Gay Pride Then and Now

Gay Pride Then and Now

This line, which can be useful every day, is from American poet and painter, e.e. cummings:
Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love if the stars walk backward.

The 1990s were some of the years when I learned most about loving relationship. We lived in Denver,
Colorado and then Scottsdale, Arizona.

Early on, my hairdresser, who was friends with ‘ puppeteer’ Jim Hensen, suggested that I volunteer
with Colorado AIDS Project, a dynamic local organization that helped people living with HIV/AIDS join in
community with people living with the same disease and also with people who wanted to walk with
them. I was a volunteer who gave support to the volunteers who were ‘buddies’ to people who wanted
a ‘buddy.’ As a new volunteer, I filled out the same questionnaire everyone did. I noticed that, like
most people there that day, I had left behind community and was seeking a place of respect where
participating in loving relationship might be possible. We all knew that we would be sharing in the
suffering of others and also our own suffering. It was a community.

My experience with those volunteers and the people they were walking beside was extremely powerful
for me. I witnessed depth of love, bravery, faithfulness, kindness, respect and hope which I will
remember always. At the same time I was involved with Colorado AIDS Project, I was volunteering
through the Methodist Church teaching ‘English as a Second Language’ to legal and illegal Spanish
speakers. My experience with Colorado AIDS project was opening my heart and mind to a larger
understanding of freedom and loving participation in suffering. I was with people I could care about.
Another experience of witnessing loving relationship in Denver was my friendship with Sister Mary Luke
Tobin, one of Denver’s beloved and well known people. She had been the only American woman invited
to attend VaticanTwo. My spiritual director in Toronto had asked her to meet me.

We became very good friends. Age and status were not considerations at all. She was in her 80’s and
90’s when I knew her and I was able to witness the way she was always fully present to every person
she met. She was vulnerable to who they were. It was disarming for people. She asked me to drive her
to events at which she was speaking and to meetings with other people active in the Peace Movement
or other activities she was involved with. (She laughed when she confessed to me that she liked me to
drive her because some of the other people who wanted to drive her were not good drivers.)

Mary Luke was a very effective story teller. I wrote a poem telling of her sharing a story with me about a
priest who had died that week in Denver and another priest who had been sent out from the east to be
with the dying man through a time of suffering until the end of his life. It is a story of coming to
consciousness about what largeness love is. I hope you enjoy it.

Travelling with Sister Mary Luke Tobin,’ Poems for the Journey, p.1
Also, I remember that great song, ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’?’ It is a good song to sing.

Memorial Day Weekend in Colorado at 9000 feet

Memorial Day Weekend in Colorado at 9000 feet

We were in Buena Vista over Memorial Day Weekend on the first warm day of the year as a party of six –

– four senior adult people, two couples, and our friends’ two dogs. The older dog was a senior chocolate
lab and the other a young black lab and pointer mix. We were all respectfully friendly with the young
and older hikers we met on the trails. They were all extraordinarily outgoing and welcoming to us. It
was remarkable to me, a Canadian living in British Columbia. I admired the outgoing energy of these
beautiful people in their late afternoon activity.

When we all reached the parking lot below, a boy of 8 or 9 was standing near our vehicle holding a
white and red toy assault weapon. He was watching us. He wore an unattractive grin on his face. We
saw the boy raise his plastic AR-15 toy to his shoulder. He fired at the adults first – streams of red light
which landed on us one after the other in a rush. Then he shot the dogs.

I looked around to see if there was a second toy shooter in sight. If there was a second shooter I
couldn’t see him. Perhaps his brother was out of sight. I saw a group of people who might have been
the boy’s parents. I thought of going and speaking with them but instantly knew that would not be the
appropriate thing to do.

Instead, I am writing this piece and thinking of how like the 18 or 19 year old shooters of real AR-15
grown ups’ assault weapons we see in TV footage these days move like this 8 or 9 year old boy.

Auden’s tribute to Herman Melville says:
Evil is unspectacular and always human,
and shares our bed and eats at our table.

I hope that the boy we saw that sunny day will have some experience which will make him want to
work towards peace. I hope he meets people with fire in their hearts about peace. Perhaps peace will
come to him on the wind in the mystery of love.
See my poem titled ‘Peace’ in English and ‘Paz’ in Spanish on pages 80 and 81 in Poems~Poemas.