Friday I went to the zoo. I went to see what it had to offer: animals that swim, creep, slither, walk, run, fly; animals with horns, feathers, fur, spots, stripes, bright colors, dull colors that camouflage; animals that bray, crow, call, and animals that are entirely mute. They are only a few of the millions of series on planet Earth.
I especially loved the unusual ones like the black swan. I’ve seen many swans many times before, living on lakes and bogs throughout the northeast, but never a black one. I imagine this swan knew he was being observed as he preened and fluffed his feathers in preparation for his swim across the pond. He looked so regal.
In truth, I had come as much to people watch as to observe the exhibition. Like many of you, I’ve been missing the ordinary. I have miss seeing children and their parents at work and play. So I loved watching them move eagerly from one exhibit to the next, Identifying animals they’d seen in books, and I loved observing them on the playground.
I stopped on the way back to the valley to spend some time beside Jordan Creek. I just wasn’t quite ready to ford the creek in my car and say goodbye to the day. So I sat in the shade for a while and read a book, just feeding my soul. Again I was aware of the families at play. There were many, so many more this year than I’d seen there in years past. They too were taking advantage of the cool refreshment of a mountain stream, a shady place on a hot afternoon and the freedom of being unrestrained, unmasked in the out of doors, fresh air and open spaces.
I had chosen a spot a bit removed from most. Still, there was one family nearby, a mom and two children. A girl, about 11 played in the creek, wading and splashing, standing, sitting, and even lying among the rocks to get the maximum benefit of the cooling waters. On the shore her brother called to her and gestured his joy in watching her play. His call non-verbal as the 9 year old had difficulty with speech. He uttered but a single unrecognizable syllable as greeting to her. Their mom sat nearby, offering simple clear directions to her son to keep him safe considering as his awkward movements posed a hazard if he ventured into the mud and rocks of the creek.
What was remarkable was the communication between the three: mom offering gentle guidance to the son while allowing as much freedom as seemed wise. She responded to his every move with just enough instruction while observing his response to what was going on around him. She noted his joy at the sights and sounds of nature, his attention captured by the cry of an owl in the distance and other birds chirping nearby. Occasionally mom rose from her bench to offer a firmer caution and a hand to bring her son back to the grass, all the while shouting words of encouragement as her daughter laughed and played in the water. I was struck at how she was so perfectly attuned to the differing needs of each of her children.
As they prepared to go, it was clear the children demonstrated as much care for each other as mom had for them. As they came near, I greeted them, and commented on their closeness and care for each other, and I named the challenge of parenting a neuro-diverse child and the special gifts that close attention affords in forming family bonds. Mom was touched and grateful. I introduced myself as a pastor telling her I’d like to share a bit of her story in my sermon. I felt honored to be in the presence of the holy
Later in the evening, I read a story a friend had posted Medium. A close cousin of blogs, Medium is an internet tool that allows people to publish their thoughts, observations, and expertise without the benefit of a magazine or newspaper. Medium organizes essays by categories of interest and subscribers receive a daily or weekly summary of new postings they may find interesting based on their stated interests. Perhaps it would be helpful to think of it as a local newspaper but with a wider audience, or a special interest magazine but not bound by geography.
My friend told the story of parenting her daughter recounting the ordinary joys and challenges of infants and toddlers; the joys of discovery, creativity, and friendships; and then the anxiety and depression that came with adolescence. There were counseling sessions and her daughter’s eventual courage in saying the words that had caused so much anxiety, “ ‘Mom, I’m gay.’ …she hated being a disappointment to her Catholic parents.” In that moment, my friend says, all else faded into the background. She said, “I love you unconditionally, and want you to be happy.” Those ten simple words have seen them through all the soul-searching and conversations that followed “I love you unconditionally, and want you to be happy.” That’s all they needed.
My friends, June is Pride month. It is recognized by LGBT folk and their allies as a time to affirm the humanity and the rights of those whose sexual orientation and gender identity are at variance from the simple binary heterosexual definitions that have been in place and favored for so long.
We have learned a lot about anatomical variations and about the effects of genetics and genetic mutations, of chemical balance and variations thereof, of hormones and the prenatal environment as influences of the reality and lived experience of gender and sexual attraction. Jesus spoke many times about loving our neighbors, all of them. The UCC is fond of saying We welcome everyone. Do we really mean it? Would we say it aloud? We welcome you if you are gay, bisexual, transgender,… or some other variation of sexuality, if you are same gender loving and married, even with children…?
I invite us all to think about that this Pride month I have a t shirt. I’m not generally inclined to be so informal as to wear one in church, but I brought it to show you today. Here goes…….. It says, Love is love is love is love is love is love! or as they say in the south, Y’all means all. Amen.
Laurel Wenson, Medium, Not sure what to say if your child comes out to you? https://dizzylaurel1.medium.com/not-sure-what-to-say-if-your-child-comes-out-to-you-5ca33b18dcbd