Light, Hope, and Community

The weekend was interesting. Saturday featured a gathering of fascists, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and people who would not accept the results of our recent elections. Tensions throughout the city were high. The young couple next door decided to leave for the day and head to the mountains to get away and enjoy the changing leaves. I planned on going through my Saturday to-do list, as usual.

It was a chilly but beautiful morning, and the sun was shining. I planned on doing my usual weekly street cleaning. Working my way down the sidewalk, I swept the leaves from the steps of every neighbor’s house, clearing the sidewalk as I went, making sure that all of the leaves went in the tree boxes for the city leave collection team to come through and vacuum them up. The vacuum reminds me of something out of Dr. Seuss, with its big hose and square shaped vehicle.

As I finished the steps of one neighbor’s house, their little boy came out with his little broom and decided to help. I told him, “Feel the wind? The wind will help us, we need to sweep with the wind.” He screamed with delight, laughing and jumping up and down each time the wind caught a bunch of leaves from the broom, carrying them into the air and down the block.

As I progressed down the block, I encountered another neighbor. She is older, and has been asking to get together for food. I explained that I really wanted to, but because of the pandemic, I thought it best to wait. She agreed. Instead, I swept her patio and all the way up to her door. She is on crutches and the leaves can get really slippery. She seemed so happy. Funny how a little kindness can really make someone smile.

I moved further down the block and there were a couple students, and another young family, with 2 wonderful little kids hanging out and talking. I had a bag of Halloween candy left, so I brought it out for everyone to divide and eat. I knew if it stayed in my house any longer, I would start eating it myself, so it really had to go.

While sweeping this section of the walk, there was a couple coming down the street from the hotel at the other end of the block. I stared sweeping closer to the tree box, so I would be out of the way. As these people got closer, I realized that they were part of the hate contingent headed to the protests. They were an older white couple, no masks on, even though the city has a requirement about that. I would guess they were in their 60’s, but it’s so hard to tell. Hate really causes people to age badly.

In any event, while sweeping, the guy walked so close as to try to push me into the tree box. This is the typical move you see in High School or in movies about High School, where the bully walks through the hallway knocking or pushing people. I turned around and we locked eyes. You could see the hate in his face. He was trying to start an altercation. I did not break eye contact, but stared right back. There was no fear on my part, simply resolve. As our eyes were locked, I thought about this 60 something acting like a High School bully, and how sad and pathetic it was that someone that age would still be acting that way. In any event, he kept moving.

After I finished, as I always do, I burned some sage to cleanse any negative energy attached to the broom and myself and asked for a clearing of negativity in the city. I actually burned a little more than usual.

After a shower, I headed to the store. As I came up 25th St to Pennsylvania Ave. I saw a couple dirty flags roughly tied to light poles, hung by some of these groups after their arrival the night before. These dirty flags hung there, reminding me of charred pieces of wood after a cross burning: both the flag and the cross, symbols sacred to some, now defiled by hate.

When I got to the corner there was an older Asian woman waiting for the light. She said to me that she’d been waiting on this light for a while. I agreed, saying that this light does take a while. Of course she didn’t really want to talk about the light. She wanted to engage and I did too. We chatted till the light changed. As I went my direction, she said, stay safe and be careful. I told that to do the same.

After errands, a nap and some writing, I needed to go out again for a walk and to the last grocery store of the day. There were some things on sale at the Safeway on 17th Street. This Safeway is in the heart of D.C.’s historic gay neighborhood.

I headed out and passed through downtown. For the most part I didn’t see many of the protestors, but as I got closer to Connecticut Ave, I did see a few, then I saw a group of them, about 5 or 6. My feelings were not exactly fearful upon seeing the group, but more prudently aware.

Once I got to 17th Street I could feel a change. There were people out eating and in the street. The rainbow flags were out, and people were enjoying themselves. I felt more relaxed, more safe in that moment, knowing I was surrounded by LGBT people and allies. I remembered that that tense feeling, that being prudently aware, was how I’d felt everyday for a good part of my life when I was out back in the 80s, and it was still dangerous to be an out person. I remembered that was one reason that I loved going out, to feel the embrace of my community and to feel safe.

I thought of the project I just released: THE ADVENTURES OF FLORIAN. It features a transgender hero and a gay prince. I though that maybe children, particularly LGBT children who see and hear this project, will see themselves in this story, and feel a sense that they belong: or, if they are in an environment where they don’t currently feel like they belong, that it will give them the hope and strength to eventually find that community where they do, much the way I felt when I finally got to 17th Street on that Saturday evening.

My thoughts turned to that man from earlier. I wondered if that was what he was doing, what these people were doing, trying to gather together to capture some feeling of community. His community though is based on hate and division, and his community will continue to get smaller and smaller as a result. I expect it will also get smaller simply because they were all congregated together in the middle of a pandemic with no masks.

It is Diwali, the celebration of the triumph of light over darkness. That is what we are celebrating now. Our Vice President elect is a South Asian and a Black Woman, our President Elect has named a transgender veteran as part of his team. The future is hopeful and the light of love, inclusion, and acceptance will dissolve the darkness. Although there is much work ahead, I am hopeful. I hope you are too.

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