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Poem: Sister, Sister II

My sister is forty-one; three years my junior. She’s about six months clean. I don’t know exactly when she began doing drugs, but around the age of twenty-four, she essentially stopped living her life. She lost, or gave up, her job, her apartment and her car and allowed her “boyfriend” to pimp her out. For the last seventeen years or so she has experienced horrors I can’t listen to without cringing, crying or asking her to share with less detail when she needs to talk.

Our brother died in July 2007. His funeral was the last time my sister and I saw each other until July 2018. She avoided me for eleven years. Whatever her reasons, no rejection has ever hurt more. Most of those absent years she called me on my birthday to let me know she was still alive. Quite honestly, her voice was the best present every time. I would also get calls when she was in hospital or jail and forced to get clean for a while. Answered prayers. One year she moved out of state with a john and was clean for almost a year. She called almost monthly then. Until he grew tired and bought her a ticket to return her to the hell he pulled her out of. I tried frantically to reroute her ticket to me, but she didn’t want me. She wanted the comfort of the hell that was the only love she was willing to accept.

A couple more years passed.

In July 2018, I returned home for a visit after many years away. I reached out to my sister through the grapevine – her network of friends and contacts who knew where and when to look for her. She agreed to see me. She stayed with me for about a day, sleeping through most of the visit. She slept in the car, on our cousins sofa during a condolence visit, in the car again and through the night. We didn’t have much time to talk between the visits and the sleep, but I made sure to remind her that wherever I am she is welcome. I told her what I wanted most for her was for her to love herself as much as she loved the man holding her in bondage, because then she would no longer accept the things she’s been accepting for her life. I told her she could return home with me that weekend. She had only to say the word. Instead she said she wanted to go back home to the drug house she was living in, to the man who had lured her into that life.

Earlier this year she entered rehab. She has a new boyfriend who encouraged her to do for herself. She wants to please him so she committed to rehab. However, she says she completed rehab for herself. The new guy also encouraged her to visit me. She stalled and bounced around for a few weeks after rehab, ending up back in the hell she now wanted to stay out of but didn’t know how to live without that man and all the familiar demons within sight. Then I got ill. Gravely ill. I called to tell her I was taking myself to the hospital and didn’t know how long I would be there. In my head, I was articulate, but apparently I was barely speaking. She began sobbing uncontrollably, saying “Shawnda, what’s wrong? I can’t understand you!” I was trying to give her instructions on what to do if I didn’t make it – sell the house, keep the profit, etc. I may have even said, “I’m letting go.” Or maybe she heard the distance in my voice. She started calling out repeatedly, “Shawnda, I’m coming! I’m coming!”

It sounded nice, but I didn’t believe her.

I’m grateful God doesn’t limit our blessings to our ability to believe.

My sister arrived the day after I was released from the hospital in July 2020. She hasn’t been in a home of mine in over fifteen years. It feels slightly surreal but mostly it feels like a lesson on hope, waiting and not letting go.

Kim is here. Answered prayer. New challenges. Renewed hope.

 

Sister, Sister II

I have loved you more

Consistently and unconditionally

Than any other living being,

Except for mom.

I have left myself open

Remained available

Laid myself bare

For your convenience

And possible comfort

Should you ever choose

To love yourself more

Than the abuse of men

And begin to value your

Life beyond your next high

I’ve been waiting

Months years decades

A lifetime now

For my sister to come home.

6/24/20

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Film: A Dream for Christmas (1973)

On Christmas day I watched a lovely movie about new opportunities, hope and perseverance. A Dream for Christmas was made in 1973 but is set in 1950. It should be on a classic Christmas movie rotation every year, but it’s not. I had never seen it nor heard of it before and I think that’s a shame since it’s a really good story about a family working together through change and challenges. It’s a slice of life and a looking glass into an every day poor African-American experience pre-Civil Rights Movement. Very intriguing. Very warm. Very well done.

a-dream-for-christmas-black-holiday-moviesA Dream for Christmas is a story about Reverend Will Douglas and his family moving from rural Arkansas in 1950 to Los Angeles to pastor a church. Unbeknownst to the Reverend Douglas, his new church is scheduled to be demolished with the rest of the block by a developer intent on building a shopping mall. Familiar story, isn’t it? Yes, this is also a very modern story of overcoming money and opposition with hope and faith while working towards a goal.

Treat yourself, your family and your friends – watch and share.

A Dream for Christmas
(1973, starring Hari Rhodes, Beah Richards, Lynn Hamilton)

The picture on this link is clearer: https://youtu.be/0wLZ1ZPlOrY

New York Times Review: http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/14754/A-Dream-for-Christmas/overview

 

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A Christ Message for Every Day

Over time, receiving little to nothing in response to my giving and openness has led to a distancing of my heart from the giving and services I offer. The below series of emails has cracked the shield around my heart today. It has warmed the coldness that sits like a bottomless pit in my chest.

I fully and thankfully receive the Christ in the call, the message and the process. And I humbly submit to you to consider giving where your gift(s) will make the most difference. What may be a small consideration for you, may impact another’s life greatly. In this process and cycle of giving and receiving, both parties experience God’s abundant supply.

Be blessed as you go, and in all you do, be sure to be a blessing.

Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2015 5:12 PM
Subject: Giving Opportunity from the Homeless Clinic
Dear Volunteers,
The Homeless Clinic (HC) is seeking a one-time donation for our formerly homeless client to be able to buy a Christmas present for her severely autistic son. Our client lost her mother in November. Not only is she devastated because her mother was a major source of emotional support, but our client used her very limited savings and borrowed money to pay for her mother’s funeral. Now she is without funds to pay for a Christmas present for her son.
If you would like to make a small, one-time dollar donation (no donation is too small) for this HC client before the end of Monday, December 21st, please respond to this email. Funds raised are not tax deductible and will be given to this client on a gift card. As always, we thank you for all you do on behalf of our homeless clients. Happy holidays.
Most sincerely, Program Coordinator
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2015 6:55 PM
Subject: RE: Giving Opportunity from the Homeless Clinic
Hi, I can make a donation. Do you want PayPal, cash, check or card? I can do $50 so she can have something left over hopefully.
Happy holidays and all the best, A Volunteer
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2015 9:53 AM
Subject: RE: Giving Opportunity from the Legal Clinic for the Homeless
Hi LaShawnda,
Thank you so much for your kind generosity. Please either drop off or mail a check. We appreciate all you do for our clients. Happy holidays to you and yours.
Program Coordinator
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2015 9:59 AM
Subject: Thank You from the Homeless Clinic
Due to the fantastic response from our wonderful HC volunteers, we are no longer accepting donations. Thank you to all who responded to help make this Christmas season special for this HC client and her son. We appreciate all that you do for our clients. Have a restful holiday season.
Kind regards, Program Coordinator
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 11:18 AM
Subject: Thank you!
Dear Ms. Jones,
It is such a pleasure to know that you took time out of your schedule to think about [my son] and I in our time of grief during this holiday season.
We are both struggling with the passing of my mother, and when I was informed by the Homeless Clinic that we were chosen for a special wish list to get us back on our feet I was overwhelmed with Joy. [They] pushed for overnight passes when we were in shelter so that my son could be with his Grandma due to their close bond. [My son] is devastated by her passing, and I know he will need some sensory items to keep him busy. God Bless you because you are a true Angel. Our Christmas will be difficult without Grandma, but it will be so much better. Thank You from the bottom of my heart, you are a life changer.
All the best, The Client
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 11:39 AM
Subject: RE: Thank you!
Dear Client,
My deepest condolences to you and your son during your time of grief and hardship. The kindness and thoughtfulness of your note has brought me to tears and has a great effect on my heart. So many take so much for granted that my giving has become somewhat grudging. That is not a space I ever want my heart to be in. Thank you for responding so generously. It means a great deal to me.
May you find comfort in your storm. May your heart be at peace in your valley. May you and your son never be without the knowledge and awareness of your mother’s deep love for you and the everlasting love our Heavenly Father has for you both. May you be forever blessed wherever you go, even in the darkness of all your nights.
With love and grace, A Volunteer

“These things did not really come from me and my people.
    Everything comes from You;
    we have given You back what You gave us.
We are like foreigners and strangers,
    as our ancestors were.
Our time on earth is like a shadow.
    There is no hope.
Lord our God, we have gathered all this
    to build your Temple for worship to You.
But everything has come from You;
    everything belongs to You.
I know, my God, that You test people’s hearts.
    You are happy when people do what is right.
I was happy to give all these things,
    and I gave with an honest heart.
Your people gathered here are happy to give to You,
    and I rejoice to see their giving.
Lord, You are the God of our ancestors,
    the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Make Your people want to serve You always,
    and make them want to obey You.
Give my son Solomon a desire to serve You.
    Help him always obey Your commands, laws, and rules.
Help him build the Temple
    for which I have prepared.”

~ 1 Chronicles 29:14-19

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Thoughts On Faith and Prayer: BEAUTY FOR ASHES

by Pastor Carter Conlon

Listen here: Beauty for Ashes

(9min 31sec)

Reference verses

Isaiah 61:1-4

The Lord’s Message of Freedom

The Lord God has put his Spirit in me,
because the Lord has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken,
to tell the captives they are free,
and to tell the prisoners they are released.
He has sent me to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness
and the time when our God will punish evil people.
He has sent me to comfort all those who are sad
and to help the sorrowing people of Jerusalem.
I will give them a crown to replace their ashes,
and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow,
and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness.
Then they will be called Trees of Goodness,
trees planted by the Lord to show His greatness.

They will rebuild the old ruins
and restore the places destroyed long ago.
They will repair the ruined cities
that were destroyed for so long.

Luke 4:20-27

Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the assistant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue was watching Jesus closely. He began to say to them, “While you heard these words just now, they were coming true!”

All the people spoke well of Jesus and were amazed at the words of grace he spoke. They asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Jesus said to them, “I know that you will tell me the old saying: ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ You want to say, ‘We heard about the things you did in Capernaum. Do those things here in your own town!’” Then Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. But I tell you the truth, there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah. It did not rain in Israel for three and one-half years, and there was no food anywhere in the whole country. But Elijah was sent to none of those widows, only to a widow in Zarephath, a town in Sidon. And there were many with skin diseases living in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha. But none of them were healed, only Naaman, who was from the country of Syria.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

Then if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, if they will pray and seek me and stop their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land. 

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ACAD – Blessings: Genesis 49

Jacob Blesses His Sons

Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.

Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
    listen to Israel your father.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
    preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
    because you went up to your father’s bed;
    then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!

“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
    weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
    O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
    and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
    and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
    and scatter them in Israel.

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
    your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub;
    from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
    and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;[a]
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
    and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
    and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
    and his teeth whiter than milk.

“Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
    he shall become a haven for ships,
    and his border shall be at Sidon.

“Issachar is a strong donkey,
    crouching between the sheepfolds.[b]
He saw that a resting place was good,
    and that the land was pleasant,
so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
    and became a servant at forced labor.

“Dan shall judge his people
    as one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
    a viper by the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
    so that his rider falls backward.
I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

“Raiders shall raid Gad,[c]
    but he shall raid at their heels.

“Asher’s food shall be rich,
    and he shall yield royal delicacies.

“Naphtali is a doe let loose
    that bears beautiful fawns.[d]

“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    a fruitful bough by a spring;
    his branches run over the wall.[e]
The archers bitterly attacked him,
    shot at him, and harassed him severely,
yet his bow remained unmoved;
    his arms[f] were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
    (from there is the Shepherd,[g] the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
    by the Almighty[h] who will bless you
    with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
The blessings of your father
    are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
    up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.[i]
May they be on the head of Joseph,
    and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
    in the morning devouring the prey
    and at evening dividing the spoil.”

Jacob’s Death and Burial

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah— the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 49:10 By a slight revocalization; a slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Targum) until he comes to whom it belongs; Hebrew until Shiloh comes, or until he comes to Shiloh
  2. Genesis 49:14 Or between its saddlebags
  3. Genesis 49:19 Gad sounds like the Hebrew for raiders and raid
  4. Genesis 49:21 Or he gives beautiful words, or that bears fawns of the fold
  5. Genesis 49:22 Or Joseph is a wild donkey, a wild donkey beside a spring, his wild colts beside the wall
  6. Genesis 49:24 Hebrew the arms of his hands
  7. Genesis 49:24 Or by the name of the Shepherd
  8. Genesis 49:25 Hebrew Shaddai
  9. Genesis 49:26 A slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint) the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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ACAD – Praise: Romans 15

The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,  and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
    and sing to your name.”

And again it is said,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples extol him.”

And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers,[a] that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God  to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience — by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God — so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,
    and those who have never heard will understand.”

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, andsince I have longed for many years to come to you,  I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected,[b] I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing[c] of Christ.

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,  that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 15:14 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 30
  2. Romans 15:28 Greek sealed to them this fruit
  3. Romans 15:29 Some manuscripts insert of the gospel
English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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A Chapter a Day: 1 Peter 1

1 Peter 1ESV

Greeting

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Born Again to a Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy,he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Called to Be Holy

Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[a] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written,“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Peter 1:13 Greek girding up the loins of your mind
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…and hope does not put us to shame…

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  ~ Romans 5:1-5, ESV

Early in my faith walk, Romans 5:1-5 was a passage that spurred me on daily. It translated into a simple encouragement that strengthened me: Keep building on everything God has given you. Keep moving. Keep growing.

Somewhere along my long, winding road, I stopped feeding myself regularly on the words that strengthened me. I keep getting tired. Exhausted, really. Completely drained. At which point, I become disheartened because I keep falling into weariness. Next in the cycle is questioning God about the purpose of all the struggles, pain and rejections that suck the life from my faith and the joy from my life.

Then one morning, when my heart was light and open after a beautiful greeting from a stranger on the street, I read this passage on my commute. And like every other time I have read it, I was encouraged.

I was reminded.

But this time, I cried a little.

It’s because of the hope poured into my heart that I’ve struggled and been disappointed. It’s because of that hope that I’ve hurt so much. It’s because of this hope that I’ve experienced so much rejection repeatedly. It is also because of God’s hope that I return repeatedly to be refueled and re-activated in my service by His Word.

Yes, though I may feel like a fool, my Father’s Word tells me that my hope will not shame me. Hope, itself, produced from struggles, is a gift and a blessing.

I want to believe that.

I choose to believe it.

He is With Us by Love & The Outcome

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A conversation and a song

Today was a blah day. This whole week I’ve been low on energy. Tonight on my way home, a young homeless man called out to me as I walked past with a classmate, “Can you buy me something to eat?” This is a common question in New York City. I do what I can when I can, and basically keep it moving. I asked him if he knew what he wanted. He said yes. We went into the restaurant. My classmate followed. There was a line; he and I got in it. My classmate had a large bag so she stood off to the side.

I started asking him questions. Are you a student? How long have you been homeless? Where do you normally stay? How long have you lived in New York? How are you doing overall? He answered some of the questions and deflected others, but he was very adamant in telling me what bothered him about the world. “How am I doing,” he repeated. “How should I be doing when so many people hate me? People hate me because I’m gay. They hate me because I sing and they don’t want me too. They don’t want me to be anything and they tell me that. But I’m not going to hate them back. And I’m going to keep singing.”

I looked him in the eye and said, “Can I share something with you that I’ve learned over the last twenty years?”

He looked taken aback. “I shared that with you because I thought you wanted me to be real,” he said cautiously.

“I do. Thank you for sharing. I just want to save you some time and energy. From the last twenty years of my life, I can tell you: people don’t hate you because you’re gay. People hate you because people are hateful. It’s just people being people. Don’t over-complicate it. I can’t tell you how often I asked myself , ‘Why me? Why are people treating me like this or that? What if I was different? What if I did what they wanted me to do? What if I was a better person?’ But you know what? None of that mattered. People hated me because they wanted to. Hate is what people do. I had to learn to appreciate who I am. You need accept who you are. When you accept all the various aspects of yourself, other peoples’ thoughts about you will no longer matter. Learn to appreciate yourself. Learn to love yourself.”

He looked a bit dreamy-eyed and touched his head to my shoulder for a second – I admit I wasn’t expecting that. Then he looked me in the eye and asked if he could sing me a song.

“I’m not one to silence anyone’s voice,” I replied, “please do.” We were still in the middle of a slow-moving line in a restaurant in Union Square. He began singing a beautiful song in his beautiful voice. Halfway through I began lip-syncing along with him. My heart was lifted and I believe he lifted the hearts of several people in the line also.

He sang I Still Believe by Brenda K. Starr; the song was later covered by Mariah Carey.

When he finished, I had more questions for him, as did my classmate and soon we were at the register. He ordered his meal and I asked him his name.

Brandon. His name is Brandon.

A short while later, after leaving the restaurant and parting with my classmate,  I searched online for the song he sang to me. If there’s one spark of hope left in my grasp, I’ll hold it with both hands. It’s worth the risk of burning to have a second chance…If we believe that true love never has to end, then we must know that we will love again.

What Brandon gave me

I was in need of a song. I desperately needed a word. Brandon started his serenade off with “You looked into my eyes….”

Shortly before me and my classmate came into contact with Brandon, my classmate saw someone on campus from another of her classes. She walked up to this woman and said, “Do you see me?” Before we parted company with that woman, my classmate told her, “When you see me, say ‘hi’ and I will do the same.” The woman was taken aback by both statements,  however the first statement she didn’t take literally at first and she asked, “How do you mean, ‘Do I see you’?” However by the end of their conversation she understood it literally and returned to the first question to answer succinctly, “This is the first time I am seeing you and I did speak.”

Brandon gave me clarity.

Photo: Through The Looking Glass by Lisa Richelle
Photo: Through The Looking Glass by Lisa Richelle

I see people for who they are. I hear the things they don’t say. I feel their pain, confusion and their sense of loss. That’s what they willingly reveal to me… until they realize that in understanding their pain, I’m also able to follow them when they withdraw and hide within themselves. I invade their hiding places. I confront them in their fears. All this happens simply through the sharing of conversation.

Every friend I’ve gained through conversation, I have also loss through conversation. People are happy to tell you what they think you want to hear, but they can’t stand to share the truth of themselves. I have no problem with sharing my truth, but I’ve come to learn that my openness is the beginning of the end of my friend and family relationships. People reject openness, honesty, truth and love. After so many endings, I had started to despair that I could ever love people through, and beyond, their rejection of me.

And then during a random encounter with a young man named Brandon, I was briefly pulled out of hiding and heard that I will love again.