Waves of Great Change Are Always Moving Us Toward Love
“There’s a river of my people. And its flow is swift and strong.” —Pete Seeger
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” —Socrates
When I recently attended the Indiana House of Representatives Hearing on HJR-3 (the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana), I discovered something I hadn’t expected. I learned that people who lovingly support a cause (or oppose a cause) likely do not fully grasp what it’s like for the individuals who are living the issue, day in and day out—for 50 years or more in some cases.
That insight hit me as I was standing near friends and the House voted to delete one sentence banning civil unions from the proposed amendment. It was an important partial victory for those in attendance. The next thing that happened surprised me. A close friend began sobbing, a body-racking, heart-felt release welling up and pouring out from a place deep within. It was humbling to witness her vulnerability and raw, uncensored human emotion. It was as though she had been holding her breath, sealed off tight in a protected vault somewhere, and someone had finally told her it was safe to breathe.
I am legally married with two daughters. I came to the House debate and vote to support friends and family members in the LGBT community. But I realized something important during those moments of celebration: I don’t know what it feels like to have parents who refuse to accept who I am or a family who does not love or support my partner; I don’t know what it feels like to love my church and love God and then get kicked out of my religion for being who I am; I don’t know what it feels like to drive or walk though a town where a gay man was beaten, chained to a fence, and then left to die; I don’t know what it feels like to hear people arguing about my legal rights as though I am not as worthy as other individuals or as though I have sinned against God just for loving who I love; I don’t know what it feels like to hide who I am for fear of rejection or to face scorn and condemnation when I’m unable to hide; and I don’t know what it feels like to be alienated from family members who harshly judge me or who cannot fully accept me for who I am.
I don’t know what it’s like to live that life.
I also don’t know what it’s like to live as a racial minority who carries ancestral scars of slavery and lynchings. I don’t know what it means to watch President Obama and his family walk into the White House, and for the first time in American history, obtain true representation in the highest office of the United States Government. I also don’t know what it’s like to be Jewish or Native American or Hispanic or an immigrant living in this country.
But I understand better now, after holding my friend while she sobbed, that my friends are harboring deep wounds and that healing is desperately needed—in our families, in our political system, in our media, in our culture, and in our country. To quote Nelson Mandela: “The time for healing of the wounds has come . . . for the birth of a new world.”
Where do we begin?
In Buddhism it is said that Right Understanding is needed for Right Action. Right Understanding begins with the ability to listen, with compassion.
Rather than arguing, fighting, or judging, what would it be like to invite a gay couple into your home for dinner? Not to preach or explain your views; but rather, simply to learn by listening. Perhaps you could invite your LGBT son, daughter, neighbor, parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, sister, brother, or cousin over for a chance to get to know them a little better. Ask them to tell you their stories—their joys and sorrows. Ask them what wounds need healing. Listen from your heart. It all begins there.
We don’t need a law or a book or a specific religion to learn how to love. We just need to open our hearts . . . a bit wider.
In joy & gratitude,
Diana J. Ensign