An open letter to my gay and Muslim friends in light of Orlando:

For once I had a post ready for this week. I even thought I had a photo. Reflecting on Orlando is more important. I want you to know I’m thinking of you and I’m thinking of why I’m thinking about you.

When I was taking one of my writing composition courses in college I remember one of my professors teaching. She said to root your writing in details. In communicating specifics of our own experience we allow others with different experiences to connect with us. I remember thinking for heaven sakes no one cares what type of tea I was drinking, or what color dress I was wearing, or even what year it was when I wrote this. Then I read other people’s work. Time and time again I cared about the details. I still remember stories I thought were of no interest to me. A person so unlike me, a writing style I didn’t particularly care for, a subject I didn’t think I wanted to know about. Time and time again when they showed me their world I always fell in. I started to know them. I started to appreciate what they cared about.  There are days when I don’t remember breakfast, but 13 maybe 15 years later I remember their stories: A boy’s vacation to Barefoot Landing ruined by a fire alarm, a girl’s mathematical learning disorder the college dean dismissed… I carry their stories in me.

I encourage you: tell your stories. Throughout all of time in the human existence that is all that has ever mattered.  When you think about the bones of the story of human life they are always the same: we are born, we grow, we die. That’s it. That’s all there ever is. The rest is just details. The heart of us is details.

I am a broad strokes kind of girl, which I supposed it is why I am thinking of you all. Though it’s your story, the bones of it are like mine. It’s not ok to me that either of you feel unsafe to be gay or to be Muslim. Like many Americans I come from immigrants. They were Germans in America during the world wars, how unfortunate I suppose. There was hate for them too I know.

I admit, I ask myself why there was a shooting in Orlando.  You already know you are not the first to be persecuted in mass shootings or public distrust. Maybe the fact that it happened (s) after all of the suffering humans have already seen makes it feel crueler. I worry about the questions you’re asking yourself.  How could it still happen? Why to you, to someone like you? Do you deserve it?

I don’t know the details of why.  I believe if it could happen to someone like you it could also happen to someone like me.  You don’t deserve it. No one deserves it.

In our time, we focus on the wrong details.  We identify differences and we evaluate the threat they pose us.  We concentrate on how to catch, punish, or shame someone who has done, or might do, something we perceive to be wrong.

You might want to withdraw from this crazy world- let it work itself out- I know I sometimes do. I want to remove myself from the world’s dysfunction. Focus on something small, something beautiful: my kids, a flower, the way the sun sets, a bowl of ice cream. Please don’t. Focus out. Live your story and tell it.

I believe we can shift what’s out of focus. We can change the experiences that created someone with so much hate. Our interactions with others; our choice for kindness; our search to understand, to hear, to honor others, our example is a victory and a protection. It’s the world we can leave even if it isn’t the one we live in.


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