About once a week I walk into town to buy a hummus roasted veggie sandwich and to see my friend, Frank, who works at the sandwich place. Frank is gay. We’ve never talked about his gayness or my not-gayness or anyone’s whatever-ness in conversation – I mean – it’s not like people usually approach a new friend, shake hands, and introduce themselves by their labels – “Hi, I’m Karen and I’m a progressive bleeding heart liberal heterosexual female Christian Scientist of mostly European ancestry (although there might be some Basque Reptile alien in there, too) – and how about you? What are your labels?” – but, yeah, Frank is gay.
This week when Frank asked me how I was, I gave the usual, “I’m good. And how about you?” And he gave the usual, “I’m good.” But this time something made me stop and really look at Frank. And I asked, “Frank, how are you really?” Frank said it had been a rough week.
He said he’d been in a bar earlier in the week, and he’d heard people at the next table over saying – in deliberately loud voices so Frank could hear – “Yeah. Those people in Florida deserved it.” Frank had tried to remain civil to them – he and the bar-tender had had their own conversation – loud enough to be heard – about the terribleness of the tragedy. And the people at the next table spewed out some more hatred. And Frank wondered about them: Hadn’t they ever been targeted for being different in some way? Didn’t they know what that felt like?
I started tearing up. “Frank, where does that hate come from? I don’t understand it.” Frank shook his head sadly, and said he thought it came from ignorance – from people being afraid of what they don’t know. He said he leaves those people in the hands of the Lord – and he didn’t mean that in a vengeful way – but in a “God will help them” way.
I told Frank that I was with him. I told him that he wasn’t alone. And he thanked me and gave me a hug.
Later on I was thinking about what Frank had said – his wondering if those people had ever been targeted for being different – and it made me remember a time, years ago, when I’d been watching a local “town meeting” on television and I’d heard someone say that “All Christian Scientists should be lined up against a wall and shot.” It had been strange and disturbing to hear someone who didn’t know me wish me dead. It stuck with me. I learned something from that.
Anyone could become a target – hatred is a form of insanity, really, and it doesn’t have to make sense – maybe tomorrow it will be stubby people, or extra tall people, or people with green eyes, or left-handed people, who will become the targets.
I think when we take the time to get to know each other – to try to understand each other without judgment or condemnation – to listen to each other – when we take the time to get rid of our own ignorance – we are doing a lot to make the world a better place. It’s been said so many times, but I think it’s true: Love really IS the answer.