Ten years ago, a few short miles from my home a young man lay dying. He was a child, a college student, a young man coming of age as my children are. He lay in the same intensive care unit where my best friend’s son’s best friend would die, where my best friend would lie paralyzed, where my boyfriend’s neighbor lay comatose.
People come into that ward for many reasons, the cable breaks on a crane, a car runs a stop sign, a foot is caught on a pedal in a fall.
This is the place; these are the rooms my family would lie in if something awful happened. This is the neurosurgeon; these are the nurses of hope, and sometimes there is no hope.
Ten years ago when that young man lay dying I did not go. I had children and schedules and I did not hold a candle there in the darkness too late for prayers. I could not have changed anything, but I would have shared in the horror. Shared in the humanity coming to grips with what had happened.
Because sometimes a child goes to those rooms because of the deliberate acts of other human beings. And in the most terrible of cases a child goes to those rooms because someone hates who he is and how he chooses to live his life.
It is hard to be this close. I am not so naïve as to say “that was Laramie”. I have been to Laramie many times. It deserves pride in its western heritage and the western attitude of live and let live. It is absolutely not a city full of hate, and all of us live in places where some people hate.
In the last few years some in Laramie have tried to come to grips with what happened there by saying it was a normal crime gone bad – a robbery or drug deal. We must not rewrite this history. We must face it and we must fight the hate behind it. The evidence and confessions are clear. Mathew Shepherd was beaten and left tied to a fence to die because he was gay.
Sunday we had a busy service at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Collins. Peter Mayer played and we honored the youth by letting them tell us the about their program. I had forgotten the date. Slides included them standing on street corners with signs saying one heart plus one heart equals marriage. Then the minister, whose extended family was lost in the Holocaust, spoke separately of Mathew and that we must never allow a child to die from hate again. I was deeply moved by these people slightly younger than Mathew fighting their own fights celebrated in the shadow of the day Mathew died. The slide show played “Teach Your Children” and in the pew I sang along and cried.
I hope you will light a candle in your heart or in your room because sometimes it takes a village, a nation to bury a child. Maybe play “Teach Your Children” and celebrate the young people in your own life. We need to move on. But that means we do not blind ourselves to what happened or try to rewrite history. Moving on means fighting against hate within ourselves, within the people close to us, and within our world.
Whatever you believe about hate crimes legislation, same sex marriage, civil rights guarantees for sexual orientation, a black president, a female vice president, caring for the homeless, drug laws or any of the hundreds of issues facing us that tie into our preconceptions and emotions – make your decisions looking into yourself and ensuring there is no trace of hate or a bias that degrades you. I do not ask that you agree with me. I ask that you come to you choices without hate. This is what Christ asked. This is what makes the world a better place for your children. This is what honors your soul.