peace and calm with Fred than I felt in many other places of the hectic city. Fred told me he often thinks about walking into the street in front of a car. I told him about my recent hospitalization for suicidal ideations. I didn’t have any food with me he could eat (almonds? nope. granola bar? nope) or any water. I did have a cooling camping towel, though, so I gave him that and explained how it worked.

I told Fred I was at the conference across the street. Fred said he liked that church and it was trying to find him housing. “I don’t have AIDS or HIV and I don’t drink. That’s pretty amazing for an old Black gay like me,” he said. I asked Fred if he wanted to come to church with me. “Oh, honey. I haven’t had a shower in so long. That’s the one thing. I can get some food. There’s a place around the corner that lets me go to the bathroom. But there’s no place to get a good shower.”

“Well, Fred, I’m going to be on my way,” I said. “Thanks for stopping,” he replied. “Not many people stop. I get kicked. My cup gets kicked over. I get spit on. I get young, white men is suits calling me nigger. ‘Nigger, get a job. Nigger, get up from there.’ Not many people stop though.”

“Next time you’re in the city, if I’m still alive, I hope you’ll come see me.” He got up and we embraced.

“I will Fred, I promise.”

Revolutionary Love. Talk to a stranger.

For Sue

11 Jun

sadness

“You’re lovely to remember, and looking back then feeling like I’m walking very slowly through a soft and misty rain. And a beautiful sadness comes over me. Though, I’ve never been so lonely, I’m happy in a way, for the love that I still feel when I think of you today. And a beautiful sadness comes over me.” (Beautiful Sadness, Leikin, M.A. / Holdridge, L.E., © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC)

Finding myself like the proverbial “duck out of water” in oh, so many ways, as both married to my husband and living in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to leave the insurance business and move back into my chosen career of technical editing/writing. The company was known around town as “the bomb factory” although this was supposed to be a big secret. The place was a front for the CIA, although when it all fell apart a few years after I joined, of course the government denied this and several people, including the founder, went to jail.

I don’t remember interviewing with my supervisor, Sue. I don’t remember first meeting her. My brain cannot process when it did not have a picture of her in it. Straight line skirts, long-sleeved silk blouses with modest V-neck, just a peek of camisole. She was in her late 40s when we met; I was in my late 20s. She had a hearty laugh. She walked briskly and confidently around the proposal production center, which she managed. I was smitten. It was safe. She was married; I was married. I wasn’t smitten totally in that way, but I was smitten further than I had ever been smitten before. (The last time I had been smitten was for a boy named Mark in 5th grade.)

I had known I was gay for a long time. No, a long, long, long time. Growing up, I knew I was different since at least age 10. I had suspected I was gay since at least my mid-teens. Being brought up Roman Catholic, having the expectations of a Mrs. Degree, the white picket fence, the kiddies; it just was not an option. By the time I arrived in California for my final two years of college, it was a foregone conclusion. I had one acquaintance on the student paper I would confide in about this when I got really drunk (a frequent event), but it was confusing because there wasn’t anyone I was “into” in that way.

Then there was Sue.

Oh, Sue.

That throaty laugh. The way her camisole peeked out on her suntanned chest. Her confident, brisk walk.

I had it bad.

We became fast friends. She already had a great girlfriend at work, which made me insanely jealous. That, however, was her “shopping” girlfriend. We had more. (Oh, the things we tell ourselves sometimes!) Her husband was soon dying of cancer. I was soon drinking and drugging, and realizing I was gay and needed to leave my husband. We glommed onto each other like the two dysfunctional, co-dependent, alcoholic, needy people we were.

I was in heaven.

During frequent breaks in the lactation room off the ladies’ room, I’d bare my soul while she’d smoke. After her husband went into the hospital for good and I left my husband, these breaks became less frequent and instead, I’d head to her house after work while she drank and bared her soul while I listened.

One Saturday night after I left my husband, I decided it was finally time to determine whether I was gay. My therapist told me I was unusual because most gays and lesbians come out “with” someone or “because of” someone, but I did not. I decided I must go to the local lesbian bar, find someone to make out with, and see whether I was really gay. (This has all the makings of a bad movie, does it not?)

I am a painful introvert, and drinking never helped. I didn’t have moves. I didn’t have lines. It was sad. Finally someone started paying attention. She was older, which I liked. I definitely needed someone with experience. A few drinks later, I agreed to go back to her place. One thing led to another and another thing led to…The Crying Game. I sobered up fast and things came to a halt. We actually became good friends, but if I said it wasn’t traumatizing at the time, I’d be lying.

First thing at work Monday, I dragged Sue to the lactation room. “You won’t believe what happened to me Saturday night!” I was in hysterics as I recounted the story. “Yeah, so?” She said, in the totally non-judgmental, chill way only she could do. It was not a dismissive tone; it was an embracing, “It could happen to anyone” tone. This was in the middle of the 1980s, people!

Through my whole coming out, separation, divorce, first girlfriend, getting sober, first time getting 13th stepped at AA – through every single thing – this friend of mine never once judged, never once stopped being my friend, never stopped, dare I say, loving me for me. We lost touch a few year after I left the area and she remarried, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness.

So, last night about midnight, I had this thought about her, and I googled. She confidently and briskly left this earth in 2011 at age 72. I am so glad that when I was in her area in 2010, I looked her up and phoned her. I reminded her of my “night of self-discovery.” She laughed that throaty laugh. I now know she was very ill. I thanked her. She said she was happy I was doing well, and she couldn’t wait to tell her daughter I called. I told her I still want Meryl Streep to play her in the movie adaptation of my book.

“I always thought you were the best, I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you. Someone who understands me and knows me inside out. Helps keep me together, and believes without a doubt. That I could move a mountain, someone to tell it to. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you.” (One Friend, Seals, D., © Alfred Publishing Co.)

 

Easy to Love

17 Feb

you’d be so easy to love
so easy to idolize all others above
so worth the yearning for
so swell to keep every home fire burning for
and we would be so grand at the game
carefree together that it does seem a shame
that you can’t see your future with me
cause you’d be, oh, so easy to love
1936 – Cole Porter

Image

Let’s be honest. Even those we find the most loveable – our children, our spouse, our close friends – can sometimes do things to hurt us and make us wonder why we love them like we do. Love can hurt. So, what are we to make of the Biblical imperative to love our enemies? Our enemies?

Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (NRSV)

One of the best ways to be able to love your enemies is to not have any.

Seeing another as a foe gives all the power to that person. Surrendering the hurt, salving the wound, moving onward and upward, is spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthier. It can take time. It should take time.

Few among us have true enemies – a neighbor who is harassing us, an ex who is stalking us, a supervisor bent on preventing us from earning a living. Many of us have perceived enemies. Just because someone does not agree with you politically does not mean that person is necessarily your enemy. Just because you are no longer married to someone does not necessarily mean that person is your enemy.

Another word for enemy may be “other.” It is easy to love those like us. It is easy to love the familiar. It is more difficult to love the other – those not like us. Those who do not think like us. Those who do not live like us. Those who do not vote like us. Those who do not worship like us (or who do not worship at all).

If we are all made in the image of the Holy, how can we do anything but love one another?

We must learn to forgive ourselves and we must spread this forgiveness to others.

Hate, like envy, is counterproductive.

When faced with an adversary, I first try to determine where the person is coming from. Is it from a place of hurt? Of anger? Of ignorance? Next I try to depersonalize the situation. It is probably not about me per se; I just happen to be there. I listen before I speak. When you are listening, you are not thinking about what you are going to say. I try to find places of common ground. I ask questions to find out why the person believes what they believe. Is it due to some personal experience? Is this what they were taught?

If, after all this, we are still miles apart in whatever it is that makes us adversaries, that may be where we stay. That does not mean we need depart in a place of hate, however.

I am not naïve, nor have I been spared from some really nasty people, yet I do not hate anyone. To do so would be to remain a captive of those who have hurt me. I am not captive; I am FREE.

Dear Holy Mother & Father,

We know not everyone will be for us all the time. Help us recognize this and work together with those with whom we hold differences. Let us see the holy in one another. Help us love ourselves and forgive ourselves and help us love and forgive others.

Amen.

This post is part of the February Synchroblog: Loving Our Enemies. Please visit these other posts:

I Have a Vision of Love

5 Jan

Prayed through the nights, felt so alone.
Suffered from alienation, carried the weight on my own.
Had to be strong, so I believed.
And now I know I’ve succeeded, in finding the place I conceived.
I had a vision of love, and it was all that you’ve given to me.
I had a vision of love, and it was all that you’ve given me.
c. Carey, M. & Margulies, B.

At some point, vision boards, then action boards, replaced resolutions. I sort of noticed, but when you’re still not sure what you’re supposed to be (if and when you ever grow up) in the broadest sense, breaking it down into smaller pieces just does not seem worthwhile.

I graduated from seminary in 2011, and if you had asked me 4 years ago where I’d be today, I would have answered that I’d be pastoring a small congregation. I’d be doing a lot of pastoral care, and I’d be active in social justice. I would have a blog.

It’s 2014; I have a blog. I find myself doing a lot of pastoral care, much of it online. Social justice is still important to me, and my activism has taken a different form than I imagined, but I like it. That pastoring a church thing still gnaws at me, however.

I was alienated from church, no, it was worse than that; I was alienated from Christ, for many years because of my sexual orientation. I entered seminary with the spirit part and the higher power part, but not the Christ part. I left with the Holy Spirit, the God, and the Jesus. Not as much Jesus as most of those in seminary with me, but with Jesus nonetheless. Continue reading

Heart is Where the Home Is

18 Dec

Image

When people ask where I’m from, I’m never sure how to reply. Where do I currently reside? Where was I born? Where do I consider I “grew up” (particularly difficult since I am still growing).

Geographically and chronologically, I was born in California, moved to upstate NY after 1st grade, and moved to Western PA after 8th grade. I did the first two years of college in PA and the last years back in CA before moving back and forth (calling myself “bi-coastal” to avoid more important self-determinations I should be working on) between the East and West coasts several times. Now, at 55, I find myself at my 22nd address, if I have calculated correctly. And, after 9.5 years at my current address, this is the longest I’ve lived any one place.

So, “home” can be a rather abstract concept for me. Although my parents have lived in the same house for over 40 years, I’ve never considered it my home because I did not grow up there. Still, the older I get, there is something increasingly comfortable about the place “out in the middle of nowhere” on an almost acre, but as Professor Gerry used to say, “It’s not about the house.” Continue reading

Loving Courageously

6 Jun

courage-600x400

This post is part of the June Synchroblog: Ordinary Courage, where bloggers are invited to write about ordinary courage. The other contributors for this month are listed at the end of this post.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ―Lao Tzu

What is courage? What does it mean to be courageous as a person of faith? The dictionary definition speaks to having the mental or moral strength to preserver and overcome difficulty, danger, or pain. Using this definition, I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t been courageous at one time or another. Yet, if asked, I believe most of us would hesitate to call ourselves courageous. Why is this?

Perhaps we accept that we are called to be courageous when it affects us or someone we know in the physical sense, but we sell ourselves short in our moral courage; times when we “do the right thing” even if it is unpopular, shameful, or scandalous. C.S. Lewis defined integrity as “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” The philosophers among us may question, “If no one is watching, does a ‘thing’ happen?”

Why does loving someone deeply give us courage? Because loving someone deeply requires that we are vulnerable. Everyone has been hurt – emotionally, physically, spiritually. To return to love, to open one’s self to another, to the possibility of more hurt, is a huge risk. Yet, if we do not do so, if we are not courageous, the “hurt” wins. The one(s) who hurt us in the past win. More importantly, when we forfeit the chance to love and be loved once more, we lose, and so do those who do not get to feel and return our love. Continue reading

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