See Others With Your Heart

Post by Angela Butler for the Love for Love series.

See Others With Your Heart

“I can’t take it anymore!” I think as I drive home from work one day. The radio is off, my hands grip the wheel tightly, and words of anti-gay rhetoric replay in my mind while images flash of angry crowds chanting outside of courthouses. I remember a story I watched on the news this morning, reporting a gay teenager shot himself on a bridge while friends watched, driven by years of being bullied. It is 2008, the height of Proposition 8 when the people of California are asked to vote on whether gay marriage should be legal in their state. My home state of Utah, with very conservative and deeply religious roots, became very involved in the debate with the Mormon church leading the fight. It seemed everywhere I turned hate was being spewed, Facebook pages were vitriol, scathing letters were printed in the newspaper and the toxic environment even filtered into the elementary schools with children arguing on the school bus as to what was considered the right way to live.

“I have to do something!” my inner voice was screaming, but I felt helpless as I am not a politician or a lawmaker, I don’t serve on community boards or write opinion pieces for a newspaper. I am a suburban mom who drives her kids to soccer and dance classes, keeps the dog fed and attempts to put dinner on the table.

I turn to enter my neighborhood, passing neatly mowed lawns and matching garbage cans. Tears are spilling now and I pull over to grab a tissue out of the glove box.

“I should stop at Greg’s house,” I thought, an openly gay man in my community that I got to know when we both volunteered at a children’s hospital fundraiser. I then ran into him occasionally on the path where we both walk our dogs; we shared conversation while our dogs ran and played together.

Despite my rational, well behaved, think-before-you-act manner, I find myself turning the corner and stopping in front of Greg’s house. I stuff the tissue in my pocket and check my rearview mirror for running mascara.

“This is crazy,” I chastise myself as I pass neatly potted petunias leading to his front door. A dog starts barking, then I hear footsteps.

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Well hello sweetie!” he smiles, his blue eyes welcoming me.

I offer an awkward introduction for my unexpected visit; then let all my emotions spill out in a jumbled, discombobulated mess. My delivery isn’t great, but my message is this, “I love you for being who you are and I think it must take great courage to live in this community. I want you to know I accept you. Period. I am not one of those who say you are bad and that I should fear your lifestyle, and I just want you to know that at least one person in your community feels this way.” Tears begin to pool in the corners of his eyes and we hug each other. When our arms drop by our sides I saw Greg in an unusual, never before felt kind of way. I looked at him not with my mind, but with my heart. It’s a space of humility, where we recognize that nobody has the answers to life figured out, how we should or should not live, what is right and what is wrong. It’s a place where we begin to recognize we are all more alike than we are different if we will only pay attention to those attributes; even if its only through a beating heart, lungs that hold our breath or our innate desire for love. When we are able to turn off our minds and open our heart space our spirits are able to connect with others and the seedlings of friendship can be planted and nourished. It is here that we discover there is enough room on the planet for all of us to live peacefully.

I get in my car and drive home, gone is the angst and emotional turmoil that had been stirred up by outside voices. My grip on the wheel loosened, the tension in my neck is gone, and there is a tingling in my chest with a sense of good will and peace. It is the feeling of love. I’m a believer that we can either let love or fear control our views of the world, and I want to choose love every time.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
While I serve dinner to my family that night, I share the experience with my children. I may not be able to change the world, but I can create an avenue through which my children view it, a place of love.

 

Angela Butler lives amongst the Wasatch mountain ranges of Utah. Besides writing her hobbies include boating and skiing, cheering for her kids at ballgames and traveling. She recently had a piece published in the October 2012 issue of Liternational which became a contest semi-finalist. More of her work can be found on her site.

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