October 15, 2010 at 9:56 am

I knew a girl when I was younger that I would have called my best friend at the time.  It was she and I along with another girl that made up our own female version of the Three Musketeers.  It was a difficult friendship, as so many female friend relationships are.  Three meant that someone was feeling left out at times, and we each took our turn.
News of bullying, hate crimes, gay bashing, racial bashing, etc… all make me sick.  I understand being bullied, been there.  I understand bashing and hate showing up at your door uninvited.  Currently I am there.  What is so scary about someone being different that ourselves?  Unknown?  Uncomfortable?  Unfamiliar?
In Denver we lived next door to a gay couple, Duke and Larry, that were borderline perfect friends in my book.  They would do anything for us and in return we would do anything for them.  When they moved away it was a huge adjustment not having them around, and finally, after a while we all lost touch and have not communicated in years.  I was in my twenties when they lived there.  Unfamiliar with homosexuality, clueless in fact.
In 2001 my family moved to Wiggins, a rural area and the exact opposite of where I was raised.  It felt like going from “everything” to “nothing”.  Over the past 9 years my opinions have drastically changed about rural living.  I do not run to Denver every chance I get, and I do not miss the stress factors of living in the city.  In Denver I had access to the best grocers, best clothing shops, salons, restaurants, entertainment, etc… We moved to Wiggins and this access became difficult.  Outings had to be planned and coordinated with not only weather but travel time.  Slowly, the priorities changed.  The stress levels inside my body lowered and I began to look at what was in front of me in a different light.  The kids were bullied a bit when we moved here by some, mostly the girls.  Fred and Grant had an ability to make friends with anyone and if they couldn’t befriend you…it really did not bother them, they would always give you a kind word anyway.  Chris and I were treated good by some and strangely by others.  We all learned a new lesson, about being an outsider.
Owning a bar we get to talk to all kinds of people, from different walks of life…different opinions…different lifestyles.  We have kicked people out for being hateful to someone different than them.  We have entered heated discussions…even when the fire was so hot that there was no way we would come out without being burned.  We stand next to our values, our principles, our morals, and our personal credo/beliefs.  This clashes, often, and you have to decide what battles are worth fighting.  But we do that everyday, all of us do.  We have to pick our battles, learn to accept the non-acceptance, and remain hopeful for a brighter awareness towards everything in life.  Not only from others, but from ourselves.
Before we moved here we grew up in the city and had no awareness of rural living.  This life is plagued with problems and hardships that differ where we came from.  Issues of the land, weather, remote-ness, money, growth, and lack of resources in some cases would name a few.  But we also quickly learned there is a different feeling towards people of color and people of different sexual orientation.  There are sharp drastic gender specifications for some, while there is even the openness, awareness, and acceptance for those that are different and unique.  You can have one conversation at one end of the bar about “Pride” and walk 5 steps and overhear a racial/gay joke that will make you want to come out of your skin.
I taught myself humility and compassion.  Sometimes I am very good at it and other times I enter a bubble and suck at it.  Being a mother means you are a leader of sorts.  You are to lead your family through your own behavior, which in turn creates a foundation of your own values that your children can build their own foundation from.  I came from a home that was split straight down the middle.  One side was NOT accepting of anything beyond 2 parents/woman stay home/white people do not mix with black people/everyone in the world better be straight or put in a mental home/men are smarter than women…… The other side was accepting, fair, and looked beyond any differences.  I could have become a bigot, a racist, a homophobe…. But it was a conscious decision to NOT be any of those.
I explained to a friend last night in my living room how since I was small…I have always tried to reverse everything, always put myself in the other chair or situation.  If I was angry, I tried to find reasons by putting myself in their place.  Usually this managed my anger to a level that was easy to dismiss…over a relatively short period of time.  This is a hard exercise when you tend to be a bit stubborn in the first place.  Try it.  Are you mad at someone?  Do you hold anger or hatred that is old?  Try to look at things from another view.  Can you release some stress and anger by doing this?
If I could do anything in my life right now it would be to travel.  This is something I have never been interested in, or actually done a great deal of.  There are beautiful things I would go and see, historical things, monuments of pain, monuments of happiness.  I would go and see people that I have not seen in years…or ever.  I would search for answers that I cannot find at home.  I would sit and watch and try to find everything in front of me, and remember it.
Today I learned from a friend that tolerance is not a bad word.  I always believed that to tolerate something meant that you still hate it but you would just be quiet about it.  My friend explained that tolerance and to tolerate is much wider.  “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.”  My friend lives a lifestyle that is under constant scrutiny and bigotry.  He walks the walk everyday, holding true to his values, morals, principles and beliefs just as his friends and family do.  He is a hero to some and a target to others.  But, he endures.  He works, goes to school, lives a good life, and loves with his whole heart.  Yes, he lives, loves, works and learns.  Why is that so different from anyone else?
My lesson today for myself is to go even deeper.  Leslie, you can call yourself a liberal thinker that is accepting of all difference in life but make sure you walk the walk.  It is easy for anyone to say…but harder to do.  A self check every once in a while is a good thing.  I tried to explain a feeling to my friend last night.  A belief that I have, that is hard to put into words, because words are so easily forgotten.  I told her that we are all remembered after we go, by those who love and hate us.  We may not be remembered for very long for our wise words, our actions, or for our efforts in life….but we will be remembered by how we made another person feel.  So if you gather up everything you do, say, stand for and act on….how do you make the people inside your life feel?  What foundation are you laying for your family? How about the stranger that comes to your door?  If they are different do you close the door on compassion?
As any other day, today I miss my son.  I miss his compassion, morals, values, love and his own guiding principles.  His life and views were a mirror into my own, and into the foundation we tried to lay for our children.  If you are different, shunned, laughed at, hated, left out, unloved, or just plain unhappy….Fred would have given you his hand and given you the biggest hug of your life.