Category Archives: Inspiration

Wentworth Miller

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As someone who himself has struggled with issues of depression, sexuality, and weight, I find this statement by Wentworth Miller particularly inspirational. I saw it on Wicked Gay Blog and knew I wanted to share it here also. This is what Miller wrote:

Today I found myself the subject of an Internet meme. Not for the first time.

This one, however, stands out from the rest.

In 2010, semi-retired from acting, I was keeping a low-profile for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, I was suicidal.

This is a subject I’ve since written about, spoken about, shared about.

But at the time I suffered in silence. As so many do. The extent of my struggle known to very, very few.

Ashamed and in pain, I considered myself damaged goods. And the voices in my head urged me down the path to self-destruction. Not for the first time.

I’ve struggled with depression since childhood. It’s a battle that’s cost me time, opportunities, relationships, and a thousand sleepless nights.

In 2010, at the lowest point in my adult life, I was looking everywhere for relief/comfort/distraction. And I turned to food. It could have been anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. But eating became the one thing I could look forward to. Count on to get me through. There were stretches when the highlight of my week was a favorite meal and a new episode of TOP CHEF. Sometimes that was enough. Had to be.

And I put on weight. Big f–king deal.

One day, out for a hike in Los Angeles with a friend, we crossed paths with a film crew shooting a reality show. Unbeknownst to me, paparazzi were circling. They took my picture, and the photos were published alongside images of me from another time in my career. “Hunk To Chunk.” “Fit To Flab.” Etc.

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My mother has one of those “friends” who’s always the first to bring you bad news. They clipped one of these articles from a popular national magazine and mailed it to her. She called me, concerned.

In 2010, fighting for my mental health, it was the last thing I needed.

Long story short, I survived.

So do those pictures.

I’m glad.

Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without.

Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.

Anyway. Still. Despite.

The first time I saw this meme pop up in my social media feed, I have to admit, it hurt to breathe. But as with everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness.

Of myself and others.

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. Reach out. Text. Send an email. Pick up the phone. Someone cares. They’re waiting to hear from you. Much love. – W.M. #koalas #inneractivist#prisonbroken

http://www.afsp.org
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
http://www.activeminds.org
http://www.thetrevorproject.org
http://www.iasp.info

http://www.facebook.com/notes/wentworth-miller/flour-or-wheat/1653559881523614


Pondering 

  

 I’m still not feeling 100 percent, so I thought I’d do something a bit different today. I want each of you to look at this picture and tell me what comes to mind. It can be one word, a sentence, or even a paragraph. 
For those of you who this picture evokes no particular thoughts, I’m going to give you a prompt. It obviously looks as though he is thinking something, pondering, you might say. What is he thinking about?

I obviously like this picture, but I want to know: What does it say to you? What feelings/emotions does it evoke? Do you even like the picture?

Feel free to answer one, all, or any number of the question. I’d like to hear your thoughts today.


Christian Persecution

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Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.1 Peter 4:16

Lately in the news, we’ve heard a lot about religious freedoms laws, because people are afraid they will be persecuted for being Christians. The idea that in America that people would be persecuted for being a true Christian who follows a loving God, is preposterous. Sadly, however, Christian persecution in the United States is real. It’s just not what you think.

Christian persecution isn’t about having to offer birth control to women. It’s not about having to serve wedding cakes to gay and lesbian couples. Christian persecution isn’t even having people call you out when you spout homophobic, sexist, or racist opinions, veiled blasphemously as biblical.

Real Christian persecution is having your church burned to the ground because black people worship there.

Real Christian persecution is sitting in a church as a minister misinterprets the Bible to fit his own narrow minded views.

Real Christian persecution is having your church graffitied hatefully because gay and lesbian people can worship there. Real Christian persecution in the United States terrorizes people — often Christians themselves, and more often then not, it is done by people professing to be Christian but persecuting LGBT Christians and LGBT-affirming Christians.

This type of Christian persecution uses hate and violence, because hate always leads to violence, done in the name of God and continuing in the name of God. And Christianity— particularly as it has been historically practiced by white, heterosexual people in the United States—has a very deep, very long history of perpetrating this kind of violence.

The latest victim of such persecution is the Church of Our Redeemer, a Metropolitan Community Church in Augusta, Georgia (MCCOR). It’s an open and affirming church in the midst of a deeply homophobic culture that birthed the Southern Baptist Convention.

The church is a beacon for LGBTQ equality, a home and safe haven for many in the town.

But a neighbor Tuesday morning called the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Rick Sosbe, after noticing a vandal had sought to extinguish the church’s light for equality. Someone had spray-painted “Leviticus 18:22” on doors of the church along with the words “burn” and “lie.” And just an hour away, the KKK, a self-professed Christian organization, is protesting the Confederate battle flag being removed from the South Carolina capitol in the most vile and hateful of ways. Certainly, these two shouldn’t be simply equated with each other, but at their core, both are motivated by hate and by violence toward difference.

Hate, it seems, has become a “Christian” value for some. These Christians use biblical verses out of context to spew their hate and to justify their violence. They may not be as well-organized or as violent as ISIS, but they are no better. Many would love nothing more than to have a Christian version of ISIS in America, yet in the same hate speech they will denounce ISIS without seeing the correlation between the he two.

How in God’s name has Jesus been fashioned into an idol for bigotry? Need we be reminded that almost half of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community are professing Christians? Need we be reminded that the vast majority of Black Americans are Christians? Need we be reminded—yet again—that in the United States, it has almost always been Christians terrorizing Christians?

White Christians have been terrorizing Black Christians for centuries since whites forced African slaves into conversion to Christianity. Heterosexual Christians terrorizing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians for decades and longer. Those categories aren’t mutually exclusive mind you, but it bears remembering that hate crimes in this country have tended to be committed overwhelmingly by Christians, frequently against Christians.

It’s terribly ironic. Christians like Franklin Graham fret and worry about attacks on the Christian faith from Muslims or other vague bogeymen who aren’t white, who aren’t Christians, or who aren’t heterosexual. But the real attack on Christianity is coming from Christians.

As tempting as it is to focus just on this evil and hateful crime in Augusta that’s not the whole story. The MCCOR community is continuing to shine its light in Augusta . Church and community members—even a few passersby—have rallied together to repair the damage, to clean and re-paint. There has been shared joy in the joining together to literally erase the hate, according to folks there.

As always, the whole story can be so much bigger and more generous than an act of hate, and we can be a small part of that. In many ways, MCCOR is a beacon—and a fairly isolated one at that—in Augusta for ministry to and among LGBTQ people. My sister used to live in Augusta, so I know how it is not one of the most welcoming of cities. She and her husband only stayed a couple of years.

May God bless LGBT Christians everywhere and especially MCCOR.

Sources: This is an edited version of a Believe Out Loud post by David Henson who received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He is ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He lives in North Carolina, is a father of two boys, and the husband of a medical resident.

http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/real-christian-persecution-augusta-church-hit-anti-lgbt-hate-crime


Solitudine

Solitudine non è essere soli, è amare gli altri inutilmente. 
Mario Stefani
(Loneliness is not being alone, it’s loving the of others in vain.)
 
Mario Stefani
(August 4, 1938 – March 4, 2001) Italy
Poet, art critic, journalist
 
The gay poet Mario Stefani, was born in Venice; a semi-local celebrity and good-hearted neighbor whose mysterious suicide shocked the Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio community in which he lived.
 
“Anyone who loves Venice, is a true Venetian… even a tourist, but only if the tourist stays long enough to appreciate the city.”  So used to say Mario Stefani.
 
Mario’s poetry is mostly in Italian; his only two collections of Venetian dialect poetry go back to the late sixties, written in the Venetian of those years in a simple style, without any type of linguistic experimentation.
 
He is quoted in John Berendt’s new book, The City of Falling Angels, which I am currently reading again, as saying “Telling the truth is the most anticonformist act I know.”
 
About three weeks before Stefani’s death, someone had wrote in red stay paint something on the wooden wall covering a small building site right next to the Rialto bridge: “Solitudine non è essere soli, è amare gli altri inutilmente. Mario Stefani” (Loneliness is not being alone, it’s loving the others in vain). Three weeks later, on a Sunday, when he’d least likely to have been missed, he hung himself in his kitchen.
 
Even when we are surrounded by people who love us, we can still feel lonely.  This is especially true when we are hiding a part of ourselves.  Stefani was an out and proud gay man; however, he was hiding a great sadness behind his ever present smile.  So, what I’d like for all of us to do, is tell our friends and loved ones how much we care and love them and that they are not alone.  Sometimes we just need to hear that.

Today Will Be a Great Day

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Honestly, I have no reason to believe that it will be, but this is how I’m going to start my day today. I am going to tell myself that “Today will be a great day!” First off, it’s Friday. Fridays are good. Second, it’s payday. Paydays are good. So with two things already going my way, I’m just going to believe they will continue to improve.

The Mayo Clinic says this about the power of positive thinking:

Negative thoughts can feed pessimism and create unnecessary stress. You can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. The process is straightforward, although it’s challenging, especially at first. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Throughout the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about yourself.

I think I can take this advice. When students begin to stress me, I will simply decide not to get angry but attempt to deal with the situation in a positive way. Maybe turn it into a learning experience. In fact, I did this the other day, and it worked out beautifully. To give you an example, I have been teaching a unit on Ancient Chinese history, which includes the philosophies of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism. Confucianism is all about respect and learning the order of relationships. Daoism is the search for the natural balance in the world, but it is said that no one can truly understand the Dao (also translated as “The Way”). Daoists believe that those who speak of the way, do not know the way, and those who know the way, do not speak of the way. Legalism teaches that human are naturally evil and must be beaten into submission with extremely harsh laws. By the way, all of these are over-simplifications.

Earlier this week, I’d given my students an assignment to complete a study guide based on a list of terms I’d given them. I would then go over the list of terms the next day for those who’d completed the study guide, showing them not just how to find definitions but more importantly how to determine the significance of each of the terms. When I went around to check and see who had done the assignment, only six students out of twenty-five had completed the assignment. So, I had those six com to the front of the room. It turned out that three of the six had copied the study guide of one of the other students. I told those four students to sit back down. The two remaining who had completed the task would receive a 100 on the test without having to take it.

Then I explained to them my rationale. You see, if they’d each followed Confucian beliefs, they would have respected me, i.e. their teacher, enough to complete the assignment and have it finished on time. Only the two who completed the task would have been allowed to take the test. All others would fail. Furthermore, if this were under a Legalist system, those who had not completed the task would face harsh corporal punishment while the four who cheated would be expelled from the school. You see it was not fair for the students who did their work, to be rewarded with the correct answers and allow the other students to also receive the correct answers on the study guide, thus rewarding them for not completing the assignment. Therefore, I needed to find a balance.

The two who had done what was asked of them, no more and no less, had in this instance found the way, the Dao, the balance. Therefore, they alone should be rewarded. Hose four who had cheated had done more than asked by taking the extra step of copying someone else’s work, and thus had tipped the balance. Those who had not completed the task, even if it was because they did not do “merely” two or three definitions, had not reached the balance of completing the assignment. They too had failed to find the way. If I did not go over the study guide, they’d surely fail, because my students are often too lazy, such as not finishing and waiting for the correct answer from me or by finding only the definition and not the significance of a term.

My solution therefore was to reward the two good students by not requiring them to take the test and automatically giving them a 100, whereas all of the other students would have to redo their study guides under my guidance, and then have to study for the test in order to pass it. It was a rewarding teaching moment for me as I saw the understanding of these three philosophies truly click in their minds. They are unlikely to forget them. This may not have been a perfect lesson, I sure there were many flaws, but I did come up with this on the spur of the moment and it wasn’t plan. As any decent teacher learns to do, my students never knew I’d not planned this demonstration the whole time.

Will knowing the difference between Confucianism, Daoism, or Legalism help them in much more than possibly getting a question correct on Trivia Crack (a new iPhone game they are obsessed with, in case you’re wondering)? I doubt it, but what I do hope is that they will realize, in even a small way, that other belief systems are significant. There is a greater world out there, and it’s a world that we should understand better.

I really do have a passion for teaching. I don’t get moments like this very often, but on the rare occasions I do, it really does make it all worth it.


Looking At Ourselves

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From about Thanksgiving until the first few weeks of January is a time when I often reflect on my life. My birthday is at the end of November, so it always makes me reflect on another year and my life as whole up until now, and December and January are the end and beginning of the year, so I tend to look back on the past year and look toward the year to come. But it also goes beyond looking at myself as an individual, but how I fit into society at large.

As members of the LGBT community, so many of us for so long have been taught to be ashamed of who we are because we do not fit the predominant image and standard profile of acceptable persons. We have been taught to look at ourselves through lenses that are not able to see clearly our true beauty and essence as citizens in society, as people of God and as children of the greater universe. When we look at ourselves we must try as best we can to see everything that’s there, but this is sometimes hard to do without a real desire to take a hard look and to see what’s really there; to view ourselves clearly, squarely and freely. The beauty and goodness of what we see sometimes gives way to the not so beautiful things that we see, say and do and we must cast aside all fear in taking that honest look if we are to grow into a greater awareness of who we really are and what we can ultimately become as genuine persons of promise and value.

So each day that we rise to meet the morning, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and proceed to make the necessary physical makeovers that will present us “flawless” to the outside world. Sometimes we undervalue what we see because of what we have been taught to look for and how we have been taught to look at it. But the truth is we must come to terms with the person that we see in the mirror each morning. We must acknowledge what we see through our own eyes. We may not always like what we see looking back at us, and sometimes we can change it, sometimes we can’t. The fact is, we should change what we can, and accept that which we cannot change. We can’t always be perfect.

It doesn’t help much when our friends point out what we did wrong. If we’re so scared of hearing from ourselves that we made a mistake, just imagine how much we hate hearing it from someone else. And our friends know this: the answer to “Does this outfit make me look fat?” is not supposed to be “Yes.” We may joke about our friends’ foibles behind their back, but we rarely do so to their face. Even at work, a lot of effort goes into making sure employees are insulated from their superior’s most negative assessments. This is what we’re taught: make five compliments for every criticism, sandwich negative feedback with positive feedback on each side, the most important thing is to keep up someone’s self-esteem. We also have to work on our own self-esteem.

In moments of great emotional stress, we revert to our worst habits: we dig in and fight harder. The real trick is not to get better at fighting—it’s to get better at stopping ourselves: at taking a deep breath, calming down, and letting our better natures take over from our worst instincts. Even if seeing ourselves objectively is the best option, all our natural instincts all point the other direction. Not only do we try hard to avoid bad news about ourselves, we tend to exaggerate the good news.

Looking at ourselves objectively isn’t easy. But it’s essential if we ever want to get better. And if we don’t do it, we leave ourselves open to con artists and ethical compromisers who prey on our desire to believe we’re perfect.

I have a confession. I really didn’t know what to write about today, but I loved the picture at the top of this post. Doesn’t he have the cutest ass? So, I came up with a post to fit the picture. I do think it’s a decent post, and I hope you do as well.


Apple CEO Tim Cook Come Out

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Last Monday, Apple CEO and Alabama native Tim Cook was inducted along with seven others into the Alabama Academy of Honor. Cook took the opportunity to challenge Alabama to do better with LGBT equality. He said that Alabama was too slow to guarantee the rights of minorities during the civil rights era, and now it’s too slow to ensure the rights of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Speaking at the Capitol in the chamber where the state voted to secede from the Union in 1861, Cook said Alabama and the nation “have a long way to go” before realizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality. Alabama was “too slow” to guarantee rights in the 1960s, Cook said, and “still too slow on equality for the LGBT community. Under the law, citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation” Cook went further and stated that “We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and we can create a different future.”

On Thursday October 30, 2014, Cook published the following message in BusinessWeek:

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant. Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.

I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

I’ll admit that this wasn’t an easy choice. Privacy remains important to me, and I’d like to hold on to a small amount of it. I’ve made Apple my life’s work, and I will continue to spend virtually all of my waking time focused on being the best CEO I can be. That’s what our employees deserve—and our customers, developers, shareholders, and supplier partners deserve it, too. Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender. I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.

The company I am so fortunate to lead has long advocated for human rights and equality for all. We’ve taken a strong stand in support of a workplace equality bill before Congress, just as we stood for marriage equality in our home state of California. And we spoke up in Arizona when that state’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill targeting the gay community. We’ll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same. And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up.

When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.

The Apple CEO’s announcement on Thursday that he is gay and wants to help further civil rights found strong support in some quarters, but his advocacy met less enthusiasm among some people in Alabama, where he was born and raised.

In socially conservative Alabama, where gay marriage remains illegal and workers can lawfully be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation, some said they wish the Apple executive had kept his sexual orientation private. However, I am very glad he came forward. In a world where money and power speaks, the advantages that Apple can provide makes Cook a very powerful spokesman for the LGBT community.

As mentioned earlier, when inducted on Monday into the Alabama Academy of Honor, Cook made comments critical of the state’s progress on rights for gays and minorities. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican and opponent of same-sex marriage, said afterward that he objected to connections Cook drew in his induction speech between the civil rights movement and gay rights, the Anniston Star newspaper reported. “I don’t connect those two, and in fact I don’t think the African-American community connects those two either,” Bentley said, according to the newspaper. I have always connected equality for one with equality for all, and I can only hope that Bentley loses the governor’s race in tomorrow’s election, though it is highly doubtful since the Alabama Democratic Party placed a weak candidate in the race. Bentley’s opponent is actually a “former” Republican.

Birmingham-based state Representative Patricia Todd, a Democrat who is Alabama’s sole openly gay lawmaker, said she drew strength from Cook’s announcement, made in an article he wrote in Bloomberg Businessweek. Todd said the prospects for a bill she plans to reintroduce next year to legalize gay marriage will be strengthened by Cook’s example. “I’m tickled to death,” Todd said. “He is saying what we’ve been saying all along. Equality is good for business.”


Don’t Sneak

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Yesterday in my Sunday post, I discussed the two types of pride: the sinful selfish pride and the pride we should take in ourselves and be stronger people. LGBT can find meaning in pride. We start to feel able to freely and openly celebrate who we are. We need to stop hating and fearing ourselves, because those who live secret lives of pain are not able to fully celebrate their identity. I also used the following quote:

Maybe our journey in life isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you so you can become who you were meant to be in the first place.

It symbolizes that we should take pride in our true selves and not hide or “sneak.” StoryCorps, an NPR segment, marked the anniversary of a pivotal moment for gay rights, the 1969 Stonewall riots. Forty-five years ago, on June 27, gay protesters clashed with police in New York. Now, StoryCorps launched an initiative to preserve the stories of LGBT people called “OutLoud.” Below is one of those stories, and it’s a perfect example of why we should celebrate ourselves.

In the 1950s in rural Washington, a teenage boy learned an important lesson about self-acceptance. Patrick Haggerty, now 70, didn’t know he was gay at the time, but says his father knew what direction he was headed.

The conversation started because as a teenager Haggerty decided to perform in a school assembly. On their way there, he started covering his face with glitter — to his brother’s horror. Haggerty says his brother dropped him off at school and then called their father.

“Dad, I think you better get up there,” his brother said. “This is not going to look good.”

Their father did come. Charles Edward Haggerty, a dairy farmer, showed up at the school in dirty farming jeans and boots. When Haggerty saw his dad in the halls, he hid.

“It wasn’t because of what I was wearing,” Haggerty says. “It was because of what he was wearing.”

After the assembly, in the car ride home, Haggerty’s father called him out on his attempt to hide.

“My father says to me, ‘I was walking down the hall this morning, and I saw a kid that looked a lot like you ducking around the hall to avoid his dad. But I know it wasn’t you, ’cause you would never do that to your dad,’ ” Haggerty recalls.

Haggerty squirmed in his seat and finally exclaimed, “Well, Dad, did you have to wear your cow-crap jeans to my assembly?”

“Look, everybody knows I’m a dairy farmer,” his father replied. “This is who I am. Now, how ’bout you? When you’re an adult, who are you gonna go out with at night?”

Then, he gave his son some advice:

“Now, I’m gonna tell you something today, and you might not know what to think of it now, but you’re gonna remember when you’re a full-grown man: Don’t sneak. Because if you sneak, like you did today, it means you think you’re doing the wrong thing. And if you run around spending your whole life thinking that you’re doing the wrong thing, then you’ll ruin your immortal soul.”

“And out of all the things a father in 1959 could have told his gay son, my father tells me to be proud of myself and not sneak,” Haggerty says.

“He knew where I was headed. And he knew that making me feel bad about it in any way was the wrong thing to do,” he adds. “I had the patron saint of dads for sissies, and no, I didn’t know at the time, but I know it now.”

If more people could understand what Charles Edward Haggerty did over sixty years ago, then we’d have a lot less teenage suicide, we’d have a lot less depression in LGBT people, acceptance would be a given, and there would it longer be the need for the closet.


Alone

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Alone
Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

“Alone” starts off with our speaker doing some serious soul-searching. She’s feeling pretty isolated, but she thinks she just might have come up with an answer to her problems: people need community in order to get by. I think this is very important for many minority groups, but is currently especially needed for the LGBT people in the South. As I was discussing with a friend the other day about the HRC’s Project One America Campaign. My friend said that the most important thing that Alabama LGBT needed was a sense of community. We currently don’t have much of a community besides in larger cities. Alabama still has a largely rural population, which often feels alone because they need that sense of community,

In “Alone,” Angelou says that money won’t buy you happiness. Even the very, very rich get lonely. So, don’t try to make more money. Make friends instead. Something I’m attempting do more of. The speaker of the poem fashions herself into something like a prophet, warning the “race of man” that things aren’t about to get any easier anytime soon. The solution is to realize that no one can make it on their own. We need each other.

When poet, memoirist, screenwriter, film director, jazz singer, dancer, professor, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died in May at the age of 86, I reflected on what an icon America had lost. Maya Angelou helped people feel like they were possible of living great, meaningful lives.

She became, for so many, a symbol of resilience — the capacity to persist in the face of hardship and adversity — and beyond that a symbol of boundless creativity. She didn’t just survive the significant trauma of her early life; she made something magnificent of that life. Here are a few quotes a dear friend sent me from Maya Angelou, and I asked him to tell me what those quotes mean to him.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.“– Maya Angelou

This is my friend’s favorite quote from Maya Angelou. As he thought back on his life and the trials he’s gone through, He said he remember people who have been there for him. You may not remember what they said or did to comfort you, reassure you or build you back up, but we will never forget how they made us feel loved, needed and worth their time. For my friend (and for most of us), these people are our real friends, our real family. We love them more than they will ever know.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.“– Maya Angelou

This is a very wise and powerful statement made by Angelou and one that has been very difficult for my friend and many of us to achieve. We all take a beating by events in our lives, those experiences knock us down, stomp on our hearts and tear at our souls. We can choose to be conquered by those unfortunate life occurrences or we can overcome them, learn from them and then go help others.

Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.“– Maya Angelou

This is so simple and yet we don’t often put it into action. We get so wrapped up in our own problems, our own desires, and our own silly day-to-day meaningless activities that we forget to be there for other people. I’ve found that when I help others or reach out to a friend in need or take time with someone to let them know we care and that they are important, we are able to forget our problems, our pain and our worries. It’s all about the “Golden Rule” a dear friend once told me. Treat others how you’d hope they would treat you. It’s in a small way following the example of Jesus Christ.

You can see in others what they don’t see in themselves and what the world doesn’t see in them. We all have that possibility, that potential and that promise of seeing beyond the seeming.” — Maya Angelou

Angelou wrote for her own creative satisfaction, but she was driven by the desire to encourage and inspire people beyond their limitations, whether they were self-imposed, determined by society, or handed down through history. The point of endeavor was, as she wrote, “to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” She sought to be that rainbow for anyone who could read or hear her work. I try to so the same through The Closet Professor, as we should each attempt to in our lives.


What Would You Do?

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What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:14-17

Many of us have stories about old couches — particularly ones we had in college, or shortly after. But not many stories are like the one three roommates in New Paltz, N.Y., can now tell.

After the trio realized their beat-up couch was stuffed with more than $40,000, they decided to return the money to its rightful owner.

It all started when roommates Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti and Lara Russo realized that the lumps in their couch’s pillows were actually envelopes stuffed with money. Just two months earlier, they’d bought the couch for $20 at a Salvation Army store.

“It had these bubble wrap envelopes, just like two or three of them,” Werkhoven tells CBS New York. “We ripped them out and [I] was just like freaking out, like an inch and a half of $100 bills.”

Or, as he told SUNY, New Paltz student-run blog The Little Rebellion, “I almost peed.”

They kept finding more envelopes in the couch, pulling money out of it like an upholstered ATM.

Werkhoven added, “The most money I’d ever found in a couch was like 50 cents. Honestly, I’d be ecstatic to find just $5 in a couch.”

The discovery was like a dream for the three friends, all of whom are either in college or recent graduates.

As they counted the money, they talked about what they might do with it; Werkhoven says he wanted to buy his mom a new car. But then they spotted a name among the envelopes, and realized they were faced with an ethical puzzle.

“We had a lot of moral discussions about the money,” Russo tells Little Rebellion. “We all agreed that we had to bring the money back to whoever it belonged to … it’s their money — we didn’t earn it. However, there were a lot of gray areas we had to consider.”

They asked their parents for advice; don’t spend the money, they were told. A phone number led them to the family that had donated the couch — and to answers about why it was full of money.

The roommates drove to the woman’s house in what The Little Rebellion calls “a rustic home in a rough neighborhood.”

“I think the part of this whole experience that cleared away my prior thoughts and worries was when I saw the woman’s daughter and granddaughter greet us at the door,” Werkhoven tells the blog. “I could just tell right away that these were nice people.”

It turned out that the money was socked away out of the woman’s late husband’s concerns that he wouldn’t always be there for his wife (she has chosen to remain anonymous). It represented decades of savings, including wages from the woman’s job as a florist.

For years, she also slept on the couch. But recent back problems led her daughter and son-in-law to replace it with a bed, meaning that the couch had to go.

“This was her life savings and she actually said something really beautiful, like ‘This is my husband looking down on me and this was supposed to happen,’ ” Guasti tells CBS NY.

After they returned the money to the woman, Guasti, Russo and Werkhoven received $1,000 as a reward.

What would you do if you found $40,000 in a Salvation Army couch? I honestly think that I’d do the same as these roommates did, because they found the name of the person to whom it belonged. If I had no idea of who it belonged to and no way of finding out, I would have given part of the money to the Salvation Army and done something good with the rest if it.

In addition, Reese Werkhoven looks pretty sexy in the picture above, this story makes him all the sexier to me.


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