By Tamar Green
This year after I brought my daughter Batya to school for MLK Day, I listened to Pastor Lawrence T. Richardson speak to Heilicher parents. Pastor Richardson is black, transgender and identifies as queer.
And then, as I took care of my one-year-old, I ended up staying in the room as he spoke with the middle schoolers.
I was so impressed with Pastor Richardson. I was impressed with him as an individual. I was moved by his story and I was thankful for the way that he engaged the kids. He was honest and vulnerable with them. I was thankful for the faith in our kids to share with them so candidly and trust their ability to engage. He told them that he was raised by his grandmother. In many ways, she was wonderful and gave him his faith, a foundation of who he is as a pastor, and that same faith made her unable to accept him when he grappled with his identity and came out as a teenager.
As someone who still has such a debilitating desire to please my family and community, I felt the power that he could both feel the love and the gratitude for his grandmother and yet he still needed to come out, even with the ramifications. He was asked to leave his grandmother’s home and was homeless for a year.
I felt a difference between the room with the parents and the room with the kids. I felt the kids engage in a way that I have craved since becoming an “adult.” He shared with them that he carried with him soap, a washcloth, and a pencil to do his homework every day in shelters for the year. He asked them if they had ever felt so sick that they did not want to get out of bed, and he shared that he felt that way for a year every day but he kept going.
He asked the kids questions and they answered so openly to the point that I left so I would not interfere in the safe space.
I wonder, how can I, can we, be available to be moved, to be vulnerably courageous?
How can we in our day-t0-day lives? How can we with our kids?
I was so moved by the amount of pain that he had felt and the amount of love he was committed to.
How do we move beyond ourselves and engage with love, even when it feels painful and uncomfortable?
I felt like he was breaking something open for the kids here. For us all. On one hand, I had to see my own deep privilege…
And it feels like a great privilege to engage all of these pieces and our whole selves. I felt his deep hurt from homelessness, the rejection of his grandmother, and I feel that Pastor Richardson embodies the profound courage and vulnerability and perseverance to live authentically as we are.
I wonder does all change come from this place?
- MLK Day