A COUPLE OF WEEKS back I called my sister Lisa, who’s made her home in Arlington, TX, trying to figure out where on Earth our wandering gypsy parents might have temporarily touched ground. So we chatted a bit. “Oh, that reminds me,” she said. “I meant to tell you about this essay Jackson wrote. He’s applying for college now, and the other day he brought to me this essay he’d done on ‘gay marriage.’ It’s not like I suggested the topic, or anything. He chose it completely on his own, and I think he did a good job with it. I’m proud of him.”
“Well, that makes two of us,” I said. Then again, Jackson has always made me proud. Starting from the inception, with his name. I can imagine no honor greater or more profound, nor one more daunting, than for one of your blood, younger, to carry your name while you’re still around!
Then, as I’ve watched him grow over the years, I’ve seen taking shape a truly fine man. He’s the kind of guy people tend to like, because he’s a mellow fellow with no axes to grind, and he enjoys people. He is loving the ladies, and they are loving him right back. He keeps his eyes and his heart open wide, and seems uninterested in judgment. He excels at athletics (a hellacious High School quarterback),yet can be as gentle as he needs to be. He is also fundamentally kind, and brave enough (for example) to call out his peers on bullying behavior at school in favor of some tortured soul that, quite probably, no one had ever before stood up for, and who will almost certainly never forget Jackson.
No one told him to do that, either. He took a stand because he could, and because it was the right thing to do, all the way around. Jackson had their respect. The bullying stopped.
Now, back to the essay. Lisa said “And by the way, he writes about you in it. You know what? I’m gonna get my hands on a copy, and send it on.”
So, she did, and it left me completely thunderstruck. With his permission, of course, I wanted to share what he’d written, and part of the reason was to offer to all of you an important and inspirational reminder that you just might be touching more lives, or perhaps be more of an influence for the good in any of them, than you might have the first clue. It is our relationships– family, friends, and others we care about– that give life its savor, even make it worth the living. Yet for a number of reasons, it seems as if the larger part of that which is truly and essentially important in this regard often goes unsaid during our lifetimes.
The heart-wrenching oratory of eulogies well spoken is fine, as far as it goes, but it seems there must be a better way. And Yes, there clearly is, and maybe the true challenge lies in its very simplicity: just do it. Why? No reason is the best reason, because it’s free of agenda. Just because. As singer/songwriter James Taylor put it, “Shower the people you love with love/ Show them the way that you feel.”
Such sharing, too, might really make a difference. These are hurtin’ times, and simply offering up an acknowledgment of gratitude that is sincere won’t cost you a penny, yet just might leave another that you care about feeling much richer than before.
(Sorry if it sounds like I’m preaching here. Truth is, I’m clarifying for my own benefit a point that on the one hand I hold to be of ultimate importance, yet on the other, have no doubt that I could practice better and more consistently in my own life. I am not on the “outside” of this one, with a megaphone in hand. It’s much more like I’m having a serious and highly personal conversation with myself, and inviting you to join in because both the sentiment/ ideal and the struggle to truly embrace it, are universal. I am simply inviting you to listen in on the conversation, because the subject is important. (And if you are taking the time to read this, I am hugely appreciative.)
Without further ado, here is Jackson’s essay. The words are his, any “illustration” or related captions, mine.
Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.
An issue that is prevalent in our society today is that of gay marriage. Should marriage by homosexuals be acknowledged under the law, or should marriage in American society be reserved solely for heterosexuals? Gay marriage is a touchy subject, but having a gay uncle who is a real person, with real emotions, and not just a caricature on a television show, I have come to understand that they should be allowed to get married and adopt kids.
I grew up in Arlington, Texas, and attend Baptist church every Sunday like many good Christians. I know that many of the people I go to church with are nice and loving people, but their inability to see gays as anything but objects of derision, and not flesh and blood people, causes them to have anything but a Christian-like attitude toward people like my uncle.
My Uncle Paul and mother grew up in the heart of Miami, Florida in the late 70’s.
No one would even begin talking about gay sex until the early 80’s, and that discussion sadly only involved AIDS and its massive infliction on the burgeoning gay population. During this time period in his late 20’s, my Uncle Paul came “out of the closet”, and told everyone he was a homosexual.
That man who came out of the closet is the reason I got baptized and wanted to be closer to Jesus. Uncle Paul shows the love of Jesus better than anyone I know; he carries the light of Jesus everywhere he goes. If he can lead a boy from Texas to become a Christian than why can’t he marry the man he loves if they both want to? God has given all of us the promise of happiness on earth if we believe in Him. The pursuit of happiness through marriage should not be reserved for heterosexual Christians when God has clearly made this entire other group also in His image.
My uncle marrying another man, I promise, won’t hurt anyone, and most people won’t even know he’s married unless they make an effort to look at his ring finger. (And if someone wants to look at his ring finger so they can judge, than that person is acting hatefully and is probably unhappy with his or her own life.) I am not making a commentary on whether being gay is “wrong” or “right”. Jesus teaches us that just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re evil, or that you’re “going straight to hell in a hand basket”, as my mother is fond of saying. Having attended a Southern Baptist church my whole life I can say without a doubt there is more evil in some of the people I see singing and praying than in the gays they presume to judge. However, in that same church I have come to know people who do their very best every day to walk with Christ, to live and love according to the example he set for us. My Uncle Paul is like those people.
I am glad that through my uncle I have been shown the truth, and that I can influence people to be more accepting of lifestyles that may not fit the “ideal Christian mold,” if there is such a thing. Hopefully, one day America will no longer prohibit its men and women who happen to be gay or lesbian from becoming happily married with their soul mates. I believe that the institution of marriage will be made stronger as a result, and not weaker, and we will all be the better for it.
When I finally tracked down my parents in New York City and shared with them the essay over the phone, they were both proud, as well. Dad (being Dad) said “Hell! That’s not going to get him into Oral Roberts University!” I laughed. “And that’s a bad thing? Somehow I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
Thank you, Jackson, for everything. I know you’ll wind up at the right school, and they’ll be fortunate to have you.