Our words carry weight, with messages both subtle and obvious. People are listening, often paying close attention, whether you know it or not.
Some choose to hide behind a message of hate, tossing off words without a care in the world who gets harmed in the process. It’s sad that all that’s being asked is tolerance; that’s not even acceptance. It’s merely the absolute least that can be provided – “yes, I tolerate you.”
There is, however, another choice.
Last week, the Georgetown News-Graphic published a column I wrote in response to a married couple’s letters to the editor bemoaning the fact that same-sex couples now share that same right to marry. The response, fortunately, was overwhelmingly positive, with friends and strangers alike sharing the love.
One, though, stood out, and it’s with the family’s permission that I share this story:
On Thursday morning, a friend messaged me to tell me she had read the column to her daughter. They couldn’t get through it without crying.
Her daughter, an adult woman who should by all accounts be able to live her life free to be herself, is a lesbian. The daughter has always been pretty open about her relationship with her girlfriend, and when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, both mother and daughter expected it to be a time of joy.
It was short-lived.
Working in the public eye, the daughter has been told several cruel and hateful comments, some directed at her, some at the LGBTQ community in general. It has been overwhelming.
On Sunday, the daughter tried to kill herself.
At some point this week, while her daughter was recovering, my friend read my column.
And then she read it to her daughter, leading to the aforementioned crying.
“Hearing your words and seeing there are people (other than her mother) willing to speak up for her right to love who she wants made her remember not everyone is a close-minded asshole,” my friend wrote me.
Those who shared it on Facebook and left comments also played a role.
“She loved seeing all the positive comments,” my friend wrote. “There are a lot of understanding and open-minded people out there, but sometimes that’s hard to remember when you’re hearing so much negativity.
“Seeing her cry and smile and then want to read it again herself meant so much after the pain she’s been going through.”
Nothing I say right now can adequately express my gratitude to my friend for sharing that with me. While I was proud of what I wrote in that column, nothing in even my giant ego had me anticipating a reaction remotely close to this.
To my friend, thank you, thank you, thank you.
To my friend’s daughter (and to others out there struggling with who they are), there are people in this world who do not know you but who already love you. The messengers of hate are out there, and their words are sharp, but please be strong and remember this: you are not alone (if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I beg you to please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255).
One of my favorite songwriters, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, wrote this song for legendary singer Mavis Staples. I share it often, and today it’s as important as ever:
You’re not alone, every night
I stand in your place
Every tear on every face
Tastes the same
An open hand, an open heart
There’s no need to be afraid
Open up this is a raid
I wanna get it through to you
You’re not alone
That’s it in a nutshell, words to live by: I wanna get it through to you, you’re not alone.
And one more thing: Love wins.