Some of my best writing is inspired by the occasional convergence of news items around a common theme. I'm right in the middle of one such convergence, and I just have to share this with you all. I am getting a lot of this from my FaceBook friends, whose news links are a great way to aggregate stories from all over the web. The theme that is coming through almost on a daily basis is this: people are beginning to push back against the haters.
Story 1: A quiet, "free spirit" of a teen girl is elected to her school's homecoming court as a cruel joke. The entire town comes together to give her the royal treatment.
For the homecoming dance Saturday, businesses will buy her dinner, take her photo, fix her hair and nails, and dress her in a gown, shoes and a tiara.
For the homecoming game Friday, residents will pack the football stadium so they can cheer when she is introduced at halftime.
They will be wearing her favorite color (orange) and T-shirts with messages of support. A 68-year-old grandmother offered to be her escort.
"I am in awe, overwhelmed at the amount of support," said Jamie Kline, 35, who began a Facebook support page. "I never expected it to spread as far as it has."
From The Detroit News
Story 2: Someone sees a young Sikh woman who has an unusual amount of facial hair, which she made no attempt to hide or remove. The person posts a surreptitious photograph of the young woman on Reddit, and "wait[ed] for the abuse to flood in." The young woman's friend alerted her to the photo, and she posted a response that was so gracious and kind that the photographer posted a sincere apology.
... I've read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.
Story 3: Nate Phelps, a son of the "minister" who runs the Westboro Baptist Church, left his family just after midnight on his 18th birthday, and has pursued a much more loving path in his life. He has had to work hard to heal from the psychological wounds of his abusive upbringing, but now he is reaching out to help others.
Now in his 50s, Nate finds himself publicly squaring off with his father and siblings to reverse their legacy of intolerance. He lives in Calgary, where he has become a public speaker who champions LGBT rights and raises awareness about the connection between extreme religion and child abuse. He is currently writing a book about his life and is the subject of an upcoming documentary.
Story 4: Andrew DeLeon, a teen from a small town near Austin, wasn't into sports or athletics. He became accustomed to being "hated" and "rejected" by the kids in his school, but he summoned up his courage and auditioned for America's Got Talent this year. I've written about him before, and I continue to be amazed by his generous and loving attitude toward his many, many adoring fans. This young man, who is now 20, amazed everyone by singing operatic arias in an other-worldly falsetto voice. Even though Andrew didn't get past the semi-finals in the competition, his fans continue to support him. He is currently paying his dues, performing in small venues and recording songs from a makeshift studio.
Here's his Austin audition, and here's a more recent clip that he made to keep in touch with his fans. The comments on his Facebook fan page and on his YouTube video page are almost entirely positive and supportive (an amazing feat), and he routinely gets messages from depressed, rejected, and out-of-the-mainstream teens who have been inspired and encouraged by his example.
Story 5: Lady Gaga, back when she was just Stefani Germanotta, was once thrown into a trash can by a group of bullies from her school.
“I was called really horrible, profane names very loudly in front of huge crowds of people, and my schoolwork suffered at one point,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to class. And I was a straight-A student, so there was a certain point in my high school years where I just couldn’t even focus on class because I was so embarrassed all the time. I was so ashamed of who I was.”
From the New York Times
Lady Gaga went on to become an immense success as a musician and performer (to put it mildly!), but she hasn't forgotten the pain she experienced during her teens. She and her mother have founded the Born this Way Foundation, which is " is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world."
Bit by bit, kind souls are pushing the pendulum back from the mean-spirited, winner-take-all attitudes that have dominated our environment for far too long. I hope to see many more such stories, and I will pass them along to you, gentle readers.