When I was young, I was institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital for my learning disabilities. Children resiliently make friends wherever they are; and, to the degree that the doctors permitted fraternization between us, I made friends with some of the other patients.
One of the patients called his father and mother during the permitted period, and asked, “I was told that I may be able to come home soon, and I have a favor to ask. I have made a friend here that I would like to bring home with me.”
“Of course,” his parents replied, “we would love to meet him.”
“There’s something you should know,” their son continued, “he’s gay.”
“Oh. Well… you know how your father and I feel about that, but if he is your friend, I guess we can just avoid the topic when he visits.”
“No, Mom and Dad, he doesnt have anywhere else to go. I want him to live with us.”
“WHAT?” said the father, “son, you don’t know what you’re asking. We have our own lives to live, and he has a very different lifestyle of his own. We can’t just take somebody in off the street. I think you should just come home and forget about the friend you made at a hospital. You can come back and make new friends in our own town.” At that point, the son hung up the phone.
A few days later, however, the parents received a call from the hospital to come immediately. At the meeting, the doctor said their son attempted suicide, and gave them the letter the boy had written. It said only the following, “I am sorry that I’m gay.” Crushed by the weight of the action, they wept, and asked if they could see their son, and take him home with them.
The parents in this story are like many of us. We judge people who have different beliefs and lifestyles. We allow these filters to compartmentalize people into “us” and “them.” But at our core, if we viewed “them” with the same clarity with which we view those we love, we would only see “us.” And we would be so, so much better.