A hundred million years ago, I never would have imagined having this conversation. On so many levels…having this conversation, would never have even been a blip on my radar screen. There and gone. Never recognized. Just there and suddenly gone. And yet, there it was…there we were … having it.
By “a hundred million years,” I’m remembering my sophomore year at Illinois State sitting at the White Horse Inn on Friday nights writing out “life questions” on those white paper napkins. What if one of the questions that had been passed to me had asked, “What will you and your oldest child talk about when s/he is 16?” It’s impossible to explain to you just how alien that question would have been to me back in the day on those Friday nights a million years ago at ISU.
And yet, John Brogan (age 16) and I had the most remarkable conversation yesterday driving home from breakfast at Evans.
It turns out that Friday was the “Day of Silence” at Decatur High School (and in many places). Wikipedia says that “The Day of Silence is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) annual day of action to spread awareness about the effects of the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and their supporters.”
Our conversation was mostly Brogan’s talking and my (continually amazed) listening. “I think they’re going about it all wrong,” he was saying. “We don’t need to be silent. It would be much more effective if, instead of being silent, for each class we spent 10 minutes talking to each other about it.” He looked at me with this big smile on his face, nodding his head and said, “Now that would change things. We all need to be talking.”
I wasn’t out in high school. I wasn’t out in college. I wasn’t out until I fell in love with Linda and the graceful, loving community at Candler made a place for us to be included – just for who we were. Two folks in love.
We just need to talk to each other about it.
The world is a much different place than it was back in 1977. For better, for worse things just aren’t the same. In our holding on and letting go as a culture, we have lost -- and gained -- a great deal along the way. We have wasted so many resources. We seem to have taken up ways to violently hurt one another, especially children. We now have words that mean/hold so much: “the internet,” “global warming,” “twitter,” “diversity,”“9/11,” “terrorists.”
Our sons are growing up in a time when information constantly comes at them. They literally have the world at their fingertips. The potential for good has never been greater. Likewise the potential for destruction and wounding have never been so available to us. Each day seems to hold a tenuous piece of the puzzle, a vital and life-giving piece. Each day holds the chance for us to be silent; each day holds the opportunity for us to talk to and with one another.
How wise our sons are. How kind. How open their minds and hearts are – in so many ways mine never was. I’m not turning over the reigns just yet. I’m not bowing out and going over to sit in the audience just yet.
There’s so much yet to do. For all of us, for each of us.
But for right now, I’m celebrating the hope that our children offer. Brogan says he's never heard of Act Up, but Linda and I both know that he’s standing on the shoulders of so many who have gone before. This living-out hope is in him. And because of our conversation, it is living a little bit stronger in me, as well.
Working as a Hospice Chaplain, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.