Saturday, June 15, 2013
Moving From the Sidelines to Active Participant
I had big plans for this weekend. And by big, I mean HUGE. The weatherman has been warning of endless wind and rain, huge accumulations of water and even flooding in areas. So, I have three books lined up, a full tin of coffee and time to write. I was planning on recharging my energy by cocooning into my little writing corner and reading with caffeinated joy for hours on end.
It's not how this day has gone down. I think it all started with a new-to-us trampoline that arrived in our backyard yesterday afternoon. It's huge and sturdy - one of those old school trampolines we had when men were men and safety nets weren't invented yet. The kind we held sleepovers on and put soapy water on despite the trampolines tilted angle on a steep backyard hillside. A few launches into the typical west coast bark mulch and cedar shrubs did little more than spur us on to go higher with just an angry red rash for our efforts.
So, this morning, in a downpour, Jason and I were daring our boys to go outside and jump in the rain and enjoy the new trampoline. They barely rolled their eyes at us nevermind disengaging from the couch attached to their backsides. I took it upon myself to encourage them by going out there myself and having a few celebratory jumps in the torrential rain. They remain unmoved but I have to say, it was energizing for me. I'm still maintaining that our back neighbour was not coming out to watch me, I believe he was checking the rising water level in his backyard. At least, that's what his worried expression told me.
So, after breakfast, the boys and Jason went to see the new Superman movie. I passed on the obligatory invitation they gave me and decided to spend the afternoon as planned, caffeinated and creatively cocooned. A simple glance at Twitter (curse you technology) reminded me that it was Pride Week here in Saskatoon. It's been niggling at me all week to somehow show support for the gay community, particularly those who are searching for equal rights in marriage. I simply haven't been able to put it out of my mind that we are living in an era in which two people, committed to each other as a family unit, are unable to be given the rights to each others' lives and deaths in an equal manner as heterosexual couples. It just doesn't sit well with me. I don't think it's about the word "marriage" or whether being gay is a choice or any other rhetoric. I think it's about human rights and equality. Anyways, I guess at best, I was thinking that putting something "pride friendly" on my facebook was going to be about as actively supportive as I was going to get today, given the weather.
So, I proceeded to make myself probably the greatest grilled cheese sandwich of all time. (If I do say so myself…and I do.) Two thick slabs of sourdough, cream cheese, cheddar and feta melted together? Mmm and mmm. And if you think that I was energized on an empty stomach jumping on a wet trampoline, you have no concept of what that grilled cheese did to me. In fact, as I sat enjoying the beauty that was the sandwich of the century, I flipped through my messages and saw a map of the pride parade route. Hmmmph, I thought, with my mouth full of glorious goodness, I could at least put on my wellies and slicker and go stand and cheer on the parade? Never underestimate the motivational power of a killer sandwich.
Isn't that the least I could do? So…checking that I still had time, and I did, I proceeded to put on my rain gear, grabbed an umbrella and headed out to stand supportively on the side of the road, cheering on the parade.
When I arrived near where they were marshalling the parade, I walked along the still stationary parade of people looking for my friend, Cathy, and the AIDS Saskatoon float. I was just walking along when the parade started to move and so I walked a little faster and caught up with the float and asked where Cathy was. They told me that she wasn't walking, she was manning the booth back at the center. So, I went to step out to the sidewalk and suddenly the inner dialogue ensued. This isn't complete but it will give you some idea of the craziness that I'm challenged with internally on a day to day basis when I start stepping out of the cocoon plans.
"I could just walk with these guys, it doesn't mean I'm super activist gay." (whatever that is…I'm just reporting what is happening in my brain, peeps.)
"What if I get on the news or the front page of the newspaper?"
"What will my boss think"
"What will my husband think!"
"What will my ____________ (insert any known associate here from dental assistant to my grade 2 summer camp counsellor) think?"
"Why do I care what people think?"
"Isn't this where Jesus would be?"
"Isn't this much more actively loving than standing on the sidelines?"
"Isn't this the sort of thing I would want to be caught doing on a rainy, windy Saturday?"
"Why are gay men ALWAYS so freaking attractive and well dressed?"
(Again, just reporting the facts….not going to justify where my mind went!"
So, about a block into the walk and chatting with a couple women around me, I started to really just enjoy myself. I mean, how could you not surrounded by rainbow coloured EVERYTHING on a day that was doing it's best to invert every umbrella and render it useless? And, how is it NOT love when you see couples of every race, gender and description just enjoying each others company, whether sitting in lawn chairs on the back of trailer or skipping hand in hand in multicoloured wigs?
See, this past week, I listened to a sermon that centered around Jesus' miracles and the fact that he was accessible and lived in proximity to those that needed His help. I felt some cosmic finger (that looked eerily like my Grade 5 teacher's) pointing at my conscience when I heard the comment that in our culture, "success leads to the suburbs". I don't wear my suburban culture too proudly on the best of days. I find it challenging when I hear things about the culture that allows us to drive into our garages and close the doors behind us and not engage with those around us unless we choose to.
Well, today I chose to. Partly because of proximity…I mean, I was there anyway, right? And why sit on the sidewalk and cheer on a parade when you can actively participate? While I'm not saying that my participation changed a single thing for those around me who are struggling for rights and recognition on an equal footing…it changed things for me. Because on the way home, the things rattling around my brain were things like:
"I can't wait to tell J and the boys what I did today while they were at the movies."
"I totally should have dragged ___________ along. (insert your name here).
"I hope Graham and Craig went home and said they were surprised to meet some suburban wife who walked with them for a while in the parade."
"I need to get out more."
But most of all, I hope that when I look back on today, I will see it as a starting point, when the challenge to "love not with words, but with actions and in truth…" began to be a daily reality in my life.