Stand Up For Love

sunset-hands-love-womanHow can I be articulate when I have no words? How can I write about something that I do not fully understand? How can I feel at peace when my heart is so heavy? How can I be happy when my mind is filled with tears?

It has been a violent and murderous summer all around the world. So many souls have been lost in Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, Bangladesh, Louisiana, Minnesota, Dallas. Did I forget some place? I suspect that I did because my mind is spinning, unfocused. I find it hard to even think. My emotions have overtaken me. My heart seems to be ruling my head.

I am on vacation with my grandchildren. I want to remain calm and happy for them. They should not have to deal with the horror of all that has happened. I do not want them to be afraid. I struggle to know what to tell them. They are bright children but do not understand hate. They love with honesty and innocence. They do not categorize people. They cannot comprehend any ideas of “them and us.” I want them to remain as optimistic and unfettered by preconceived notions as possible but I know that eventually the realities of the world will catch up with them.

For days and even weeks I have witnessed the pain of my LGBT friends. I have seen the agony of those who are African American. I have read posts in which they cried out for understanding. I have heard from those of Muslim faith who worry that they will be ostracized because of their religious beliefs. Hispanic friends have spoken of feeling unwanted in a country that is just as much theirs as mine. Families of police officers have iterated the fear that they feel every time a loved one puts on a uniform and goes to work. Mothers of young black men have admitted that they worry when their sons are out alone. There is much anxiety and grief permeating relationships and conversations.

I wish that I had the wisdom to know what to do. I want to protest my love for my fellow man and insist that all of us are mostly good but each time that I do the evidence mounts that there is far too much hate swirling around us. I sense that trust is in short supply these days. More and more people that I know are choosing sides when this is the very time in which we should be overcoming our differences and forging ever stronger alliances.

Many of us are praying today. Somehow it seems to be the best that we might do given the circumstances. We remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who admonished us to escape darkness through love. We have all read accounts of Jesus commanding us to love one another. It seems a simple but powerful idea. We wonder why it is sometimes so hard to do.

The answer to our problems begins with each of us. One person at a time joining without conditions with one more and then one more to form a chain of love that is stronger than even the most evil forces on earth. It is what we must do. The fighting and hating will never entirely go away but an army of good people has the power to shut down even the most terrible.

Each of us is the same flesh and blood. We all have dreams. We all seek security. We want our children to be honest and good people. It hurts all of us when an injustice is done to one of us. It hurts all of us when violence is perpetrated on any of us. We can work this out but we have to sincerely want to do so. We can no longer afford to pay lip service to the ideals that should be at the heart of all of our actions. We must listen and love and understand. We must lower our voices and condemn hate where ever it is found, always remembering not to blame an entire group for the horrendous actions of a few.

It is true that we have rogue cops who react too quickly because the stereotypes inside their minds causes them to be unnecessarily fearful. They are too quick to escalate situations that should be easily handled without murderous consequences. It is true that most police officers are good men and women who truly want to protect us from the worst criminals. It is true that the vast majority of Muslims are peace loving people but that some among them are intent on evil. It is true that our Hispanic brothers and sisters are hard working individuals who make our nation stronger. It is true that we have persecuted those who have different sexual preferences long enough. It is true that most Christians are loving people but some have distorted the world of God into a religion of judgement and hate. It is true that we should not typecast anyone by race, religion, age or lifestyle. It is true that we should abhor any ideologies that divide us into warring camps.

If we do not use the events of this summer to find unity, understanding and love then all of the tragic and unnecessary deaths will have been in vain. It is time for all good men and women to rise up in indignation and with purpose. Mostly it is time for each of us to reach out even to those with whom we disagree to begin a healing process that has been too long in coming. Let us pray but let us prove with our actions that we are determined to take a stand for love.

Life In Color

5172363-joseph-and-his-coat-of-many-colors_331590I’ve read somewhere that dreaming in color is indicative of a creative mind. Not only have I never seen night time images in Kodachrome, but of late I don’t even dream much anymore which is probably related to the fact that as I age I don’t sleep for long stretches of time anymore. I am growing older and I come from a time far different than today. I was a small child when television was in its infancy. The programs that we watched on those tiny screens inside wooden boxes were in lovely shades of black, white and gray. We couldn’t even imagine that there would one day be an NBC peacock. We were as content to tune in to those colorless shows as we were to see images of ourselves in mostly black and white photographs. We were still a very long way from so many of the advances that now seem to be par for the course. The progress that we have made is good, as it should be. Those of us in our senior years are nostalgic but our reverie should not include a desire to return to outmoded ways of doing things.

I remember the great anticipation that ensued when the television series Bonanza became one of the first programs to feature living color. It was an exciting time even for those of us who did not yet own color televisions. Just knowing that someone, somewhere was seeing the green trees and blue skies of the Ponderosa was thrilling. We had entered a whole new world that would only become more and more brilliantly hued over the ensuing years.

It is all too appropriate that our modern day images be filled with a spectrum of reds and yellows and blues mixed together to create greens and purples and oranges. Life is a magnificent rainbow that includes the glorious variety of nature and mankind. There is a beauty in diversity that is never found in the dull sameness of black and white. We are all part of a colorful world that we should embrace but sometimes neglect or even refuse to do.

Just as we didn’t have color photographs or television back when I was very young we humans had a tendency to isolate ourselves from those whose skin appeared different from ours. We convinced ourselves that our ways were normal but in reality we must have known that it was not right to judge anyone without ever getting to know them. Eventually we allowed ourselves to be neighbors and friends with individuals of many different colors. We learned that we had been missing so much and that life was more vibrant and lovely than we had ever before imagined.

When I was just a girl I thought that I would never know anyone who was gay or a lesbian, but I was wrong. As those with differing sexual preferences began to bravely reveal themselves I learned that some of my friends and relatives alike belonged to a world that had once seemed so confusing to me but now seems so perfectly normal. The rainbow flag of the LGBT community is a beautiful thing that represents love. I wonder how we ever could have believed that caring relationships between any two people was anything other than beautiful.

With inventiveness and acceptance we have entered a brighter world filled with possibilities that seemed not to exist when I was young. We have shown that blending hues together is interesting and inclusive. The days of our ignorance should be gone but sadly they are not. Just as it would seem ludicrous to find someone still watching television from a small box with only shades of gray, it should be just as ridiculous to continue to harbor outdated thinking that is cruel, unforgiving and without reason.

As a Christian I was always taught that God makes each of us in His own image and likeness. If we reflect on that idea we realize that God is telling us that every one of His creations is wondrous and perfect. He loves us without conditions and wants us to feel the same. He sent His son to teach us how to behave. Unfortunately some of us never really understood the messages that Jesus made so clear. Not once did He preach that we should spurn those who are not like us. He often went out of His way to embrace those who were outcasts of society. I interpret His actions as meaning that the rules are very simple. We must love everyone, even those who appear to be or think differently. It’s not really that difficult to do. It doesn’t even take much practice. It just requires suspending all restrictions and coloring outside of the lines. We have to break the old rules to follow the new rules which are far more right and just.

Once we experience the colors of the world there is no turning back. We burst out of the boxes that have constricted us and see the watercolors that make life so much more enjoyable. We begin to realize that we only see different hues because of the way our eyes are processing the light. Being able to see the true appeal of all of the world is a gift that makes us feel more joyful. Without the great big box of crayons life would indeed be dull.

Winter has always been symbolic of death. With its withering and limited palette of variations in light it has a certain beauty but none as breathtaking as the riotous colors of spring, a time of life and renewal. We can choose the end of the seasons or the hopeful beginning. It us up to each of us to see the full spectrum of life and rejoice in it.

I am often saddened in knowing that we still have many people who are unwilling to change but I’d like to believe that they are more and more often becoming the minority among us. Slowly but surely we are shining the light on a more beautiful way of living. Because our young have always been more willing to take risks and embrace adventure, they are leading the way to more colorful tomorrows and that is good. Perhaps one day the pallid world of old will be housed in an ancient junkyard and all of us will view life in color.