It was a high school pep rally worthy of a Disney Channel Original Movie.
Red, white and blue balloons floated through the air of the large gym while the snare drums cued up the school song. These pep fests weren’t necessarily my idea of a good time, however, as a loyal choir nerd I was there to perform a moving four-part rendition of the National Anthem before the Hip Hop dance team popped, locked and dropped things—at least I think that’s what that they were doing…
I navigated through the chaos, finally plopping down next to a kind and hilarious boy from choir who I barely knew. What I did know was everyone liked him and he was good. A while later, a rambunctious group of jock-type humans came pushing in behind us, high on their imagined sense of suburban high school power.
And then it happened.
“Dude, we got here late and now we have to sit behind this fag.”
And on it went.
10 years later I don’t remember much else about that day. I remember that I froze; I looked at this boy with tears in his eyes and I said nothing.
Every day of our lives we have the choice to stand up to the horrible injustices of our world.
Some days I am paralyzed by the weight of these horrendous acts, shut down in the overwhelming feeling that I am helpless to change this slow-decomposing culture of ours. Some days I wonder if anything I do even matters. Some days I want to throw my hands in the air and build a tiny house in the middle of nowhere where I can pretend that hate isn’t out there (from the safety of my Murphy bed made entirely from recycled Cheez Whiz cans.)
Those are the days I am not so proud of. Those are the days I make a terrible choice: complacency.
But other days I make a better decision: I choose to fight for a better world.
I choose to get my hands dirty and make a freaking difference.
Some days I get out of bed and stand side by side with the starving and broken-hearted brothers and sisters around me. Some days I use my privilege, my insane white, straight-male, upper-middle class advantages to extend a hand to those being squashed by the boot of anger and bigotry. Some days I do what I didn’t do back in that high school gymnasium: I stand up for what is right and what is true.
I can’t change my cowardice silence on that day, but I can decide that I will never let that moment pass me by again. I can decide to never stop loving people.
For heaven’s sake, that’s why we’re here: to be the complete embodiment of a man who loved all of God’s broken and shame-filled people regardless of who they were or what decisions they had made. A man who fed the hungry and forgave everyone of their selfish mistakes. A man whose love changed the entire trajectory of mankind.
God didn’t send Jesus as a one time burst of love so that humanity could simply return to its hateful and violent tendencies. He sent Jesus to show us what is POSSIBLE when we allow the love of God, the God that is living in each and every single one of us, to EXPLODE out into this world that feels so dark and treacherous.
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You don’t need a church or a bible.
You don’t need hipster clothes.
You don’t need some overly-religious word or ritual.
You don’t need to believe that God sent his one and only son Jesus into the world to save us and show us a better and fuller life.
You don’t need the perfect president.
You don’t need to be a good person or have a perfect past.
You don’t need to have a planning meeting about it.
You don’t need an advanced degree or a green card.
You don’t need to be chosen or sent.
You only need to be one thing: love.
You need to be love, not just rant on Facebook and share stories of hatred, but love your family and friends well. Love the kids and young people around you. Get out there and make a difference in the life of someone who desperately needs you.
You see, when love is just a word it has no meaning. Love requires action. Volunteer. Become a big brother or big sister. Find an injustice that breaks your heart and get out there.
What is your action step?
You don’t have to start a global non-profit to make a difference, you just have to change your one small corner of the earth and inspire others to do the same.
And to my friend who endured those deplorable words of hate ten years ago, I am more sorry than you will ever know that I didn’t come to your rescue. Please know, as long as I live I will never choose that cowardly silence again.
That’s how we end hate in our world. We wake up each morning and choose to be something different; we choose to be love.
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