My 30th high school reunion is coming up and it has given me pause to think about what I have learned about loving people and learning from people.
The way my sister and I were raised had nothing to do with acceptance. Because "acceptance" means you have to make a conscious decision to "accept." The way I grew up was to find "those people" who made me laugh hysterically, who made me shine, who had my back, who I could be the champion of and who would be the champion of me, who would be loyal and to whom I would be loyal, to whom I could ask questions as well as provide answers, who 30 years later I could say "Purple Rain" or "Holiday" and we all would be right back there together...with wine coolers in hand!
I have friends of color, friends who are LGBT+, friends who are conservative, transgender, liberal, republican, democrat, straight, curious, mixed, single, married, Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Agnostic, spiritual and more. I have friends who piss me off at times and who I disappoint. I have friends who I haven't talked to for a year but the moment I do, it's like no time has passed (and yet we don't depend on the past to keep our connection).
I have been asked throughout my life if my acceptance is genuine -- because, as a white man with privilege (even though I'm gay), how can I understand anything but? I have been asked "how can you truly accept someone who is so different?"
In this world that challenges and questions "acceptance," I only can say that I did not choose to "accept" you.
At 48 years old, I still don't "accept" anything in life. I try to embrace it.
So everyone that I have met, everyone who is my friend, family or colleague...even those who do not agree with me on whatever level, I tell you that I do not and I have never had to "accept" you. You were given to me because you make my life better, stronger, smarter, harder and easier in whatever way you were meant to do. For me it has never been about whether or not I accept you, it's whether or not I can love you, appreciate you, laugh with you, learn from you and stand by you.