In the wake of the horrible bullying and the national headlines--from Matthew Shephard 14 years ago, to the Boy Scouts' recent denial of an Eagle Scout Honors to a brilliant young man because of his sexual orientation, to the sickening videos by Amanda Todd, the young victim of internet bullying who took her life this week--my heart is breaking.
Instead of judging someone who had the courage to be open and honest about themselves, why can't we accept them?
Instead of allowing someone to make a mistake, why do we crucify them?
Stop the hate.
I walked into church yesterday morning--the famous Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco--nervous and a bit scared to be back in a Church setting. It's been a while since I've been to one, and I didn't know what to expect. Over the years, I've built up walls about what it meant to be a part of Church, and it no longer felt like a community or a space I could resonate with. I don't like the hype of what "Church" feels like, and I have a whole basket of mixed emotions about my relationship with the conservative space that has so often stood up for things (or against things) that I can't align myself with. And in a more vulnerable-than-normal confession: I myself am not always sure what I believe in. I believe in a greater truth, and in a Universe and in things that I can't explain or understand, but as I walk through life, I've not found a certainty or knowing.
But yesterday, when I walked into Church, this crazy-wacky-wonderful church in the derelict-but-somehow-lovely Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, a liberal enclave if there ever was one, I started laughing and crying at the same time. The leader got up on a chair in the front of the stained-glass, folding-chair, high-ceiling amalgamation of people and said,
"Hello, hello. Hello! I'm so glad you're here. I'm so glad you came. I don't care if you're white, black, brown, yellow, old, young, on your cell phone, sick, tired, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, on a spiritual path, not on a spiritual path, or not even sure what you're doing here.
I'm just glad that you're here.
Now if you can just give your neighbor a hug for me, tell them you're glad they're here. Everyone deserves to be here. Hello, Blessings, Shalom, Namaste, Welcome."
And I remembered, of course, what I believe in.
I believe in love.
I believe in compassion.
I believe in celebration, and in kindness, and in taking time to perform rituals. I believe in singing. I believe in the goodness of humanity. I believe in community, and sharing, and making joyful noises together. I believe in love.
And for every single person--to all of the thirteen, fifteen, eighteen year-old girls and boys, young men and women out who are out there, scared, terrified, nervous, afraid, and feeling overwhelmingly alone: I really want to hug you and tell you that it's going to be alright. No matter what you're going through, there are people in this world that will love you and you can get through this. If you ever find yourself in the space of bullying, fear, terrified, scared, uncertain, or overwhelmed with loneliness: know that I, too, have been there. I went through it. I know that your heart is aching. I know. I know what it's like to be a scared teenager, and I know what it's like to get lost inside the space of your mind and feel like getting out is an impossibility.
Tell someone. Call someone. Call me. You can call me. I'm not kidding: I am only an email away, and wherever you are, if you read this, come find me. I'll answer the email. It may take a couple of hours, or a day or two if I'm on an airplane, but I'm usually pretty good at responding. More importantly, I AM HERE AND I CARE ABOUT YOU. Never forget that. Even if I don't know you, I love you. Put something in the headline that says "Sarah, I really need to talk to you right now and it's IMPORTANT." Tell me your story. Tell me what's happening. Find someone to talk to. Don't stay alone. We love you. There are people who love you. You deserve to be here. I can't stand the fact that people feel so alone that they will take their own lives.
If you can't find me or someone else, try a couple of things:
- Remember that everything will change. You will have a life that you can't even imagine, if you'll give it a chance.
- Tell someone. Here are some words that you can use: "I need someone to listen to me." "Will you help me find someone to talk to?" "I'm scared." "This is hard for me."
- Go for a walk.
- Write about it.
- Make a happiness list of the small things in life that make you happy. Your favorite color. The smell of a sandwich. The color of the ocean. Try it.
I believe in love.
Everyone deserves to be loved. There is enough love to go around. It doesn't come in limited quantities. The news of Amanda and Matthew and countless others makes me cry. Stop bullying. Stop it. Stop being mean. Find a space inside your heart for compassion and kindness. We all deserve to be loved. Go tell someone that you love them.
I love you.