December 5, 2021- There was a lot of sameness about today: Breakfast at Post 6, the Sunday paper, and getting the laundry done, for another week. That set me to thinking, though, about what has changed, over the years, in a “then” and “now” fashion.
Then, I knew only people who looked, more or less, like me. I had little sense of how people of different backgrounds, who lived in other places, really thought, felt and acted. There was always a curiosity, though, and while interacting with people of other backgrounds, as I grew into manhood, was sometimes tough, we made it through to the other side as friends.
Now, I am blessed with so many people I love, our respective backgrounds, beliefs and affiliations mattering little.
Then, I knew the small area of Saugus and the surrounding towns and cities. Up north was New Hampshire, where we went on the first part , if not the entirety of every vacation. Down south was Cape Cod, which saw the second part of vacation, when times were good. Places like Providence, Rhode Island and Stamford, Connecticut were rare to our family itinerary, as was Martha’s Vineyard. Now, I have seen parts of all fifty states, have lived near, and walked all over, our nation’s capital. I have lived in Maine, during one of the worst blizzards that New England experienced during the late ’70s. My home, from 1978-86 and again, since 1992, has been Arizona. It was here, in the Southwest, that I met my darling wife, found my true Faith, and came to grips with the state of mind that set me apart from others, for so long.
There have been other places that made me grow. Jeju, Korea taught me the value of looking at life, through other cultural viewpoints. It was there that a son came into our lives, and where he would be hard-wired to seek his own helpmate, thirty years later. Life among Dineh and Hopi further expanded my sense of looking at the world through different lenses. Travels to places like Israel, the West Bank, Guyana, Taiwan, England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany showed me, time and again, how much we can all learn from one another.
There was a time when I was of a warrior mindset. People abroad could only be saved by us mighty Americans. Then, I went to Vietnam, and found out differently. There was a time when I was of a very exclusive mindset. It was best for others to assimilate into mainstream American culture. Meeting people who are Black, Brown, Indigenous to this continent, East Asians, speaking Spanish, Navajo, Apache, Korean, Mandarin, Creole and yet, going about their lives in ways that taught me volumes, and showed how much assimilation is a myth. There was a time when I had little use for homosexuals. Then, I kept meeting people whose sexual orientation differed from my own, and found they are, in many other ways, the same as I am. Then, too, I saw how some friends underwent the hard process of gender reassignment, and I saw just how these steadfast and forthright friends of mine, one of whom was my rock, when I was at the low point in the grieving process, struggle in very fundamental ways, with aspects of life that those of us who are straight and cisgender handle in de rigeur fashion. I see that no one is pressuring me to adapt to a lifestyle to which I have no attraction; nor should I exert pressure on those who are not drawn to mine.
There remains one “blind spot” of sorts: Grifters, beggars, takers.. Is it true that, being “kind to all who cross my path”, and “if someone asks for your coat, give him your trousers, as well”, should be taken at face value? I am generous in prosperity, and yet, I do not see that having limits to largesse, lest I become a ward of others, means that I lack trust in the Creator. The Prophet Muhammad spoke, “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” I have been homeless, albeit briefly. I have been destitute, also for a very short time. The key to rising out of penury has always lain in being proactive, open-minded and resilient.
Thus have I evolved.