What Do You Do?

Sometimes the bullying gets so bad I don't want to come to school. Sometimes the bullying is so bad in, well, life, that I wish I could just disappear.

Just last week I was asked to be a teaching artist of a program called Project Hero. Created by the brilliant Kate Meuth in association with Guild Hall of East Hampton and the Hampton's International Film Festival, Project Hero is a program designed for middle school students, in an effort to teach empathy and compassion. It's an effort to combat bullying in schools, after school, online, and well, life.

It was beautiful...and it broke my heart.

There's an exercise that's part of the curriculum that asks the students to name words/phrases that they have been called that make them feel bad.

....it broke my heart.

Bitch. Fucker. Slut. You're a disgusting. Ugly. You're a mistake. N*gger. Go away, nobody cares about what you have to say. Stupid. Go kill yourself. You're not wanted here. Dumb. Nerd. Bitchy Latina. White trash. Retarded.

...it broke my heart.

What do you say to the faces of 20 twelve-year olds who want to know why people are mean? What do you say to the faces of 20 twelve-year olds who don't understand why their classmates keep picking on them? What do you say to the faces of 20 twelve-year olds who want to know if it gets better - do people get kinder with age? Do people mind their own business as they grow up?

What do you say?

I want to say yes, but I don't want to lie to them either. 'Cause the adults of the world, well, we seem to be dropping the ball quite a bit lately.

At one point in the workshop, unprompted, two students came forward and apologized for being purposely hurtful to some of their classmates.

We were wrong. We're sorry. We see how much we hurt you, and we didn't mean for that to happen.

We were wrong. We are sorry. We didn't mean to hurt you. They are 12 and they were able to come to that conclusion. Twelve.

I asked them for their reflections about the workshop at the end of the last class.

What's the biggest thing you'll take away with you? What about these three days you will carry with you as the summer starts and the new school year comes?

One student said - I realize that there is more to all of us than meets the eye. I need to listen more.

My. Goodness. I hope that mindset stays with them throughout each and every one of their lifetimes.

...

After the conference I headed right to a wedding in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Love radiated the entire weekend. Love between this new husband and wife. Love between friends. Love between newlyweds. Love between new friends. Love between old friends. Love between parents and children. Love between men and women. Love between women and women. Love between men and men.

It was a wedding. Love hung in the air like a sweet fog.

It was infectious.

It was beautiful.

This couple, well, they chose to share the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality as part of their ceremony.

That's how they started their wedding ceremony, their start to being husband and wife.

And it was beautiful.

And it was perfect.

'Cause at the heart of that ruling was nothing about biology and or sex - it was just about love. Cause love is love is love is love.

And love is beautiful.

And love should be celebrated.

And love should be shouted from he rooftops.

So, we cheered for our friends. And cried the happy tears. And ate food, and cut cake and danced the night away.

The next morning I read about Orlando.

Good God. It seemed like a bad dream. It didn't seem real. You read things like that, and think - please let this be some Onion article. Please let this not be real. This cannot be real, can it?

Real. All too real.

And I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around the whole thing. Why? Why does this happen?

It's 2016 - are we not past homophobia? I don't get it.

I don't get it, because some of my most favorite people on the planet are part of the LGBTQ community. They have been my shoulder to cry on for more than one occasion. They have been my cheerleaders, my rocks of support on just as many occasions. They have been my collaborators. My confidantes. My friends. My family.

To know them is to love them. I couldn't imagine if anyone ever hurt them because of whom they choose to love. 

What happened in Orlando is horrible. It's disgusting. It breaks my heart. It makes me sick.

When the Founding Father's were scripting our Constitution, I think it's safe to say they never wanted the people of this country to go carry AK-47s. That seems rather excessive, doesn't it?

So yes, some sort of gun reform laws are needed. 'Cause what we're doing right now, well, it's not working. Schools. Churches. Theaters. Nightclubs. What's next? A hospital? Let's stop the madness, shall we?

Cause really, what if that were your son? Your daughter? Your husband? Your wife? Your brother? Your sister? Your friend?

What would you do?

But, gun control laws aside, we need to do more for one another. Because somewhere along the line this bastard in Orlando got it in his head that KILLING PEOPLE WAS AN ANSWER TO EASE HIS DISCOMFORT.

And that cannot be ok. That cannot be the answer. The fact that such actions seem to be commonplace is a problem, people.

What happened in Orlando is about guns. I mean, the vile creature who did this had an AK-47 for pete's sake.

But the tragedy that transpired in Orlando is the culmination of an intolerance and irrational anger that has seeped into every facet of our country, at every level, silencing what should be coherent and respectful conversations and debate.

You will not be a friend to everyone you meet. You will not agree with every person that comes across your path - and that is ok. You will have different beliefs and opinions and philosophies than others, and that is ok.

But all people should be able to feel safe.

All people should be able to feel safe.

How many times do we have to write that and yell that and say that for it to become true? 

All people should be able to feel safe.

To my LGBTQ friends, perhaps I don't say this enough: I love you all. I support you all. I stand with you all.