What a difference 24 hours makes…
My week’s plan did not include picketing a cake shop on Friday afternoon. But, this 3 month sabbatical is hopefully about staying open to the moment, living into it fully and seeing what becomes of it. So, some 20 years after my first picketing experience with Dr. Ted and Lois Jungkuntz of the Word of God Community, I found myself compelled for very different reasons to take a personal stand.
This is my story.
And, I’ve already been reminded there are three versions to every story…yours (or in this case, his), mine…and the truth. While this doesn’t (necessarily) mean someone has lied – it does mean that we all see a moment through the lens of our experience, which shapes what’s important to us.
So let me first say, for the record, I had no expectations for the day. I was not “disappointed” to be on my three corners alone. This was one man’s personal call, during Lent, for his own reasons, his own past, his own demons…to stand up and be counted. I had no delusions of grandeur, no agenda, no outcome…other than to be heard. And in being heard, I think I also did some listening.
So, to Will – the reporter whose version of the story made it sound like I tried to organize a Facebook crowd of protest, which “failed to rise” – as I shared with you, that was NOT my agenda or goal.
This was about my personal spiritual journey as a gay Christian man, to shine light on my own internalized shame and find a little more freedom from bondage during this Lenten season.
But, I understand that doesn’t sell newspapers, so if you needed me as a pawn to rally the troops to action, fine – I’ll let that be your story (or problem, as they say…)
But for this individual, today was about connecting with other human beings, having conversations about difficult topics in a meaningful way, and showing compassion — to myself first, then to others.
In the words of (my friend) Stuart Huff: critical thinking, curiosity and compassion. Thank you for those 3 C’s of comedy and of life. And thank you to my friend Mike Mather for helping me walk today and to continue to learn how to be human. And to Terry Woods, for having lunch with me an listening.
So, what have I learned?
When my Pastor Mike heard how my Thursday night and Friday morning evolved into a call to action, his singular recommendation was – “go talk with them (the owners) before you show up.” And I did. Conversation.
I met two fellow human beings, and had a short conversation where honestly, I listened…and was listened to. We talked about their spiritual journey and beliefs, which through a briefly thought out “policy” landed them in a “social media firestorm.” I shared how, though their intentions may not have been to “judge or reject,” for me, as a gay man, if someone were to refuse to provide a service to me – it would feel like rejection, like judgement. As I see that “false feeling,” I realize that I’d feel sadness, and anger, and pain. And, at least for me, I saw in their eyes pain, confusion, anger and sadness over the events of the prior 24 hours. So, we shared that moment, and as I reflect on it now, I feel (and felt) Compassion.
I honestly believe they listened to me, without an agenda – because they asked me several open ended questions about how I thought things could be handled differently. And, at the risk of doing that conversation injustice, let me simply say, I saw two people who were curious to learn and understand where I was coming from, as I was likewise curious to listen and learn. Curiosity.
My moments I treasure…
On the street corners where I spent my 3 hours, as I will for each Friday in Lent this year, I also saw and experienced many moments that I hold onto:
- …A group of high school students, presumably from Heron High School, who walked past me and read my sign…and when they walked past me again, thanked me “for getting the word out,” as they were going to buy cupcakes that afternoon. But didn’t.
- …at least two individuals who rolled down their window, asked me what happened…then nodded their head, and respectfully disagreed with me, and felt like the owners’ were completely within their rights. And, I thanked them for the conversation, the dialogue – because we could agree to disagree, and still be human. And they both nodded in agreement – and drove off when the light changed.
- …at least 3 individuals who flipped the bird at me, and 1 who “thumbed me down” as they drove past. With one of the individuals, stopped at the light, I simply yelled, “can’t we have a conversation about what’s going on?” For him, that amounted to his middle finger.
- …at least two dozen people who honked at me in support, and six to ten who grabbed their smart phones and took pictures of me on my corners at 16th and Delaware, 16th and Pennsylvania, or 16th and Meridian during those 3 hours. Oh, one woman who works at the ACLU rolled down her window and said something encouraging. And at the end of my tiring three hours, two women (one white, one black) and one of their granddaughters stopped me and we talked about why I was there, and what I was experiencing. So, to the neighbor from 16th and Delaware, and from the woman and her granddaughter who live across the way from Mike, one of the “original men” in this story…thank you for your time.
- …as I walked back to my car at the end of my “shift,” I waived through the glass window at Randy and Trish, smiled and continued walking…for Randy to step out for another brief five minutes of humanity…and we shook hands, and I said “see you next week, God Bless.”
- …a conversation that evening with my sister Lisa, telling her about how even though 20+ years later, I couldn’t do much about Pop-pop’s decision to write me out of his will, just for today – I was taking a stand for social justice in a peaceful, lawful way that was making a difference…for me. Because I ended my day spiritually challenged and open, emotionally engaged and spent, and physically exercised and tired.
- …lots of “social media” chatter on Facebook when the first online version of Will’s story came out. I reconnected with Lilly and Fairbanks friends; made new friends (of Chad and Marc’s!); met a new friends who is a Buddhist gay man, who reminded me that while I call myself a “gay Christian” to match the debate, I’m more spiritual than religious – and probably choose words like “the Universe” and “my Higher Power” more than I do “Jesus Christ” or “Mother Mary.” I finally shut off the chatter after one final lengthy Facebook message of support from a neighbor (around Old Northside) who thanked me for taking a stand… that was my good night of Peace.
I’m sure I’ll remember other moments tomorrow, and will add another blog post as I do. But for now, you’ve suffered this fool gladly enough…thank you for listening.
I’ll be there next Friday, from 3pm-6pm – for my own personal “yeast” that will rise again, because this is about me, my journey and my Lenten call…nothing more, nothing less. Just for today.
My graphic voice
Since I’ve been asked, here are the four posters I used throughout the 3 hours – at 16th and Delaware, Pennsylvania and Meridian, Indianapolis, Indiana.