Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Must post

I want to stay in the habit of posting, as I find the process of purging my feelings into text to be a cathartic one. Of course, that means I must choose something upon which to spout. Ooo....I know. A LONG ASS MO-FO DAY.

You know it's going to be a bad day when someone walks into your office at 8am at tells you an employee won't be able to make their shift for the next 3 days. Because she's in the hospital following a suicide attempt.

You know it's going to be a bad day when that person took her to the hospital and is feeling a bit shaken themselves. And is another employee.

You know it's going to be bad day when you try to leave for a lunch hour where you can't actually eat lunch because you're too poor. And find that someone has parked so close to your car you have to crawl into your SUV (with a between-seat console) from the passenger side.

You know it's going to be a bad day when you don't get to eat dinner because you have meetings right up until 10:30pm or so. But you can eat a can of soup in your office at 3pm. But you realize you STILL don't have a bowl at the office in which to microwave said soup, so you eat it bachelor-style (cold and right from the can).

You know it's going to be a bad day when you look at your calendar for the rest of the week hoping for a moment to breathe, and find it doesn't look much better.

And just when you KNOW it's going to be a bad day, you remember your last meeting is a presentation where you get the chance to touch lives and change minds, creating tolerance or even acceptance. And that you get to do it with your good friend, the Chief of Police.

And you get a letter written to Judy Shepard (and from her, in a round-about way) that contains the following, reminding you why you keep doing this shit:

On Thursday, March 11th while our state and local representatives were debating and voting on the issue, a huge amount of people gathered from all across the country to voice their opinion outside of our State House. The numbers of people who gathered were staggering and they spilled from the steps of the State House into and throughout Boston Common. There were many people carrying signs expressing their support of gay marriage but there were even more expressing hateful views towards gay people.

At 10:00 that morning something remarkable happened. A small group of my students, many of whom had appeared in The Laramie Project, rushed to my office and shared with me an idea. It would seem that on their way to school that day they passed through the common and witnessed the crowds of people carrying signs with messages of hate. My students asked for permission to take our angel wings used in the play and go down to the State House and silently oppose the hate mongers. They wanted to use the costume wings in the very same way that they were used against Fred Phelps at the trials of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.

Within a few short hours, by means of e-mails and cell phones, a group of 20-25 people, including our faculty from our production marched together to our State House for their very own “Angel Action”.

I accompanied the students partly because I was concerned for their safety but mostly because I was caught up in their energy and enthusiasm to do something good, to do something right. The experience turned out to be a poignant one, there were thousands of people, police, and news cameras every where. My students assembled themselves in a semi circle atop several park benches and spread their wings in the midst of all of the chaos. I was taken by the number of people who stopped and asked the students about their wings. “They’re beautiful – good for you” one woman remarked. But what was truly amazing was the number of people who simply asked what the wings stood for, what were they all about? “In 1998 there was this college student named Matthew Shepard…”
The students would explain. And I was astonished to hear student after student tell Matthew’s story over and over again.

As I stood in the middle of the Boston Common and watched my students it became so clear that we had all learned something from doing The Laramie Project and we had all learned something from your visit and from listening to your story. Matthew has touched all of us and we carried a little piece of him away with us.

I am extremely proud of my students and for the experience that we have all shared together. I think that if you had been on Boston Common with us that day, you would have been equally as proud.

And suddenly it's not such a horrible day, just a long one, with many lessons.