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day 13: standing on the side of love

February 14, 2011

In most areas of my life, I am intentionally apolitical.  I am not interested in debating hot-button issues with those who vehemently disagree with me.  Indeed, in today’s polarized political climate, it can be dangerous to disagree.  Claiming an opinion on certain charged issues is akin to diving down Alice’s rabbit hole headfirst, forever aligning yourself with one camp or another, never to hear the other “side” again. 

Who needs that alienation, I ask you?

Having said that, anyone who knows anything about me might guess my political leanings.  I’m a clinical social worker by profession.  I’m a vegetarian.  I’m a Unitarian Universalist.  I may not like to debate politics, but I try to put my life where my mouth isn’t, so to speak.  In trying to live my values I often fail, of course, but I do my best to, as the old Quaker saying urges, “Let (my) life speak.”

Still, it would be disingenuous of me not to write about Day 13’s gift, politicized though it may be.

Day 13 began with church, as Sundays do for us.  Sunday’s service was special in that it included both a baby dedication and, instead of a regular sermon, lay speakers delivering testimony on the subject of family.  Also, the service recognized National Standing on the Side of Love Day, February 14th.  

Standing on the Side of Love is a public advocacy campaign, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association, that seeks to challenge oppression of all kinds with, well, love.  According to the SSL website, “In public debates over immigration, LGBT rights, and more, religious people stand on the side of love and call for respect, inclusion, and compassion.”  The campaign was inspired by the 2008 shooting at a Knoxville UU church, a church which was evidently targeted due to its openness to LGBT people.  This shooting occurred when I was both 8 months pregnant with my second child and serving as a high school youth group leader.  The idea that my children — either those to whom I gave birth or those under my watch — could be harmed because of politics devastated me.  Come to think of it, that idea probably had something to do with my current reluctance to talk politics at all.

Back to the service, though.

After the baby dedication (a chubby munchkin in a white taffeta dress, flirting with the congregation and kicking her legs ), we heard from three lay speakers.  The first spoke about family as a father and husband who had found love again after the implosion of his first marriage.  The second was a mother of five who counts among her brood two adored foster children.  The third speaker was a woman I recognized from various children’s activities but did not know.  She began to tell her story quietly and articulately, her narrow face impassive as her hands gripped the pulpit.

“I stand before you alone,” she said, “because neither this state nor our nation recognizes me legally as a partner to my spouse or as a mother to my children.”

She went on to talk about how, regardless of her attendance at every prenatal appointment and every parent-teacher conference, she has no legal rights to her children as a result of not having given birth to them.  She shared how, seven years ago, she and her female partner went to great financial, legal, and emotional lengths to execute a second-parent adoption.  This past December, the North Carolina Supreme Court determined that second-parent adoption is no longer legal.

As a result, her children’s right to her health insurance coverage might be challenged.  If one of her children were to get sick, her right to make medical decisions for him or her might be challenged.  According to state and federal laws, this mother who has loved and supported her three children from the moment they were conceived is not actually their mother.

Can you imagine?

I listened to this speaker mere moments after having watched a baby dedicated to our congregation, her mother smiling as she fluffed the child’s sleeves and smoothed the skirt of her white dress.  I listened to her after ushering my own two children, raucous and beloved, into their Religious Education classes, where they would be taught that we are all children of God, all perfect, all beautiful.

Perfection, beauty, reason, compassion…  we count all of these among God’s innumerable gifts.

When the service ended, I wasn’t sure what to do.  My nature is introverted — I don’t ordinarily approach strangers without really good reason — but I felt compelled to talk to Speaker #3.  Exiting the sanctuary, I noticed that our lay speakers formed a receiving line where the ministers usually stand.  Approaching her, I had no idea what I was going to say.

“Thank you for your honesty,” I think I said, and I actually went in for a hug (totally counter to my nature, by the way, and I hope I didn’t terrify her).  I actually think she relaxed a little as she said, “Thank you.  I’m not sure how I got through that without crying.”

I don’t know whether or not Speaker #3 would agree, but my gift on Day 13 was reaching out to her.   I sincerely hope she was enveloped by support and love on Day 13, but — more importantly — I hope that someone who heard her story found his or her heart changed even a little.  I hope that, regardless of voting habits or news station preferences or ideologies, we all take a moment to imagine how it must feel to be denied the right to love.

Politics, schmolitics, I say.

The theme of Day 13, stripped down and distilled to its essence, was open-minded, open-hearted love.  If I have to stand on a side, please let that be it.

Here’s hoping your day is overflowing with love.  Thanks for showing up.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dawn permalink
    February 17, 2011 12:45 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful summary of Sunday’s service, and for reaching out to show your appreciation for the speaker. It couldn’t have been easy to share what she shared and it was nice of you to reach out to her.

    I’m enjoying your posts. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  2. Meg permalink
    February 22, 2011 11:57 am

    This was so poignant, Anne. It made me tear up to read the words that I feel like I am often at a loss to articulate. Like you, I prefer to opt out of political/religious hot button topics, but the next time I find myself engaged in one of these debates, I hope I can remember the wisdom and simplicity of your words. After all, God is love, and we are here through His grace. I’ve never understood why anyone would want to deny that simple truth. Keep writing, girl.xxoo.

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