Tag Archives: Youth

You said you’d never forget.

9 Sep

So this post isn’t about finding LGBT equality or news of some injustice towards LGBT people. But it’s part of my story and part of who I am today, and I wanted to share it.

On September 13, 2011, I found myself in an uncharacteristically patriotic mood. Having been in New York City and having escaped the same fate as thousands of other New Yorker’s, I made my way to the Javitz Center to see what I could do to help.

Over the course of the days and weeks that followed 9/11, the fear, the hope and the community that pervaded the cold, hard city was palpable. I’d never felt so much compassion among strangers as I did in those few weeks. It quickly changed when we went to war and again became politicized individuals – but for that one brief shining moment, we all came together in a way that makes even the most cynical heart melt.

The following is something I wrote after a day of volunteering downtown. I was a lot younger then and so much has changed since, but in considering the anniversary of 9/11, I’m choosing to honor the naive, gentle, bright eyed young man who wrote these words almost 10 years ago.

September 13, 2001

It’s been nearly two days now since the tragedy which took sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of this great city. I call it a “great city” because despite, or rather, IN spite of the horrors that have befallen us, not only do we go on, but we go on with more strength, courage and love than we’ve ever had.

Today I had the unique honor of volunteering to aide the firefighters, EMTs, police officers, military personnel and other volunteers who have arrived from all over the country. I helped distribute food to the heroes who make me proud to be an American.

There was a time, not very long ago, when I would giggle at such a patriotic statement. For me, it’s always been a statement that evokes President’s Day Car Commercials and third grade filmstrips about Washington crossing the Delaware. I’ve had very real moments in my life when I’ve been a bit choked up by something patriotic…I was able to visit the Smithsonian in Washington DC, back in eighth grade, that’s where they display the flag which Francis Scott Key was watching as he wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.” I felt truly proud to be an American then. Then a few years ago, I was doing a show in Media, PA. On a day off, I went to visit the historical sights of Philadelphia. I was in Independence Hall, where the Declaration was signed. Not only was I proud to be an American, but, I also experienced a strange sense of deja-vu.

Then today, after being on my feet for close to ten hours, and many of the would-be volunteers had been dismissed, I took some candles I’d packed in my bag (for reasons I was unaware of), I lit the candles, passed them around to some of my fellow volunteers, grabbed the American flag from the side of the truck and began singing the words Francis Scott Key wrote so long ago. By the time we’d finished, many voices had joined us, and those that did not had their eyes closed and their hands over their hearts. I don’t know why I did it, I just felt like it, and I am thankful to be an American, where I can do it if I want to.

After they began to close up shop where I was located, I headed to Penn Station to catch the train home. In front of the station, I saw some visibly ragged guardsmen. I walked up to them and thanked them. They then returned the thanks, recognizing me from the triage. I then headed down to the basement of Penn Station to catch my train home. In the corridor, sitting on the floor in front of a locked down marketplace, there was a man. He was a construction worker or a firefighter I think. I could tell from his dusty apparel, he’d spent the day at ground zero (as it is being referred to). I walked up to him and asked him how he was doing. He looked up and as a tear rolled through the caked on dust on his face, he said “I’ll be fine.” I said “Is there anything you need?” He responded…”My kids.”

I told him how sorry I was and expressed my gratitude for all the work he’d done…and this man…This man who had spent the last 50 hours straight risking his own life to save others’. This man who continued to work, despite his own sheer exhaustion. This man who was searching through the wreckage to find his children, apologized to me for not being able to work longer. THIS IS A HERO. And this is a man who makes myself and hopefully anyone else who reads this, proud to be an American.

If you are in New York and you see a man or woman with dust on their boots or a firefighter, police officer, EMT, or a military officer, please, take a moment to thank them and ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them. These are heroes.

Take a break from bickering over who’s to blame, what George W is going to do next, and about impending war. Take a moment and throw a thought or a prayer to my heroes, who will continue to work through tonight and many more nights to come.

thanks, Jamie

Some days, I really miss the kid who wrote that.

 

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A Tale Of Two Conventions

10 Feb

I’ve just come from an incredible week at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference.  This was my first time there and I had heard mixed things about the gathering.  Not knowing what to expect I have to admit to approaching the conference with less than an open mind.  In the weeks leading up more than a few people told me what I would experience and I gave in to my sometimes cynical nature. I wasn’t expecting much.

To my delight, my negative assumptions, and the impressions of my friends, were turned on their head. Where I was expecting staid academia I discovered fresh ideas. Where I looked for the older generation to dominate the conversation I found a vibrant, youth-driven atmosphere. I braced myself for back slapping cronyism and I found a largely supportive and encouraging community.  I came in cynical and left energized and inspired.

I quickly realized how much the conference is geared toward encouraging and supporting new leaders. While it was great to see so many young people fired up about learning and growing it was even better to see them supported and provided a safe space to do this. The upbeat attitude and infusion of fresh faces gave the conference an edge I wasn’t expecting. Surrounded by my upbeat community and learning so much I let my guard down a bit. Which is probably why I tripped over and nearly spilled my friday morning coffee on a gaggle of Christian Youth in the Skyway.

Turns out there was another conference in town.  The Acquire the Fire Tour was just across the Skyway at the Convention Center. More than doubling our convention in size, the evangelical youth in attendance were hearing a different message, one of brokenness, shame, and permanent scars.

Apparently the Acquire The Fire leaders told their youth, who were on average much younger than the attendees at Creating Change, to practice spreading their particular brand of the teachings of Christ across the skyway at Creating Change. To them this apparently meant chanting homophobic epithets at queer passers-by and to harass and intimidate people as they passed. I personally witnessed a young woman upbraiding a local busking violinist just outside my hotel.  The differences in the two events could not have been more clear. One fueled by shame and judgement.  The other a sincere attempt to make the world a safer and more inclusive place for everyone.

Not content to surrender the safe space that we had created at the Hilton, a coalition of inclusive faith communities participating at CC11 put together an escort service for creating changers who had to walk alone.  Thanks to the responsible leadership of members of our own community the potential disaster of juxtaposition was avoided and, minus a few minor incidents, we were able to coexist.

The awful reality we still face is that outside of a few inspiring weekends here and there we still have a long way to go.  It’s a sobering reality that I have been facing all week. We are often outnumbered as we were this weekend. Creating the change we need is admittedly a lot harder than attending a conference, no matter how inspiring and encouraging it may be.  The young people attending Creating Change had to look no further than across the skyway to see the challenges they will be facing.

After Creating Change I have no doubt that they have the knowledge and talent to go out and face them.