A Photograph of me without me in it

A Photograph of me without me in it
A photograph of me without me in it

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Really Deep

When I was teaching junior high school students in American studies, one students asked me, "Why do  you always answer a question with a question?" I hadn't realized that I did this, and I asked the student, "Why do you think I do that?" She rolled her eyes and said, "See!" I laughed as though I were being clever, but really I was just doing what I apparently always did, answering a question with a question.

Today in church I noticed that I had internalized the WWJD (What would Jesus do) mantra of the time. Jesus responded to questions with questions, too.

In Luke 10, for example, an expert of the Law asks Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?" and Jesus answers, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" I've mostly heard that Jesus was clever at getting out of a trap, but really, he's just being a teacher, a really good one as he answers a question with not one but two questions.

Later the expert of the Law presses, "And just who is my neighbor?" Using another teaching technique that I also used, Jesus answered with a story (thus proving that he was indeed a Southerner) about a man who's hurt on the side of the road and two religious men who pass him by and the third, a Samaritan, who cares for him. A good teacher, Jesus follows his story with a question, "Which of these three, in your opinion, was the neighbor to the traveler who fell in with the robbers?"

Our pastor Karla picked up on the Southern theme as she reflected on another Biblical Southerner, the prophet Amos, who preached to the northerners, the Yankees of his time and place. "He was a brave Southern man preaching to a reluctant Northern crowd." (I'm pretty sure her message was that Southern hicks--her word, not mine--are Yankees' neighbors, too.)

In this reflection on "Who is my neighbor?" Karla was thinking especially about Salvadorans she met recently in Guarjila, a rural Salvadoran town with which our church has a sister relationship. In the reflection, she challenged us to think about who we see as our neighbors in this time when the gap between rich and poor is getting "deeper....wider." I usually hear that the gap is getting wider, but I appreciate this new image of the gap getting deeper. 

After all, I can walk easily across a wide field that separates me from my neighbor, but crossing a deep cravasse is harder to imagine. The image reminds me that crossing over that gap requires not just a little effort, but some tools and ways of thinking that I don't now possess. 

After the sermon and some prayers, we sang the hymn, "Help Us Accept Each Other," and I was particularly drawn to the line, "Teach us to care for people, for all, not just for some, to love them as we find them, or as they may become."

The line and Karla's reflection called to mind another group of people who I do not always recognize as my neighbor: the most down and out drug addicts whose lives are described in a book by a doctor who worked with a drug-addicted community in Vancouver, BC. (The book is In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and I recommend it if you're up for an intense non-fiction read.)

The doctor reflects on his role and the philosophy of the group with whom he works to serve the people he meets as they are, helping to ease their lives rather than trying to change them. As he tells some of their stories of physical and sexual abuse, of abandonment and violence, he asks who he is to judge them, to think that he knows a better way for them to deal with the trauma of their lives than drug use. 

Is there a better way? It's a good question. I also have a friend who was similarly abused and yet has overcome her alcoholism, and I think that she is more whole than the people about whom I am reading. Is it honoring them to let them live their lives as they do, or is it giving up on them? I'm not sure.

The question calls to mind for me Mother Theresa's comment, "If you want to work for the poor, live with the poor."

In choosing to work among this community of people living with addictions--many in addition to mental illness, PTSD, debilitating diseases like AIDS...--the good doctor has chosen to live among the people he serves...or at least to work among them; he actually lives in another neighborhood.

How can I judge anyone whose life I have not lived? It is too easy to say that I cannot, since I do judge adults, for example, who violate children. 

Perhaps the better question is, "Who is my neighbor?" If my neighbor is really among the least of these, and I believe my neighbor is, then there are too many of my neighbors in this world that I do not know, and thus their concerns are not as urgent to me as they would be otherwise. 

But I cannot know everyone's story, so what I am to do? That's the question I'll leave you with today. Maybe you'll respond. That would be great. Then maybe both you and I can learn something from this.

Teacher Mary

Monday, July 22, 2013

Telling Stories

This morning, my yoga teacher Dawn started class with a dharma talk as she always does. In dharma talks, the Samarya Center teachers connect stories from their lives to a guide for living in the first and second limbs of yoga.

This month's concept is svadhyaya, a Sanscrit word that means study of self and of religious texts. An English major in college and a Language Arts teacher for decades, I'm pretty good with studying religious texts. but because I can be remarkably unaware of myself, I engage especially with this niyama and with my teachers' stories.

Dawn's stories often involve her teenage children. I love these stories because I taught teenagers for so many years and loved to witness their ways of learning about themselves and their world and because Dawn is so earnest in her searching and so humble about her frustrations. 

In today's story, Dawn talked about wanting her son to play outside while he wanted to spend hours on the computer. She said, "I realize we are both telling ourselves stories that may have some truth in them..." and then she couldn't help but continue, "but I'm pretty sure most people would agree that my story is right."

Bless her heart. Like the rest of us, she is trying to hear her own story, but it's hard to listen without letting out egos, our insecurities...our humanness get in the way.

I love stories, my own and others'. Not because they tell me about truth in the world but because they tell of the struggle to find truth in the world--and in ourselves. 

I am writing a book with the working title, Sharing Our Stories. It is a book of interviews with people who have experienced life-changing health conditions and those in our lives.

 Hearing others' stories helps me understand that I am not alone in this quest to make sense of my life. My experience with a serious health condition, in my case brain tumors, is not unique, and others understand my perspective. These are my peeps.

 Last fall, I interviewed a Salvadoran doctor who had experienced Guillain BarrĂ©, an auto immune disease.  In this disease, one’s immune system is triggered by one of many things, such as a virus, immunizations, or bacteria. The immune system makes a mistake and starts to attack the person’s own peripheral nerves.  The illness starts in the toes or fingers, usually the toes, and moves up, including muscles in the chest so the person can’t breathe. Because the nerves aren’t working, the muscles don’t work, and if it’s not treated immediately, a person’s lungs can stop working and the person can die. With treatment, a person can recover almost completely. This doctor said that after a year he was 99% cured.

 In our interview, he said, “I suspect, Mary, that though you’re interviewing me, you have gained new avenues of exploration in your own life. A patient can become a victim in the face of adversity. I suppose that this whole process for you is about finding meaning in your own life.

“Like Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor and psychiatrist, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, we can’t avoid suffering, but we can find or create some meaning to survive it and even thrive.”
I think the good doctor’s partly right here. Only partly because I believe my life has meaning without me looking for it. I’m amazed by that meaning, and I want to celebrate with others.

I recently heard the story of a man going to a guru to ask what the meaning of life is. The guru replied, "Life. Life is the meaning of life." I get that. 

The doctor’s question of why I write interests me more than his answer. Last year, in an interview with a new friend who has experienced chronic fatigue related to Fibro Myalgia, my friend asked, “Why do you write?”
Her question got me to thinking again.

At a writers’ retreat two  years ago, a table of women explored a different question together: how do you stay diligent, writing regularly? These women seemed to be distracted from their writing, and writing for them was to some extent a chore that required due diligence. I told them that my struggle is to make sure I live out the other facets of my life: my struggle is, at times, to not write. (This is not a split infinitive, so put away your red pen. Not writing is a verb, an action verb, just as writing is.)
I learned at that lunch that my answer did not make me popular with the crowd, so I now keep this struggle to myself when I'm with other writers.

Still, writing for me is a kind of release and relief. It comes easily, like water from a tap. I feel compelled to write as I would feel compelled to breathe if I were drowning in water. Writing, for me, is like breathing under water.

Why? I think it’s because I have something to say and something to learn. I’m noticing a recurring theme in my writing: life after disease is not tragic, though many people seem to think it is. I am not heroic because I aim to live a full life with my disabilities and my awareness that another tumor could grow at any time. Some people think I’m inspiring, and I like for people to think I’m inspiring, but the truth is that I’m not exceptional.

That is what I have to say. What do I have to learn? I'm not sure, but I know it's really important. 
For my book, I’ve been interviewing others with life-changing health conditions and those in our lives. I want to publish a book of our stories, a book that I have wanted to read since I began healing from neurosurgery, and I was beginning to see that my life would change. I don’t really want advice. I want to hear people’s stories, so I am writing a book of stories.

As I interview people with life-changing health conditions, with breast cancer, diabetes, addictions, mental illnesses and so forth, I see that my peeps live meaningful lives.

As my neighbor who has stage IV metastatic breast cancer said, “The treatments have been hell, but I’ve found out who my friends are and how much community I have. So there have been gifts. And I’ve found out that I can get through anything.

“It makes me sad when I meet people who can’t see the gifts. I wish I could have gotten here without this, but where I am and who I am are good because of everything I’ve learned from the experience of having cancer.”

Those of us whose lives have been changed because of our health, live meaningful lives. That’s what I want anyone who’s diagnosed to know. That’s what I want everyone else to know.

Why do I want everyone to know this? Because most of us--facing health conditions or not--experience something we didn’t plan for as children, and though our paths change, we can live fully. In fact, perhaps many of us need  to veer from the journeys we had planned in order to live fully.

I want everyone to know the hope that I’m experiencing as my life keeps veering from my planned paths. I don’t want people to fear their lives unfolding. I want my writing to inspire hope. For me and everyone else. Maybe that’s why I write.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Before I married my husband (in my straight life), Sister Jen told my mom, “If he breaks her heart, I’ll kill him.” For years, I thought he had broken my heart. Though I was the one who left the marriage, he was the first one to fall out of love. It hurts my ego to admit that, but it’s true.

Recently, I have realized that I broke my own heart: I had been dedicated to the idea of myself as someone who would live a life like my mother’s, and when I walked away from that marriage I walked away from that vision of myself into a dark unknown.

This wasn’t the first time I had broken my own heart—in college I had ended a relationship with a fabulous fellow whom I thought would be my husband, but I just couldn’t marry him—for reasons that were altogether unclear to me.

When I left my husband, I established a pattern: I was not like my mom. If I was not like my mom even when I had the chance to be, who was I? Part of the answer was that I was a lesbian, an answer that was painful at the time but that I now know has been such a life-giving gift.

With my leavings, all I seemed to know of myself was in a whirl that wore me out. Dang, I was tired. Ooff. Air out of a tire tired. Body as a sack. Head like the clapper in a bell. Chest thud. Tired. That’s what I wrote in my journal at the time.

The first time I left someone I loved, I wailed. I lost a lot of weight. I had to hold myself back from hurting myself more seriously (though I was never suicidal, so I have not experienced that level of pain.) I ached. The only identity I held onto was my identity as a student.

The second time, the time of my divorce, I also wailed and ached and shed weight, but this time I never felt tempted to hurt myself. This time, the identity that I held onto was my identity as a public school teacher, but even as a teacher I could not achieve what seemed most important to me without wearing myself out. I had told myself that my students would receive the same education that my wealthier private school students in Dallas had received, though I now taught five classes of 35 students instead of four classes of 18 students. Again: Ooff. Air out of a tire tired.

I worked to lift my body and spirit to face the dark winter and this dark time in my soul, but I slipped into an emotional fog nonetheless. I made it through each day, and I think only Ann saw my struggles, (other than my students and colleagues who noticed how much weight I was losing), but at night I was so weary that I could not sleep. I still have the journal where I tried to process my grief. In that journal, I wrote a letter to God, an almost desperate prayer:

Are you there, God? It’s me, Mary. I feel bone-weary and soul-sad. Where does this depression come from?  If this sadness could talk, I can imagine what it might say, “I’m here because I’m always here, and I’m as old as time. I rock like an old woman endlessly knitting in her chair. Whatever you do or feel, I rock on. I am the pain of human suffering, caused by human cruelty or the whims of weather and tide. I am part of what it means to be.” I hear the sadness, God, but I don’t hear you. Where are you?

At the time, I read in le thi diem thuy’s novel The Gangster We Are All Looking For a poetic passage describing a dying school of fish, and I wondered if my sadness were like that school of fish just before it dies on shore—darting in the darkness, luminous in the shallow water with the moonlight creating a mesmerizing, melancholy beauty.

I felt the fish shifting in the sea of myself, knocking my ribs, tightening my throat, bumping and turning in a synchronous bounce from my stomach lining. I wondered if they if they would ever rest. I wondered what must die in me, what would turn its white belly to the moonlight from the sandy shore.

I talked to God, but I didn’t hear a response. I grew heavier and heavier. At work, I struggled. I loved teaching high school students, but the long nights and weekends, the parents and students, were too much. I was too weary.

I thought, “There must be another way,” and I left the job I loved, the identity I clung to. In the fall I hiked and biked on sunny days, and on rainy days I looked for another job.

I finally found a job with an online educational start-up that demanded little of me and paid me a generous salary, but that job didn’t embrace my heart as teaching had, so I left to become a national education reform consultant, working in schools with teachers and administrators who wanted to create better schools for poor students. Again, I was generously paid.

In that job, I became disillusioned with my ability to make a difference at this distance from students. When I read Mother Theresa’s statement, “If you want to work for the poor, you must live with the poor,” I decided to return to teaching, this time working with some of the poorest students in my region.

Like the Grinch’s heart which grew three sizes in one day, in my new school I felt my heart heal and grow. I was not making a difference at the structural level—I had given up on finding a way to do that—but I was making a difference for some (I wish I could say all) students in my classes and in my school.

Then, I had to leave my students again, this time before the end of the year because of a brain tumor diagnosis. Again, my heart broke, and I cried after surgery when my colleague Jill brought me get well letters from my students. I cried again when my colleague Alexandra brought me a video of students reading the personal essays that they had been writing when I left.

After learning to walk, if unsteadily, again, I returned to schools but not to my own classroom: I worked with teachers in poor schools who wanted to improve their teaching. Finally, I realized that I could no longer do this either, so I went to part time and then quit altogether and went on Social Security for people with Disabilities.

Strangely, in this long process of finally leaving education, I was not heart-broken. I was at peace, relieved, sometimes joyful and even ecstatic. I would no longer keep trying to do what I could not do. My heart began to heal, and I began to consider a new career where I could make a difference to people who are marginalized, this time as a therapist for people with life-changing health conditions.

I am now working, slowly, towards that career. I am taking a two-pronged approach: I am at the School of Social Work working towards an MSW, and I am writing two books, one about my life’s change after brain tumors (there was a second one), and one about other people’s experiences with life-changing health conditions. I crave hearing other stories that connect to my own, so perhaps others will appreciate these connections.

I felt guilty about recovering from my heartbreak and about leaving my career in education. I wrote about this in my last entry. Serendipitously, however, I am now reading Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy, and his book is helping me to see my own heartbreaks in a new way.

Though Parker Palmer has written a book about civic engagement in political life and not a self-help book, he argues, “The politics of our time is the ‘politics of the broken-hearted.’” I think I understand what it means to be broken-hearted.

He writes, “If you hold your knowledge of self and world whole-heartedly, your heart will at times get broken by loss, failure, defeat, betrayal, or death.”

“Yes,” I think, “You have my attention, Parker Palmer. You’re talking to me.”

He continues as if not interrupted: “What happens next in you and the world around you depends on how your heart breaks.”


“If it breaks apart into a thousand pieces, the result may be anger, depression, and disengagement.”

As someone who has three times experienced dark depressions, Parker Palmer must know what he’s talking about on an intellectual and on a visceral level.

He continues, “If it breaks open into greater capacities and contradictions of human experience, the result may be new life.”

Though there have been times when I have felt like Humpty Dumpty, whom the doctors could not put back together again, my heart and I are not shattered. I can wonder with Parker Palmer, “What shall I do with my suffering?”

Parker Palmer assures me, “The broken-open heart is a source of power as well as compassion—[it gives us] the power to bring down whatever diminishes us and raise up whatever serves us well.”

He notes how crucial is the “habit of the heart” called hope.”

Hope. Hmmm. When I was teaching at the end of my career, if you had asked me, “What is the most important lesson that you teach in your Language Arts classes?”, I would have answered, “Hope,” by which I would have meant a hope that is substantive and powerful, not a cotton candy hope that is sugary and does not sustain us but melts into nothingness.

I need this hope now.

Parker Palmer’s exposition gives me hope. He continues, “Some of what we must learn if democracy is to flourish comes only from “crossing over” into lives unlike our own, not fleeing from them in fear but entering into them in trust that an experience of ‘otherness’ can help our closed hearts break open.”

This sort of  “crossing over” had been the center point of my life: I have long loved teaching students whose lives and histories were so different than my own and have loved meeting people in El Salvador and other technologically developing countries whose lives and countries are so different than mine. Now I love hearing people’s stories and connecting with strangers as I ride the city bus. I love hearing the stories of those people I’m interviewing about their lives after a serious diagnosis of themselves or someone in their lives.

Though I am no longer teaching, I continue along this path, now more intent to share my own story than I was but for, and still intent on hearing and sharing others’ stories. As Parker Palmer (I know the convention is to use just his last name, but he feels closer to me than that, so I’m adopting the Southern convention of using two names)…Anyway, as Parker Palmer tells me, “We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, new life.”

I want to do that. I want to generate insight, energy, and new life!

Later in the book, he adds this assurance, “You go through a long underground passage of grief….But one day you emerge and discover that because of your devastating loss, your heart feels more grateful, alive, and loving.”

This is true for me and for most of the people with serious health conditions whom I have interviewed: we are more alive because we have grieved. Our hearts, like Robert Frost’s birches (a great poem to read, if you don’t know it), are bowed and not broken, or in Parker Palmer’s lexicon, are broken open and not apart.

Again, Parker Palmer has it right: “A heart that has been consistently exercised through conscious engagement with suffering is more likely to break open instead of apart. Such a heart has learned how to flex to hold tension in a way that expands its capacity for both suffering and joy.”

Thus, my brain tumors…as my separations years ago, my coming out as a lesbian, and my leaving a long career in education…have been gifts to me. I do not believe I am tying up my story with a bow when I say that these experiences of death in life have made me stronger. I don’t know what I’ll do with this broken heart, but I do believe that my heart has broken open and not shattered.

“What shall we do with our heartbreak so that it yields life, not death?” With Blues Traveler, I’ll sing an optimistic thought:

Life I embrace you,
I shall honor and disgrace you.
Please forgive if I replace you:
You see I'm going through some pain,
But now I see clearly,
And the dawn is coming nearly
And though I'm human and it's early,
I swear I'll never forget again.

Well, to tell the truth, I’ve forgotten before, and I will forget again. Again my heart will break, and again I will hunker down to tend to my broken heart. But I’ll emerge, as I am emerging now. I will engage with my life and the strangers who cross my paths. I will live, and my open heart will break again.

Perhaps that’s what it means to live.

Thanks Parker Palmer.

Mary Edwards

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Brown M&M Day

If energy is symbolized by M&Ms, which of course it is, then I awoke with very few M&Ms on Monday, and the ones I did have were brown. None of them were peanut. Just a few plain brown M&Ms.

My alarm awakened me at 8 am to go on a bike ride with Ann, but I just couldn't get up, so I reset the alarm for 8:30. Again, there was no way I could rise, so Ann suggested we just stay home today (bless her!), and I went back to sleep. At 11 am, I woke up a bit hungry, so I ate some breakfast (no yoga today) and went back to bed again. When I awoke again at 4 pm, I felt like my old self (and though my old self keeps getting older, I enjoy that self more than the one that keeps sleeping.)

Why was I so weary? At the Samarya Center where I do yoga, we are discussing Svadhyaya, often translated as "self-study," this month, and this niyama is not my strong point, so it takes me a lot of energy.

Perhaps I was svadhyaya-ing. I thought and I thought. (Sounds like a Dr. Seuss character.) The previous two days I had skipped my naps in an experiment to see if I could make it with less sleep, and perhaps that partially explained my weariness, but I decided to keep looking around in the cob-webby corners of my spirit to see if there might be another reason lurking there.

The previous day, Sunday, I had gone to church and then to my teachers' writing group (which I love), where I had gotten feedback on a piece I have written about leaving my career in education. The piece begins in tears but ends cheerfully.

These smart teacher-writers advised me on the piece. Edie said, "It doesn't have to end happily, to be tied up in a bow at the end. You could have mixed emotions," and Doug said, "The question is both what do you take with you and what must you leave behind."

In response to a different piece years ago, Sister Jen similarly said, "Your cheeriness is a little hard to believe."

So in those hours I spent sleeping the next day, I searched, and I searched. Am I really super-depressed and in denial? It seemed possible. I had worked in education for a fourth of a century and had finally found a job that met my spirit in a school that served a large number of students living in poverty, many of them immigrants from the world's poorest and most violent countries. My students were bright and often delightful. And then I had to leave for brain surgery.

After years teaching in different schools, working for an educational online company, and consulting for a national education reform organization, I had finally found work where I felt like I could meet the needs of at least some students and in this small way make the world a little more just, a little more peaceful.

And then, I had my first brain tumor and had to leave the classroom. When I went back, I worked as an instructional coach with teachers. And then, I had my second brain tumor and had to leave any career in education altogether.

But as I searched my spirit on Monday, I did not find a dark corner of hidden depression. I found joy in the fact that I was still living and could continue to work for social justice in a new field. That joy I have written about.

I also found a new emotion in response to leaving my career: relief. I am just being honest here. So yes, really.

I can't think of any U.S. career more important than a career aimed at educating youth, especially those living in poverty. (and, more truth-telling, especially the youngest ones.) Helping change the picture for young people living in poverty has been my life's mission so far. 

So why was I relieved to leave this career when there's clearly so much more to do? I thought and I thought. It's just so darn hard for me to see an answer in the socio-economic structure of our country, so it's hard for me to figure out how I could make a systemic difference. 

And if I can't do it, who can? After all, I was born to privileges, including the privilege of an excellent education. I should be able to make a difference or at least see how a difference could be made.

And if not me, Bill Gates even threw his smart people and his wealthy foundation into the project of improving America's high schools. His foundation focused on the small schools' movement. My partner Ann was a "coach" for schools trying to make this move, and I worked on the staff of a large school that divided into small schools, then worked in one of those small schools (which I loved.) His foundation gave up. 

But still, too much was too wrong for too many people living in poverty in this country, and I had thrown in the towel: I could make a small difference for some students in this one small school, but the larger system was still wrong. 

While working in this school, I tried to make peace with making a difference in this community. I adopted the mantra, "Do the right thing, even if doesn't make a difference." I read and re-read these words from Oscar Romero:

 It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
 The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
 of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
 saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
 day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
 knowing that they hold future promise.
 We lay foundations that will need further development.
 We provide yeast that produces effects 
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
 liberation in realizing this.
 This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
 It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
 a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
 grace to enter and do the rest.
 We may never see the end results, but that is the
 difference between the master builder and the worker.

I wanted to believe Oscar Romero's words, and to recognize myself as a worker and not the master builder, but I also heard and re-heard Marianne Williamson's words: 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

If indeed I had such power, why could I not figure out how to use it to make this country a more just place? The question pestered me and wore me out, so that even in my most successful venture, I felt overwhelmed by all that I could not do.

So, I think that’s the truth. No wonder I had to sleep all day. And no wonder it was in some sense a relief to leave the heavy burden of changing a giant system even as I left the joys of teaching.

Today, I’m rested and back to my more cheerful self. How do I integrate that new awareness? Do I give up on seeking socio-economic justice in my country?

No, I don’t think so, but somehow maybe with this new chance, this new career, I can find a more soulful and humble way to find peace in doing what I can.

I am getting, in some sense, a do-over. Or at least a new-do.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pride 2013

I celebrated the annual Pride parade with my peeps in Seattle yesterday. Ann and I went to the parade route an hour early with Rose, a long-time friend who was attending her first pride parade. I wore the tank top I bought at the 1995 parade with a triangle with the Space Needle in the center and Martin Luther King’s statement that “No one is free until we are all free.” I also wore a plastic tye-dyed peace sign as a pendent around my neck, a pendant that I found on the street after a march a couple of years ago. (What, you don’t get your jewelry on the street?)

We found a nice spot on the curb in the shade, and Rose treated us to tasty coffee cake from the Dahlia lounge while we waited for the parade to start. Rose seemed a little nervous that we might not be paying attention when the parade started, but I assured her that we would hear the roar of the crowds and the bikes when the Dykes on Bikes, the traditional openers to Seattle’s parade, approached.

We watched the parade from our curb, and when our church—Wallingford United Methodist Church—approached, we left the curb to join the march. The loudspeaker announced that our church has been hosting gay weddings for almost thirty years. A young man from the curb ran to the middle of our group to hug people and to say thank you. Our friends Pea and Ally and Ally’s kids were on the sideline, too, and Pea ran up for a bear hug.

It’s a feel good day, and this year was particularly celebratory with the falls of DOMA and Prop 8. I don’t know how many people were there to celebrate—thousands—but I only know of one who was there to condemn the group to hell. Used to be more. This person who was quoted in the paper saying that he only wanted to remind people of Christ’s forgiveness reminded me of the already famous text from Mike Huckabee on the day of the Supreme Court’s ruling: “Jesus wept.”

The verse that Huckabee uses for his own purposes, from John 11, is the shortest in the Bible and records Jesus’s response to the news that his friend Lazarus had died. More apt, and less out of context, might have been Matthew 22: 35-40:

35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Those of us who are GLBTQ and our supporters have so much to celebrate, but Jesus’s words and Martin Luther King’s words, “No one is free until we are all free,” remind us that there is still work to do:

As I celebrate this step forward, I remember GLBTQ people in the states who have not yet adopted gay marriage—or even worse, those in states that have passed constitutional amendments making those marriages illegal. I remember my trans brothers and sisters who have in many places not yet been accepted as healthy members of the human community. I remember people in prison who should not be spending so much of their lives behind bars. I remember immigrants to this country and refugees from so many countries torn by war. There are so many more to name and to remember.

Mike Huckabee’s foolish post, “Jesus Wept,” on the day that DOMA was overturned reminds me that people who coopt religious texts for their own purposes are a danger to freedom for too many people in this world.

My MSW professor Scott Winn at the beginning of second quarter said that his vision is to increase love in this world.

That’s my vision, too. To quote from John Lennon, another famous guy, “You may say I'm a dreamer, / But I'm not the only one. / I hope someday you'll join us, / And the world will live as one.”