Friday, June 24, 2016

The Ties That Bind Us

What started out as a night of socializing at a well-known club, a supposed safe zone for gays, ended in tragedy perpetrated by gun violence, but more than that, it was a hate crime against the LGBT community, leaving many lives lost, and survivors forever changed.

Between sadness, fear, and anger this past week, I have been trying to transfer my thoughts into words of support for the families of this horrendous shooting that took place during the early morning hours in Orlando, Florida, on June 12th.

As a parent of a gay child, this hate crime felt like a dagger through my heart. Don’t get me wrong. There have been many fatal crimes against humanity that sent me to my knees, and while this one hit home on a personal note, it doesn’t make it any more or less severe. They all have in common a massacre of innocent lives. The difference for me is that the discrimination against the LGBT community had now escalated into a murderous rampage.

As citizens of the free world, this is not only a time to mourn for the victims and their families, but  a time of solidarity. It’s a time to stand alongside the LGBT community, to acknowledge the real discrimination they still face each day. It’s also a time to rethink the real terrorist threat posed by radicalization, a time for more accountability with regards to gun control. And it’s a time to re-evaluate our stance with regards to supporting old government laws, or, for that matter, the enactment of new ones, which can impede the path of equal rights for all citizens, including the LGBT community.

Since the shootings, I can’t help but wonder if some of the victim’s family members are finding out for the first time their loved one was part of the LGBT community. Or some knew but hadn’t come to terms with his/her sexual orientation, yet.

As someone who has walked this difficult road, I know coming out for our children, unfortunately, (even though it’s better today than it was ten years ago when my daughter came out) still carries a stigma, and it takes time to process. My heart breaks for the people who have now been robbed of this time.

Regretfully, though, we cannot change the events of this terrible night. However, the victim’s lives needn’t be lost in vain. Perhaps in time, if it hasn’t already, it will help estranged family members re-open the dialogue with their LGBT relatives. And perhaps the broader community will continue to step up and become advocates for positive change in the lives of the LGBT community and their families.

Perchance one day, when the grief isn’t so raw, we can look back in remembrance and see how this tragedy is the ties that bind us as one unified community.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Breath of Life

My insert for our church newsletter. 

Life on Earth begins with our first breath and ends with our last. It’s the breaths in between that create our legacy. 

Lately, it seems the world is becoming more and more dysfunctional. The struggles of humanity are all over the news, including terrorist acts in the name of religion, bullying towards people that don’t fit the norm of the masses, the plight of the homeless (including refugees), or scenes of wars and threats of wars…
Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, it isn't hard to marvel over the miracle of God’s handy work through the birth of a baby. In the womb, the baby is physically fed by means of an umbilical cord. But once it makes its grand entrance into the world and the cord is cut, it draws its first breath. This innocent little baby is now entrusted into the care of the people who will mold and teach it the way it should go. What an awesome responsibility handed to us by God.

So, if we breathe in life, it stands to reason that upon exhaling, our speech and actions should portray thanksgiving and hope, rather than despair. Because the children and youth of this next generation are continuously learning from our spiritual and world view, through our daily interactions and reactions within those views. 

I believe that if we continue to teach our children to embrace each other’s differences and look out for one another, the majority will follow suit. Because regardless of their race or religious background, they are a key part of the solution needed to turn the tide of fear in the world, which is shown to us by the numerous media sources available. 

I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of this ideology put into action at our anniversary service on April 17th. Several Presbyterian churches had rallied together to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada, and through an interpreter, they thanked the congregation. But what impacted me the most was the words of their six your old daughter. “Thank you,” she said. “I am not afraid anymore.” It not only brought tears to my eyes, but it gave me a renewed sense of hope for humanity.

During our luncheon, I watched the Syrian children laugh and play, and it became apparent to me that even though they didn’t know our language, they did, however, recognize the universal language of a smile, of loving eyes, and a gentle voice. Children haven’t learned to hate or discriminate. They are humble and innocent until they learn not to be. It’s no wonder Christ said heaven belongs to such as these. It certainly reminds us to guard our heart against discrimination, doesn’t it? 
I truly believe that if we strive to make our daily life a legacy of love and hope, of grace and integrity, we will become a positive role model for this next generation. And in doing so, we will show them the inclusiveness of Christ, the true breath of life.