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Transfiguration

Whether personally or professionally or spiritually, we long for what’s next. We hope that it — whatever it is — will be bigger and better and more beautiful than anything we know now or have ever known in the past. We long for more.

Think about it.

What happens when you get a job? Well, at some point, you want a new job. What happens when you get a raise? At some point, you “need” another one. What if you’re in a relationship for a couple of years and you start to get bored? Perhaps you start to wonder what else is out there. 

We long for what’s next. We long for what could be. We long for more.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, right? People who do good work and like a good challenge might be of better service in a more advanced role. Making more money may mean helping others financially or financial stability for your family for the first time or starting your child’s college fund. Even spiritually, we need growth — advancement. That’s what this is all about, right? Trying, day after day, to become more like Jesus.

That’s what today’s Gospel is about — a “transfiguration,” which the dictionary defines as a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ transfiguration offers us some perspective. First of all, as you begin to change — to transform yourself — the people around you might not even be able to understand what’s going on, no matter how close they are to you or how much they want to understand. In Jesus’ case, Peter, John and James were half-asleep and had no clue what was happening. Even afterward, some might argue they were missing the point of this moment with Jesus and Moses and Elijah — even after the voice of God says, “This is my Son, my Chosen. Listen to him!”

There, so far, has been no better example of this first point for me than when I realized I was gay and came out to close friends and family. As I gradually began to understand this core truth about who I was — who God created me to be — and began to more fully embrace this reality — some people missed the point entirely. Perhaps it was for lack of paying attention — perhaps they, too, like Peter, John and James — were half-asleep. Perhaps it was for lack of perspective — they hadn’t been through this moment or ever experienced it before, so they didn’t really understand it.

But with time can come experience and education. As the years went on and as I grew more and more into the fullness of who God called me to be, and continued to articulate that more clearly, friends and family continued their own journeys alongside me, each going to places they had never been before or perhaps never would’ve gone had it not been for this one single moment of truthfulness.

Which brings me to my next point — a God-given transfiguration is a transformation into a more truthful state of being — one that allows you to be who you really are — no exceptions.

Jesus did not deny who he was. Ever. No matter the consequences. No matter the exclusion. No matter what the “religious people” of his time had to say about it. He was who he was. No matter the fear. And transfiguration does involve fear. Peter, John and James were “terrified” as that cloud came down and overshadowed them on that mountain.

For us, transforming ourselves into who God called us to be may not only be scary for those around us. It can be scary for us, too. Many of us fear the unknown. We fear a lack of control, which — if we’re honest — we never really had to begin with. We fear losing friends and family. We fear having to do something out of our comfort zone. We fear failure. And once we begin this transfiguration — which is really a lifelong journey into being more and more like Jesus — there’s no telling where the Holy Spirit will guide us if we let it.

Perhaps that’s the biggest truth about transfiguration for most of us: true transfiguration occurs not on the mountaintops, but in the valleys and the deserts of life. To truly transform our lives in Christ, we must get right down into the messiness of life and get to work doing the things we’ve been called by God to do. To love others and to serve them, especially “the least of these,” Jesus says.

Your job and my job as followers of Christ and as a people who are relentlessly working to be transformed is not to always be understood by all people. Nor is it to avoid controversy in favor of calmness and comfortability. Nor is it to always completely understand where we’re going before we get there.

Our job is to love God, love our neighbors, and put goodness and kindness and compassion out into this world through service to others. By advocating for “the least of these.” By helping others on their transformative journeys. By maintaining this posture of radical love and inclusion in the example set by Jesus himself, especially toward people who need it the most when they need it the most and where they need it the most.

What I Would’ve Said

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Last night’s “community conversation” about the expansion of Jacksonville’s existing Human Rights Ordinance was about “religious freedoms, thoughts and beliefs.” If you’d like background on what I’m talking about and the last “community conversation,” I cover it in a previous blog post. And we really do need you to help us promote fairness and equality in Jacksonville. There are some pretty easy ways to do that.

But last night’s meeting was a whole new level of crazy. To be honest, as I write this, I’m too exhausted to waste more energy on the ignorance. I’m sure you can imagine, plus I live tweeted portions of the “conversation,” so I won’t mention them here.

Just like last time, a relative few number of people in the audience were able to provide commentary and the comments had to be kept to two minutes. With that in mind, here’s what I would’ve said:

Mayor Curry, thank you for this opportunity.

LGBT Christians exist and there are MILLIONS of Christians — including many in Jacksonville — who believe that we should have these protections. In fact, over 75 religious leaders in town have signed on in support of this change. 

One of the most frequent narratives of Jesus is “fear not” or a variation thereof, yet all I hear from the opposition is fear:

  • Fear that this will give LGBT people “special rights,” even though other groups — like churches — already have these same protections.
  • Fear that there will suddenly be a huge increase in lawsuits — even though this has not happened in cities with similar protections.
  • Fear that there will be an increase of bathroom attacks — even though this has not happened in cities with similar protections.
  • Fear that this will hurt businesses — even though this legislation wouldn’t even apply to businesses with fewer than 15 employees and over 150 small businesses support this change.

Jesus doesn’t want us to fear, but Mark 12 tells us what he DOES want: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says there is no greater commandment than these.  

How does opposing this measure show love? Not some “we are showing tough love” BS, but actual, tangible, everyone-can-feel-it-and-no-one-can-deny-what-it-is sort of love.

Jesus himself never condemned homosexuality, but he did challenge divorce, wealth, spiritual pride and exclusion. So I challenge all Christian opposition here tonight to think about that popular acronym — WWJD.

Would Jesus be focused on fear and exclusion or love and inclusion? 

Ask yourself how many bus loads of congregants your church takes to feed the hungry compared to how many were brought here tonight.

Jesus also asks us to pray for those who persecute us. And I want all of you who oppose this to know — I’ll be praying for you.

I’m supposed to use this time for a question, so here it is: If Jesus commands us to love our neighbors and even our enemies, in what way does opposing a more inclusive HRO show actual, tangible, real love for the LGBT community?

I Need You. Please.

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I thought I’d take this Sunday to ask — sincerely ask — all of my Jacksonville friends to help make our city a better place to live and work for all of us. Here’s how:

I need you to go from accepting to advocating. 

For those of you who don’t know, Jacksonville does not have a Human Rights Ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The current HRO, which focuses on the key areas of housing, employment and public accommodations, includes race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age and disability.

Jacksonville is the largest city in the Southeast that does not have basic human rights protections for the LGBT community. 

You can read a more detailed account of why that matters here, but basically:

  • Right now, people can be denied housing because they are LGBT.
  • Right now, people can be kicked out of a restaurant because they are LGBT.
  • Right now, people can be fired because they are LGBT.

This expansion of our HRO has the support of many people in our community, including some of the city’s most influential civic and business leaders. As with other issues, however, it seems the loudest and most consistent voices come from opponents. 

So, we need you. Yes, you. 

At the last “community conversation” about this issue, I sat there as many, many people raised their hands to indicate they had been subjected to discrimination in Jacksonville because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. I sat there as opponents clapped when a panelist, who draws his paycheck from a hate group, stated that landlords could discriminate based on sexual orientation. I sat there as he suggested that suicides, including those in the LGBT community, were not influenced by external factors, such as discrimination, inequality or teasing.

So how can you help? 

Write your city council member, literally. You’d be amazed at the impact of a handwritten letter. It shows you put time and effort into it. It shows you cared enough to make your hand cramp up, which, let’s be honest, sucks.

Write about who you are. Write about why you love Jacksonville. Write about why you think the city needs to include ‘LGBT’ as part of its existing Human Rights Ordinance. Write about your experiences. Write about why your faith demands everyone be treated equally, without discrimination, if you feel it does.

Encourage them to support an LGBT-inclusive HRO. Encourage them to encourage their colleagues to do so, as well. Encourage them to get to know LGBT individuals and families. Encourage them to be bold and courageous and not give in to fear-mongering, false narratives and slippery slope arguments. Encourage them. Don’t know who they are or how to contact them? Here you go.

Encourage your friends and family to write their city council member. As much as one handwritten letter means to a city council member, a whole heaping stack of them means even more. If your friends or family don’t understand why this is important, explain it. If they think it’s not necessary, tell them why it is. If they think being LGBT is sinful and against God, explain to them that this isn’t about that — it’s about treating everyone equally. It’s about not allowing discrimination. It’s about “loving the sinner,” not “hating the sin.”

Call your city council member. I learned something new last week: Many of the people who answer the phones for our local leaders keep tallies of the calls they get — how many people say they’re supporting this or opposing that. So, in addition to writing your local city council member, call them. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. Just tell them you’re a concerned resident of their district and you want them to know that you support a Human Rights Ordinance inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. That’s it.

Encourage your friends and family to call their city council member. This is the same as a handwritten letter. One call is amazing. Getting others to call is even better. Imagine what that tally sheet would look like if you got all of your supportive friends and family to make those calls, too!

Talk about this. Don’t hide. This isn’t a scary thing. This is all about making Jacksonville a more inclusive place to live, work and play. This isn’t about endorsing what some call a “lifestyle.” This is about supporting fairness and equality. Don’t be afraid to tell others that you do so. Even if you’re not living as an LGBT person in this community, you’re a human in this community. So are we.

Discuss this with your faith community. As an observer, it appears to me that a vast majority, if not all of the opponents of this measure, are opponents because they believe their faith demands it. They may mask this by making claims that this is a “special” protection, but they conveniently leave out that it is a protection they themselves already have in our existing HRO. These opponents show up in droves. They take church busses to meetings. They use their pulpits to tell their entire congregations to do the same things I’m asking you to do here. And their followers listen.

I know there are many Christian friends and family out there who believe something different than these people. Rather than clinging to fear, they listen to the Bible when it says, “Fear not!” Rather than clinging to exclusion, they cling to the message of Jesus himself:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’…’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30 – 31 (NIV)

What better way to show love than to make sure everyone is treated equally, as best you can?

Show up. As I mentioned, the opposition is motivated, perhaps more than ever. They see that history is being made across the country as we become a more inclusive society. They see that more people are beginning to understand which side will be the so-called “right side of history” and which one will be the wrong one. Faith leaders are recognizing this, too. So those who oppose this are angry. They see their fear-filled and slippery slope arguments working less and less.

Just as there are people keeping tallies of support and opposition based on phone calls and letters, you can bet they are also keeping track of who is physically showing up, whether it’s to these “community conversations” or to the eventual city council meetings.

Honestly, it’s tough to sit in a room with a whole bunch of people when they not only oppose this inclusive expansion of the law, but you know they don’t support your very existence. It’s tough to hear them clap at some of the things that are said. Even if their numbers may be gradually shrinking and the overall shift of society is in our favor, it still hurts, especially in your own hometown. So if I can do it, you can do it. Not sure when or where these meetings are? Here you go.

Will an LGBT-inclusive HRO end discrimination in Jacksonville? No. Will it help? Absolutely.

Decisions are made by those who show up. Whether it’s a letter, a phone call, attending meetings or all of the above: Show up. Please. I’m counting on you. We all are. 

 

About Last Night’s Town Hall

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A shot of the audience before the HRO “community conversation” began. Clearly, some of us are happier than others. Photo Credit: Natalie Cordova

Yesterday’s city “community conversation” about expanding the Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and how it relates to “supporting the needs and well-being of families” was certainly interesting.

The event began with a moderator who described creating a more inclusive HRO as a “difficult issue.” While I understand why the moderator might have felt obligated to say this to appear impartial, it’s honestly amazing to me that this is still a “difficult issue” for some in 2015. The people on the panel, who spent most of the time in conversation between themselves, included someone from the Liberty Counsel, a “hate group” as labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He suggested that external factors don’t cause suicides, used scare tactics and fear-mongering phrases about safety and child predators to make outdated and shortsighted points, people clapped when he talked about how private landlords can discriminate if they want to and he eventually got around to tossing in the “religious freedoms” buzz phrase. Oh and he also used his kid, who he said had cancer, to prove a point.

As I sat there and listened, some questions came to mind for those opposing this measure, including these:

What’s your number? 

Multiple people described instances in which they were discriminated in Jacksonville specifically because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Additionally, when asked who in the room had experienced discrimination in Jacksonville based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, dozens of audience members raised their hands.

Yet each time, anti-equality panelists would talk about how it was just one case or how we didn’t know the facts or they’d find some other thing they thought was a technicality and essentially dismiss the discrimination claim. Those same people would then cite truly isolated incidents in other cities and states and essentially blame the area’s non-discrimination laws for allowing the incident to happen in an apparent effort to show that being a more inclusive city is “dangerous.”

So I ask: What’s your number? How many LGBT discrimination cases do you have to hear before you finally believe it’s happening? And how do you propose we report these when you’re advocating that we don’t create a mechanism for reporting such things? You say we don’t have evidence that this is needed, but you don’t want to create a way for us to report discrimination when it happens. How much discrimination does there need to be?

What about the other protected classes? 

Anti-equality panelists repeatedly talked about how a measure like this wasn’t needed because LGBT people are protected by other laws already in place. They talked about how we didn’t need anything “special” in our community to protect LGBT people. The ever-popular “religious freedoms” buzz phrase was even brought up.

So what about the protected classes in our existing Human Rights Ordinance: Race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age and disability? Certainly, all of these groups are protected by other laws, whether on a local, state or national level, yet our local HRO also includes them.

It is always fascinating to me how people talk about losing their religious freedoms and not providing “special” laws for the LGBT community when they are already part of the very same “special” law that protects them from discrimination. And don’t even get me started on whether or not I feel refusing to protect your fellow community members when they tell you that they are being discriminated against is the “Christian” thing to do. That’s for another blog post. But a hint: I don’t think it is.

While people were given the chance to speak, a relative few had the chance to do so and they had to be worded in the form of a question. I had prepared something just in case, but decided not to even try, given my somewhat late arrival and the structure. But I thought I’d share it here:

Mayor Curry and others. Thank you for this opportunity.

Billy Graham once said, “The family is the most important institution of the world. If the home goes, the nation is going to go.”  

Now more than ever, we need our families to be as strong and as supported as possible. And it starts locally. If we allow our families to be compromised by people forcing their own agenda and their own beliefs onto us, what happens next? How do we explain this to our children? We have to set an example.

How, you ask? We expand the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. This will allow us to better protect individuals from discrimination in some critically important areas like jobs, housing and public accommodations. Protecting individuals protects families and helps make sure they have the best possible chance to succeed and give back to our community. And LGBT families are families.

Researchers at Columbia Law have found that out of the 77 scholarly articles that mention the wellbeing of children in same-sex families, 73 found these children do just as well as their peers.

In addition, the professional groups that support same-sex couples and families include:

  • The American Academies of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Family Physicians, Pediatrics
  • The American Medical Association, Psychiatric Association, Psychological Association, Psychoanalytic Association
  • The National Association of Social Workers
  • The American Bar Association
  • The Child Welfare League of America
  • The National Adoption Center
  • The North American Council on Adoptable Children
  • The Voice for Adoption

All of these organizations — filled with doctors, researchers, scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists — filled with people like you and me who have families — all say same-sex families are, indeed, families…and that there is absolutely no reason to think they are somehow inferior to families with opposite-sex parents.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, straight — we are all overwhelmingly similar and frankly underwhelmingly different.

If you’re still sitting there saying it’s “us” versus “them,” listen to the words of one of my favorite local clergy members — the Very Reverend Kate Moorehead from St. John’s Cathedral:

We are a family of God. And we are bound together by our faith and our relationships with God and one another. Once you are baptized, your life belongs to something larger than just yourself. You are part of a living entity, a life larger than your own.  

Jesus asks us to love God first and love our neighbor as ourselves, because everything that we do, we do in relationship. Jesus’ Great Commandment is all about relationships. We are bound to one another and to God.” 

My name is Kyle Sieg. I was raised by a dad and a mom and a wonderful family right here in town. I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church just down the street. I believe in family values. I believe in relationships. I believe in monogamy and making marriage last. I am loved. And…I’m gay. I certainly don’t deserve to be treated any differently because of it. I do, however, deserve to be treated equally. And an expanded non-discrimination ordinance in town is certainly a step in the right direction.

Thank you.

Tragedy & Perspective

  
As I learned of the attacks in Paris along with the rest of the world, I realized that I was processing the information differently than I might have with similar events in the past. Naturally, this realization led me to ask myself more questions, and I think I have the answer, or part of it.

I’m more sensitive because I no longer have to filter things like this through the lens of journalism. Before I explain, let me be clear: Some of the most compassionate people I know are journalists. Many of them are my friends and they are some of the nicest people I know and they do great work. Although I’m no longer in the industry, quality journalism will always have a special place in my heart and it should always have a special place in the world. And when things like this happen, many journalists are right there along with the rest of us, grieving. People claim all journalists are just opportunistic and eagerly wait for something like this to happen, yet in my experience, this is simply not true. The vast majority care. So I consider what I’m about to say an indictment of myself, not of the industry.

That said, when your job is to report and investigate tragedies like this one, you have to guard your heart carefully if you’re going to be any good at it. Most of the time, this is a temporary thing: Once you have time to sit and think, it hits you. And you grieve. Often times, for many journalists, tragedies are the only times your employers are comfortable with you having a public opinion on something.

When I was a journalist, I wore this like a badge of honor. Personally, I’m pretty good at withholding emotion in order to get things done anyway, so doing it for work came naturally to me. Truth be told, as I reflect, I realize that when something like this happened, I thrived off the adrenaline. I rushed to get the newest “death toll” and tell everyone I could about it. I scoured all information I could get my hands on, all in the name of informing others and bringing clarity and context to an uncertain and complicated situation. In live TV, in particular, the thrill of calling the shots in a control room allows you to put all other things aside. It’s easy to get lost in the moment. You tell yourself you do it to get the job done. You do it because someone has to and you’re good at it. You do it because people are relying on you to explain things. To calm their fears.

Before I knew it, I became something I didn’t used to be. I was desensitized. Cold. For someone who works around tragedy all day, when something else happens, it’s just another day at the office. This doesn’t mean you don’t grieve or feel sadness. You do. But for me, over time, the longer I did it, the less compassionate I became. It’s not a conscious decision I made. It’s kind of like you’re a sculpture and each terrible event you have to write about or talk about is chipping away at you, piece by piece, until you’re something else entirely than what you thought you were.

But then I got out.

I realized I was living in a bubble. I was surrounded by people who were in the same boat as me, so I didn’t worry about it. I told myself it was normal to be so far removed from a situation that I was totally comfortable verbalizing what sometimes amounted to a callous disregard for human life. I felt like it was normal to make jokes because it helped me cope and I was just blowing off steam. I was keeping my distance so I could do my job well. I was doing it to help others. It was just another day at the office. Sure, I felt bad for the people involved and didn’t wish it happened or anything like that. But it did happen, so there I was.

I now realize I had disconnected myself from humanity. Maybe not completely or permanently, but I had. Perhaps it was just a survival instinct, but it was reality, nonetheless.

Once that bubble popped, I entered “the real world.” In the real world, there’s compassion. True compassion. There’s hope. There’s optimism. And there is so much life and not as much death anymore. Disaster doesn’t surround me and I more freely get to choose what does.

Is this new world all rainbows, unicorns and fairytales? Absolutely not. It is, after all, real. But it’s different. It allows for more emotion. It allows for broader community. It allows me to more freely feel, whenever I want.

So I may not have the latest “death toll” on the latest tragedy for you. I may not know how many miles away the attacks were from each other or which landmarks are closest. But I can openly mourn, whenever I want. I can allow myself to sit down and really think about what happened and how we might stop it from happening again. I don’t have to worry myself with nonsensical and sometimes offensive opinions in an attempt to appear “unbiased.” I can do my best to ignore the politicization of a tragedy, rather than eagerly rush to tell others what so-and-so-said or tweeted or did. I can remain informed without being addicted.

Having a new perspective on life has allowed me to continue my pursuit of just being a better human being. Certainly, such a pursuit can occur wherever you are in life. But sometimes, it takes a leap of faith — a significant change — to get you to where you want to go.

Probably the two biggest reasons I got into journalism in the first place were to inform and to tell stories. Both are things I still love to do and I’m confident I always will. Fortunately, I’ve learned these two things are bigger than any one industry. And, more importantly, it wasn’t just that I wanted a career that allowed me to do these things. I also want a personal life that allows me to do these things. To most effectively tell stories, you also have to listen. To effectively listen and understand a story, I think you need to have compassion for the person telling it.

It took a professional change for me to make the personal changes I wanted to make. What’s stopping you from being who you’d like to be? Maybe a subtle change, piece by piece, like a sculpture, is needed. Maybe it’s time to take a leap of faith and make a more dramatic change.

I feel for the people of France today, much more so than I would if I were behind a wall of screens telling people what to do in an effort to inform others while also trying to keep their attention. These days, I prefer to truly feel and make change through more intimate relationships. Maybe I’m not reaching 50,000 people at a time anymore, but maybe, just maybe, I’m more effectively connecting with and helping those who I do come into contact with.

Maya Angelou once said, “I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”

It’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to do good. It’s never too late to be who you want to be.

About This Infuriating & Destructive Video…

This video has left me so frustrated since hearing about it earlier today:

Eleven22 Video

I’ve thought a lot about what to write. Here’s the bottom line:

Places like The Church of Eleven22​ and Celebration Church​ are only slightly more evolved than the crazy, bigoted, hateful Southern Baptist churches many of us grew up in. You can add a coffee shop, pastors who have tats and did drugs in the past, a concert stage where “messages” filled with common colloquialisms are shouted, Christian rock music, fancy graphics/video and a marketing person, but at the end of the day, the message is the same, worn out message from my childhood.

And here’s the best part: While these places may have evolved ever so slightly on acceptance within the Church, they’ve stayed stagnant on the absolutely DESTRUCTIVE notion that “gay” and “Christian” are mutually exclusive. They’ve clung dearly to outdated interpretations and rhetoric that push people AWAY from Christ, the guy who it’s all supposed to be about.

Are there hard truths in Christianity? Perhaps. Is one of them that you can’t be a happy gay person in a loving, committed relationship and a Christian? Nope. And while these places may do good things in other areas, they all fail to even consider the MILLIONS of other Christians who believe differently than they do. They fail to even welcome or acknowledge disagreement within their own congregation.

But take me to the beach to get baptized or give me a latte at church and maybe I’ll just forget all about the whole lack of acceptance thing.

This poor, poor child of Christ will now struggle to go without the very relationships she was created to have. Why? Not because of anything Christ said. Because of his people. What’s more is that LGBT folks will see this video and be pushed even farther away. What a shame that this church and so many others fail to see that.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

It’s Grandparents Day

Today is National Grandparents Day.

It’s funny: Only one of these people is actually my grandparent. But Mr. Johnny (upper left) was with my grandma (upper right) since I can remember. My grandfather died before I was born, when my dad was a teenager. Aunt Sister, as I called her (she’s my grandma’s sister), and Uncle Elmer (bottom) were like a second set of grandparents for me.

Over the last few years, we’ve lost all of them except Grandma. While that has of course been tough, death is a part of life. And they lived such vibrant, fulfilling and long lives while leaving legacies to be proud of. So it’s tough to feel sad for too long because that would be selfish and shortsighted.

After all, they are all still a part of my life. I think of Mr. Johnny when I eat a peppermint or meet someone who loves to work with his hands because he always passed out peppermints and he could fix or build anything.

I think of Uncle Elmer when I drive by the bank where we used to drop off the church’s offering every week when I was a kid or when I’m relaxing in a recliner, because that’s where he could frequently be found.

I think of Aunt Sister when I see a lighthouse or see anyone with perfectly maintained snow white hair because she loved lighthouses and insisted on hair appointments even when sick.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue making memories with Grandma, who is so brave and strong, even if she doesn’t see it. All of her siblings have died before her and all within a relatively short period of time. She has persistent pain from various ailments, but I’m pretty sure her ‘3’ on a pain scale would be my ’10.’ It must be so tough on her, but she’s hanging in there. Plus, her stories of growing up in old school Jacksonville (and occasionally learning family secrets) are always fun. And there’s no doubt I got her worrying nature, even though I always maintain that I control my worries better. I’m version 2.0!

I’ve been surrounded by senior citizens all my life. Not in an “I’m young, so everyone is old” sort of way, but in a “No, really. Actual senior citizens” sort of way. These particular ones have supported me in some of my biggest moments and — for those who have passed away — I’ve been with them in some of their final ones. So it’s safe to say I’ve learned things from them that I don’t even realize and there are plenty of things I know I’ve learned from them:

How to love fully and unconditionally.

How to stick to your commitments, whether in work, play or relationships.

How to have faith.

How to tell stories, though probably with less hyperbole than they may have used sometimes (I’m looking at you, Uncle Elmer…).

The importance of listening.

The importance of work ethic.

The importance of rest and relaxation.

The importance of creating and maintaining family.

The importance of fighting for what you believe in or for what you love.

Why it’s not good to put a cat in the refrigerator.

Why water gun fights in the house are not always a good idea.

Why I shouldn’t jump on the brick thingie in front of the fireplace.

What a “switch” is, how scary it is to choose one for yourself and how not to actually use it when all is said and done.

The importance of forgiveness.

How to shave as a toddler.

How to sing “boo boo be doo.” (I’m looking at you, Mr. Johnny…)

The importance of laughter.

The importance of moving forward, but not forgetting the past.

The importance of owning up to mistakes, but learning from them.

The importance of character and honesty.

How to live life. Like, actually live life.

Is anyone or any relationship perfect? No. Do we remember or highlight the good things more than the bad things? Probably. But a person can’t possibly be summed up entirely by what he or she did wrong or right. It’s just all too complex for that. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Grandparents Day, everyone. Don’t take them for granted.

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