A couple of years ago I was forced to deal with some fairly mundane, routine legal matters. During the course of these dealings, I was asked if I were a homosexual. Indeed, the question was a borderline accusation.
I was offended.
But not for the reason that you might assume.
I was offended that my sexuality would have anything at all to do with the legal matters at hand.
After the conference during which the matters were resolved, I returned to my car, turned on the air to condition the Georgia heat, and I burst into tears. After a few minutes, I realized that I was upset because I had never truly experienced discrimination. As a woman, I suppose I may have encountered this from time to time, but it was so innocuous as to be laughable. But, in that one question, “Are you a lesbian?” I felt the squinting eye of serious – perhaps even outcome-changing – judgement focus in on me.
In my last post, I encouraged everyone to Say Yes to the party. I noted that being a part of family gatherings and high school reunions is, to generalize, wonderful, joyful, and enriching.
A dear friend of mine responded to that post with strong feelings. He noted that in attending such gatherings he and his beloved husband have been subjected to cruel remarks, rudeness, exclusion, judgement, and religious pomposity. For these and other related reasons, there are some events that they will not attend.
This past weekend at my thirtieth reunion, I did not experience such things. I saw a group of diverse people enjoying each other’s company, being silly together, reminiscing, and sharing their lives. I sincerely doubt that there were instances of cruelty and exclusion. The spirit of the events I attended forbade such barbarity.
Still, it happens. And, it can happen just as easily at a reunion as it can in the courtroom in Georgia.
As we gather together this summer, let’s make sure that the events include and are welcoming for everyone. It seems to me that if you are iffy about what your personal response might be to encountering people who have different beliefs, backgrounds, interests, families than you, then you might just go to the reunion with the idea of learning about people – no judging needed.
Aristotle is credited with the quote “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an thought without accepting it.” I would say that it is the mark of an accepting person to be able to entertain people while getting educated about them.
This past weekend, I talked with a comedian; I did not feel a compunction to be funny around him. A friend from elementary school who has been happily married for years and I chatted; he did not lecture me about the virtues of marriage, nor did he criticize me because I am divorced. Another friend, whom I know to be a fairly religious person, had only kind words and happy stories to share with everyone; she was not judging or trying to covert people.
The world is so easily polarized on so many issues. Perhaps we can leave that at home this summer as we go to reunions, vacations, and picnics. Perhaps we can go with a spirit of loving people and a desire to truly learn about the other beings that inhabit our world. As a result, maybe everyone’s lives can be a bit happier for it.
Think about it.