On the Passing of David James Williams

My father, David James Williams, gently passed from this life on Sunday evening, May 3, 2020.  He was 96 years old.  Dad was born on January 28, 1924 on the banks of the Ohio River, in the town of Martins Ferry, Ohio.  He was the youngest of six children of a car inspector for the Nickel Plate Railroad and his wife, who baked the communion bread for their church.  Dad graduated from Kentucky Christian College in 1946, and over the next 43 years held ministries in Advance, Indiana; Huntington, West Virginia; Akron, Ohio; and Grayson, Kentucky.  In 1989 he and Mom retired to Lexington, Kentucky where they lived for the last 31 years of their lives.  Mom preceded Dad in death by five months.  One of the last things Dad said at her funeral was, “Time to go.  I’ll see you later.”  Later has arrived and I imagine they are picking up where they left off, after 73 years of marriage.

A few months ago, I bought a mug from Cath Kidston, though not your typical Cath Kidston mug.  This one had a western theme with a cowboy twirling a lasso while riding a bucking bronco.  Though I had no idea why, the second I saw the mug I knew I had to have it.  Monday morning, about 12 hours after my father’s death, a memory stirred.

My father was always busy.  I understand.  I inherited his need for movement.  On Saturdays he mowed the lawn, cleaned the garage, weeded the garden, swept the basement and washed the car.  And he did it all in a flannel shirt my mother absolutely despised.  The shirt was a black, white and red print of cowboys on bucking broncos.  I thought it was the coolest shirt in the history of mankind.  When dad was wearing that shirt, I knew no matter what he was doing, he would be happy to have me close by.  He needed the diversion I brought from whatever job he was tackling.

Dad was not all that handy.  My father had a knack for turning small repairs into major catastrophes.  When he tried to put up a pole lamp (a thing in the 60s) he somehow broke the lamp, cut the cord, and burned a hole in the carpet, all in a matter of about 30 seconds.  I mean, that’s pretty impressive.  And he did it all wearing that flannel shirt, and the grimace that went with it.  Whenever Dad used his hands to do anything other than type, he wore the same grimace, usually accompanied by a lot of muttering and a trip to the hardware store for parts that had somehow been destroyed during the repair process.  It turns out the grimace and its attendant mayhem are genetic.  I can type faster than a streak of lightning, but outside of that, my hands should be forbidden from attempting the simplest of household repairs, all approached wearing the same grimace, though not the same shirt.  My New York handyman, also a friend, used to say, “Why don’t you stick to earning your money speaking and pay me to put that shelf up for you.  You’ll save us both a lot of grief.”

I am pleased I share other traits with my father.  We both were way more interested in asking good questions than in finding answers.  We knew a lot of the big questions cannot be answered on this side of time and space, and are likely to be elusive on the other side as well.  We both found people interesting, all manner of people, and never encountered a subject that bored us.  If your passion was archery, we’d talk with you about archery for hours.  It left us both with a lot of basically useless knowledge.  Dad and I both loved the church, and though it sometimes treated us badly, we never lost our conviction that the good news of the Gospel is indeed the hope of the world.

Dad was a better pastor than I.  Everyone loved him.  He was gentle, approachable and kind.  He was not a great preacher, but he was a great lover of people.  And he loved me.  My father delighted in me.  Right up until the last two years of his life, he loved talking with me about theology, politics, anthropology, music, or any other subject that struck my fancy.  Dad was eternally curious.  He was also honest.  If I had a big problem and asked for his help, he often would answer, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you.  You’ll have to puzzle over that one on your own.”  I found that wonderfully freeing.  If my own father didn’t know the answer, it was all right for me not to know the answer either.  He gave me permission to say, “I don’t know,” and to realize it is often the most holy of answers.

One of the reasons I wanted to make it through life without transitioning was because I knew it would bring great pain to my family, including my parents.  Yet my father, who was 90 when I transitioned, chose to embrace me as me.  He had plenty of questions, but unlike most evangelicals, he was willing to listen and learn. Dad lived as though there was one truth that triumphed over all others.  I saw it in how he treated church members and strangers and all manner of humans, including his youngest child.  Dad believed that love wins, and every ounce of my own theology is born of that same conviction.

My father is being buried this morning, next to my mother, in the little cemetery in Grayson, Kentucky where my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousin are buried.  It is the cemetery just north of where my grandmother lived, the cemetery where she took us for picnic lunches in the cool summer grass when we were children, the cemetery where I rolled down the hill laughing and looking up at the cumulus flecked sky, reveling in the simple goodness of being alive.

When I think of those picnics, and the love my father showered upon me, and the mystery and wonder that this precious life is even possible, I am filled with gratitude, and carry on, in my own heart, the same firm conviction that breathed its truth into my father’s soul – that above all else, love wins.

Carl Jung described life as a short pause between two great mysteries.  My father lived his short pause to the fullest, a true gentleman, living joyfully, trusting in the slow and steady work of God.  Enjoy eternity, Dad.  I know you’ve got a lot of questions you want to ask and people you want to love.  And I hope that when you explore your new home, and look in the closet, you’ll find that flannel shirt waiting for you.”

It’s Raining in Colorado

It is my birthday and it is raining, which is a fine thing.  I moved to Colorado 14 years ago, not knowing that it does not rain on the Front Range between October and April.  Not a drop.  One year it rained for 10 minutes in February and people got out of their cars and looked at the sky and then checked the calendars on their iWatches.

When Cathy began teaching here, she got a blank stare from her third graders when she said, “April showers bring May flowers.”  They thought she might be slightly deranged.  I mean, her New York accent had already thrown them off.  “Wait, Mrs. Williams, how do you eat an ahrange?  What is an ahrange?  And there are no April showers.  There are April snowstorms.”

Two weeks ago it snowed 24 inches.  I had to use my industrial sized Mac truck of a snowblower, the one that warms the earth two degrees every time you fire it up.  Then lo and behold, just 15 days later I pulled out my Honda lawnmower to give my lawn its first cut of the season.  For the 12th straight year, it started on the first pull.  (That’s why you pay twice as much for a Honda.)

I needed the lawnmower not because of April showers, but because 24 inches of wet melting snow wakes up a sleeping lawn.  When I mowed the lawn yesterday, the lawn had no idea the coronavirus was going on.  It was yawning and wiping the dandelions from its eyes and grateful for the haircut.  It didn’t hear me muttering under my breath, “Yeah, you get a haircut, while my hair looks like I’ve been manning a remote outpost on a Pacific atoll since WWII.”

But back to this morning’s rain.  Colorado gets 300 days of sunshine a year.  And when I say sunshine, I don’t mean like Dublin, where they say, “Did you see that?  Over there?  The clouds parted for five seconds.  It was glorious!”  No, in Colorado we see the sun all day, 300 days a year.  When the rains finally arrive in May, we rush outside and watch the foothills turn green before our eyes.  The prairie grasses get all happy and  prairie dogs run around the fields hanging from lampposts, holding their little umbrellas.  It’s really cute.

You can’t see the mountains, but you know they are there because of those 300 days when you see them reaching out to touch the sky.  So, when the rains come, you take comfort in the mountains and their unseen stability.  Today is one of those days when I need that unseen stability.

The fox showed up in the backyard this morning, the red one.  He drank from my water feature because the water is fresh for a change, instead of the recirculated stale stuff that’s usually there.  He looked up longingly at the doves on the birdfeeder, then stared through the window as if to say, “You know, you could have put that birdfeeder closer to the ground.  Just sayin…”  Ever since we’ve all been quarantined, the fox talks to me a lot.  He’s lonely too.  Just the other day he was telling me about being chased by a mountain lion the night before.  I did not have much sympathy.  I said, “Well, now you know how the chickens feel.”  But I digress.

Today’s rain is misty, the kind I liked to run in when I lived on the south shore of Long Island.  It feels good on your face and breeds contentment in your bones.  Unlike a cold, hard rain, the mist quenches your soul’s thirst for all that is close in and nurturing and good.  These are hard times, with attacks coming from unseen forces, like viruses.  You protect yourself and trust in the truth of things.  You pull in and wrap yourself in a wool sweater and let the cool mist fill your lungs and pretend you are back in Dublin in an earlier time, before viruses and losses and such.

The doves left the birdfeeder and the robins returned, and I went out in the mist to refill the feeders and take a quick picture of the misty view to the southwest where the hidden mountains beckon.  When I got back in the house a Lazuli Bunting was eating at the feeder.  No, I’m not a birdwatcher.  I know exactly two Colorado bird species by name.  Mr. and Mrs. Bunting are here all the time, along with the Tanager family.  They all seem to get along well.  I think they vacation together.

Then I came back inside for my second cup of tea.  I’m drinking from the blue Cath Kidston mug a kind person sent me after my first one shattered on the kitchen floor.  The broken one is carefully gathered on a dinner plate that sits on my bedroom dresser.  I was going to glue it back together, but I actually prefer it sitting there broken into a thousand tiny pieces.  It reminds me you can be shattered and still be a thing of beauty.

I am going to go out running in a while, but I want the mist to be just right, Long Island consistency, drops large enough to kiss your face but not cause you to inhale any viruses.  Because, well, you know.

And so it goes.

 

 

Happy Spring!

I was doing pretty well during this time of isolation until it snowed 12 inches Sunday here in Boulder County.  The snow melted quickly, and by Wednesday afternoon most of it was gone.  Then Thursday it snowed another 12 inches, 24 inches in five days.  Boulder has had 151 inches of snow this season, breaking the all-time record for snowiest winter.

I spend most of my days writing my book.  The first draft is due to my editor in two weeks.  I’m getting close.  I’ve saved the most difficult chapters for last, because that’s what you do.  But I can’t write all day.  In fact, if I’m lucky, I can write five or six hours a day before my brain turns to mush.

I used to surf the New York Times and Washington Post during my breaks from writing, but I only let myself do that once a day now.  More than that is too much.  My first and third TED talks have been doing well of late, so in-between writing sessions, I sometimes check their views.  I know.  It’s pretty pathetic.  “Hey, I wonder how many people have looked at my red sweater and blue scarf and thought to themselves, ‘Really, she wore that in front of thousands of people.’”  I mean, what else am I supposed to do?  I live alone and there’s 12 inches of snow on the ground and it’s 26 degrees outside.  The highlight of my day is catching up on this season’s This Is Us episodes, which I do every night at 10:00, when what I want is a good cry.  It always delivers.  I’m spreading the episodes out.  I only have three left.

The newer TEDx talk is up to 175,000 views, which is nice, but it’s slowing down.  The first talk is inching close to three million views, though it is also slowing down.  It may be a few more weeks before it hits that milestone.  That’s a lot of views for a TEDx talk.  Views tend to rise and fall with the moods of the algorithm gods, but it feels pretty good to have both videos doing well.  That is, until I compare them with other videos.

The number one cat video on the Internet has had 174 million views, 58 times the number of views my first TED talk has had.  There is a great white shark with a GPS monitor on her fin who has over 130,000 Twitter followers.  Her name is Mary Lee.  I have like 12 Twitter followers.  Yeah, I think I’ll stop checking my TED talk counts.

I made a video today for Colby Martin’s new book Shift, about the difficult journey from condemning theology to generous theology.  I was excited.  It meant I could take a shower after riding my stationary bike in the basement.  Showers are when you get inside a glass box and water comes out in droplets all over your body.  It feels very good.  I used to take showers, in another life.  Then I put on make-up and sent a Marco Polo to my friend, who has been watching Marco Polo’s of me all week in which I am not wearing make-up.  I look like the “before” picture from a face cream ad.

Anyway, I put on light blue spring jumpsuit with a white spring sweater so I could make the video look like spring, even though the neighbor kids are sledding outside.  I’m going to keep it on all day because it’s spring, dammit.  So even though I have to get virtually naked every time I go the bathroom, I’m going to stay in the jumper.  Tomorrow I am going to wear stiff pants, the extremely tight ones you wear outside that are made of denim.  I am going to wear them just because I want to wear them.  Actually, I want to make sure they still fit because, you know, those M&Ms did arrive.

I want the snow to melt so I can go mountain biking.  But with the amount of snow we’ve had, the trail won’t open until, I dunno, August.  It’ll be way too muddy.  If I have to ride my stationary bike in the basement one more day, I might start screaming.  But that’ll be fine, because there is no one around to hear.  If a woman screams in her basement and no one is around to hear, does the scream make a sound?

Right now I can see three golden eagles outside my office window, circling high over the ridge just south of me.  They are riding the thermals up, then circling slowly down until they catch the next updraft.  The eagles came to remind me that there is nothing new under the sun, and this too shall pass.

Hang in there, friends.  Try on the stiff pants once every couple of weeks, check in on your neighbors, call the people who live alone, and trust in the hope of spring.

And so it goes.

I Think It’s Thursday

I think it’s Thursday.  I put the garbage out and a couple of other neighbors put their garbage out at the same time, and we all looked like we hadn’t been out of sweats or leggings in a week.  My hair looked worse than everybody else.  My hair always looks worse than everybody else.  Sigh.

Then I came back in and sprayed my homemade hand sanitizer on a paper towel to see if the stuff I put in the bottle last night to mask the smell of the alcohol had worked.  It hadn’t.  But at least now I’m ready to head to the corner store, even though after I get home, my steering wheel, door handles, and hands will smell like rubbing alcohol masked with a little bit of Poo Pourri spray.  I mean, what are you gonna do?

I keep trying to work on my book, but I get distracted by the news headlines on the Internet screaming that I am going to die, or I am going to be penniless because my retirement accounts are down to zero.  Then there’s the ad that keeps popping up on Safari that says, “If you snap your jaw like this every morning, it will remove sagging skin.”  And I think, “Why, exactly, am I getting this ad?  I really don’t care whether or not my skin is sagging.  We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people!  Sagging skin is not my first concern.  It’s no higher than, I dunno, four or five on the list, right after when those M&Ms I ordered from Amazon are going to arrive.

In my endless surfing I have noticed my two TEDxMileHigh talks are popular again on the Internet.  The first one has close to 2.9 million views.  I get message requests every day on Facebook from people who took the time to look me up and say nice things about the talk.  Apparently, it is the kind of feel-good talk people like to see in these times.  It’s had 10,000 views in the last 24 hours.  My newer talk, on the other hand, is up to about 155,000 views, though it is only getting about 3,000 views a day.  While the thumbs up/down ratio for the first talk is about 8 to 1, on the second talk it is 4 to 1.  The newer talk is not as popular as the old, but it is getting three times the comments.  The newer one is not a feel-good talk.  I’d see what’s going on with the comments, except, you know, you don’t ever read comments.

I’ve done three live video conferences in the last week, one with TEDxCincinnati, one with a church in Minneapolis, and one at Left Hand Church.  We did that last one live and in the flesh at a church that allowed us to use their building, where it was guaranteed we could stay six feet apart.  That one has had 4,000 views in five days, which is kinda interesting, since we are a church of 100 people.  You can find it on Facebook by looking up Left Hand Church.  I’m doing another church service this Sunday, and I’ll be preaching at Left Hand again on April 18.  I am grateful to be found useful at times like these.

I’m hearing from a lot of folks who have Zoom fatigue.  They are realizing video conferencing is hard work.  You do not have the full-body three-dimensional views to which you are accustomed.  You cannot read the room, or check body language.  All of your discernment has to be two-dimensional.  And that is hard work, trying to figure out all the dynamics of the meeting.  Then there is always that person who doesn’t mute, even though the host says, “It’d be great if you all could mute yourselves.”  I just want the host to say, “Hey Ralph, you idiot, you’re the one who is not on mute.  We don’t want to hear your dog bark at the mailman.  Get with the program!” But the hosts are always too nice, so we all suffer Ralph’s dog.

I “see” pastoral counseling clients via video.  It is not ideal, but we make it work.  Maybe I should send my clients a picture of the office, so they feel more like they are sitting on the comfy couch, looking out the window at the mountains.  I miss seeing clients in the office.  Since I have been speaking so much, I have kept my pastoral counseling practice small.  While we are all stuck at home, I think I am going to open it up to allow a few new clients.  I enjoy helping people remove the obstacles to finding their own answers.  If you can get to a person’s core, he or she pretty much always knows what to do.  The problem is removing the obstacles that prohibit them from getting to their core.

Oops, speaking of clients, it’s time to go.  My prayers are with you all.

 

Writing a Book in the Middle of a Pandemic

On March 8, I returned home from New York.  I said hello to Alisha at the Admiral’s Club in New York, visited a bit with Pam at the club in Charlotte, and stopped by at the club in Denver to say hi to Rick while I was waiting for my ride home.  We all felt the tension in the air, but none of us had any idea what was coming.

How many times have you heard that phrase in the last couple of weeks, “I had no idea what was coming?”  We didn’t get private briefings that allowed us to remove millions from the stock market.  We hadn’t fully grasped the unprecedented virtual shutdown that was on the horizon.  We were just living our privileged American lives, unaware of the storm fast approaching.

Yeah, well, not now.  Other than to go running or biking in the beautiful village where I live, I haven’t been out of the house in a week.  I have seen almost all of my counseling clients via tele-therapy.  I have spoken to my children by phone, that ancient communication device that preceded texting, Marco Polo and TikTok.  They seem amazed to discover you can have a conversation in real time.  I have spoken for one video conference and one podcast, and have calls today to prepare for two more video presentations.  I have incessantly scrolled between the New York Times and Washington Post to read the latest news.  I have asked Alexa (interrupting her important work spying on me) to play the local NPR station, and I have studiously avoided briefings from the White House, unless Dr. Fauci is speaking.

I get up and look in the refrigerator at the rapidly dwindling supply of staples, then peek in the pantry to make sure there are still M&Ms on the candy shelf (Yes, I have a candy shelf.  Don’t judge me.)  If it’s morning I make a cup of tea.  If it’s afternoon I pour a glass of iced tea and look in the refrigerator again to figure out which frozen dinner I am going to eat for my evening meal (Again, no judging.)  In the evening I switch back and forth between Maine Cabin Masters on the DIY channel and old reruns of Bonanza stretched wide to fill the screen, which makes Hoss’s face look three times as wide as it really was.

At 9:00 I watch Brian Williams on MSNBC and marvel at an interviewer who knows how to ask the right questions and then get out of the way.  I read a section of Wendell Berry’s Andy Catlett: Early Travels, or Colin Woodard’s American Nations, and turn out the light.  I stare at the tiny blinking light on the smoke detector and tell myself, “Tomorrow you need to change all the batteries,” which I know with great certainty I am not going to do until one of the 59 smoke detectors in my house starts beeping.

A few seconds later it occurs to me that I am supposed to be writing a memoir, and I never actually opened a single file related to the book all day.  I did think about it before I went on Amazon to order a giant tub of animal crackers.  (Need I say it?) I thought about it again when I was in the middle of my bike ride on Apple Valley Road.  I even thought about it while I was waiting for my Marie Callender’s turkey dinner to heat up in the microwave.  But I never actually opened any file related to the book.

I almost opened one of the files around 7:00, but that was when I thought, “Wait a minute, is that a heaviness in my chest?  Am I developing a cough?  Do I have a headache that’s different from my normal tension headache?”  Then I spent the next hour obsessing that I might actually have the virus and I live alone and nobody but Kristie and Christy and Cathy and David check in on me very often, and what if I really am sick.

Writing a memoir requires creative juices to flow.  I don’t know about you, but nowadays, not many creative juices are flowing.  I do actually force myself to write two or three hours a day, but it is not easy.  I have an easier time editing what has been written than I do writing new material.  What makes it more difficult is that I am writing chronologically, and I am up to the most difficult years surrounding my transition, leaving one macro-crisis in real time to focus on my own past micro-crisis.  There’s not much inspiration in that.

I will get back to the book, probably as soon as I complete this blog post and finish memorizing my sermon for Saturday.  I have an April 30 deadline for a first draft of the book and say what you will about me, I do not miss deadlines.

I’ve thought a lot this morning about Alisha, Pam and Rick, at LGA, CLT and DEN, friendships I have developed because of my travels.  I wonder if Alisha’s son got home from Europe, where he’s been playing basketball.  Has Pam talked to Kim lately, and if so, how is Kim’s mom?  Is Rick’s husband doing well?  Are they all staying healthy?  And what about Christy, working as a labor and delivery nurse, or Kristie, serving with the Boulder County Emergency Operations Center, or Cathy, swamped with terrified counseling clients, or David, who just lost his father?

I am pretty sure it is more important to think about these people than it is to write a book right now.  Because when I think about them my thoughts turn into prayers, offered for their safety and well-being.  The book can wait.  Good will toward all cannot.

 

Staying Occupied During Unusual Times

Who needs movies and television when you can watch people?  As a veteran traveler, I have always enjoyed watching people at the airport.  Now that airport travel is out of the question, I have taken to watching people walk their dogs.  There are a lot of dogs in Colorado.

On Long Island, I remember only three dog owners on our entire block.  Here I believe there are only three of us on the block who do not own dogs.  I’ve gone running every day since the COVID-19 crisis began.  My routine has been simple and yes, boring.  I get up and fix breakfast, then I look at the news, which includes seeing how many hundreds of thousands of dollars I have lost in my 403b account.  Then I work for a few hours on my book.  The first draft is about 55 or 60 percent done.  Then I head out for a long run.

Since people are working from home, there are a lot of folks out walking and running.  Two-thirds of them are with their dogs.  It is the interaction between owner and dog that has gotten my attention.  Yesterday I ran past the Lyons, Colorado dog park, and saw more people than are there on a summer Sunday.  On the way to and from the dog park, there were dozens more.

Contrary to popular opinion, I do not think most people look like their dogs.  Skinny people have fat dogs and skinny dogs have fat people.  Runners have lazy dogs and energetic dogs have lazy owners.  What does seem consistent is that most people know little to nothing about training their dog.  Dogs are pack animals, very aware of rank in the pack.  I’ve seen a lot of dogs that believe they are the alpha of the family and act accordingly.  As the dog lunges at you when you run past, the owner shrugs as if to say, “What can I do?”  Okay, I see who is in charge.

People here in Colorado have more of a tendency to allow their dogs off leash than what I see back east.  You are running down the road and a giant dog runs toward you and jumps up with his feet on your crotch and the owner says, “It’s okay, he’s friendly.”  Actually, I did not ask if your dog is friendly.  I do not care if your dog is friendly.  I do care that your dog’s feet are on my crotch.

Though I have owned a golden retriever and a golden/border collie mix, I would not classify myself as a dog lover.  I am a dog tolerator.  I will pay some attention to your dog, depending on my mood and the dog’s mood.  Lilly, the golden/border collie mix, was different.  (She is the dog pictured above.  And yes, we spelled her name with two ls.)  She was the best dog in the history of mankind and when she died nine years ago, I vowed I was done.  I have kept my word.

One of my best friends has a beagle mix who is quite well-trained, but then again, she is a beagle, and well-trained for a beagle looks a bit different than well-trained for any other breed.   I run with the beagle occasionally, and she is quite well-behaved, even when she is off leash.  Well, most of the time when she is off leash.  If she finds a dead baby snake in the grass, all bets are off.  She will roll her entire body over it, then put it in her mouth and carry it around, looking like she has a handlebar mustache.  If you have a treat and call her, she might come back, or she might not.  If she does return, she has a dilemma.  To take the treat, she would have to drop the snake.  The treat wins – and the run continues.  Much as I say I only tolerate dogs, I have developed a certain affection for the beagle.

While I was out running yesterday, I was thinking about the kind of a person that uses a dog leash that extends a quarter mile.  These people are not runners, of that I can assure you.  Runners spend half their running lives avoiding extended dog leashes that cross the sidewalk and two-thirds of the street.  As you run by, adding 100 yards to your run just to get around the leash, the dog starts chasing you and you find out the leash is actually a half mile long.  The better owner offers a quick “I’m sorry.”  The jerk owner is angry you would dare to run in his dog’s space, which with the retractable leash, is about two square miles.

It really is amazing how badly most dogs are trained.  I’ve trained two dogs.  It’s not all that hard.  But then again, one was a golden and the other a golden mix.  They are pretty easy to train.  I figure people are about as good at training their dogs as they are at giving their children appropriate boundaries.  Watching people with their dogs yesterday did not bode well for the behavior of any children they might choose to have.

I love when I’m running, and someone sees me coming and looks down at their dog and gives a single command and the dog immediately obeys.  I want to stop and fall at the owner’s feet and call them blessed.  I figure they also have well-behaved kids.

I must admit, I do prefer the Long Island dog-to-family ratio to the Colorado dog-to-family ratio.  I mean, there are a lot of barking dogs in our neighborhood.  A lot. Fortunately, there is only one house next to mine, and that neighbor does not own a dog.  I have thought about paying them to make sure it stays that way.

And so it goes.

Well, That Was an Experience!

I had an interesting experience recently, jumping into the world of politics.  Last year I was asked to consider becoming a member of our town council here in Colorado, but at the last minute I decided against having my name considered.  Local politics can be brutal, particularly for a transgender person, and I was not convinced it would be good for me or the church I served.

In February I was contacted by the Mike Bloomberg campaign to ask if I would be willing to serve as one of 11 members of his LGBTQ leadership committee.  I said yes and a few weeks later was asked if I would be one of the co-chairs of his Women for Mike leadership committee.  Again, I said yes.

I was skeptical when Bloomberg first became New York City’s mayor.  I was aware of many of the crude comments he had made about women and transgender people, but I also saw that his policies in New York were different from his actions with his company, where his misogyny was little in doubt.  In New York, he blew it with stop and frisk, but he apologized for that mistake and supported policies that helped minorities.

When it comes to the fall election, I am a pragmatist.  I believe another four years of Donald Trump will threaten our democracy.  The Republican Party has proven to be spineless in the face of Trump’s tirades, and Mitch McConnell’s actions, beginning with his refusal to bring Merrick Garland’s name before the Senate, have been reprehensible.  It is time to vote out of office those who threaten our nation’s survival.

After the early unforced errors of Joe Biden’s campaign, I agreed with those who believed we needed an alternate voice who could actually defeat Donald Trump in the fall.  Therefore, when Bloomberg’s campaign came calling, I joined.  I found his campaign to be extremely well run.  They involved me in ways appropriate to my skillset and circle of influence, and I loved working with the staff assigned to the two committees with which I served.

What I was not prepared for was the anger from my friends on the far left, most of which are dedicated and tireless workers for the oppressed.  Not only were they angry, their rhetoric was caustic.  They exhibited the same lack of tolerance for an opposing view that I have seen far too often from the far right.  I appreciate their idealism, but I am old enough to know that idealism is not what brings down tyrants.  It is the general election I am worried about, and the unfair electoral college that served us poorly in 2016.  I am now a supporter of Joe Biden because I believe he has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump in November.

This past Saturday I gave a keynote presentation at the Mark Leadership Conference at Rutgers University.  I was impressed with the dedicated students who crowded into the sold-out conference to listen to ideas about how to lead our world toward greater justice for all.  I loved their enthusiasm and commitment.

What set this conference apart was that I heard no polarizing rhetoric, no cancel culture, no denigration of those on the right.  The extremely diverse group of students were coalescing around a message of dignity and hope, the kind of enthusiasm that can reverse the polarizing rhetoric we hear too often.

In addition to my keynote address, I presented a workshop on gender equity.  The workshop attendees were thoughtful, expressive, and open to all sides of the issue.  Some of the women thought I had been too tough on men, and it’s possible they are right.  The men in attendance were open-minded and desirous of recognizing their male privilege.  The whole day was quite a contrast to my experience with those who attacked my involvement with the Bloomberg campaign.  It gave me hope that we can bring people together instead of driving them further apart, allow for divergent opinions without vitriolic rhetoric, and make progress pulling our nation together.

I am currently reading Colin Woodard’s book, American Nations, in which he writes about the 11 distinct cultures that have made their mark in our US experiment in democracy.  The book has reminded me that we have never been a melting pot, but a stew pot, with each region and people maintaining their own distinct identities.  That we have managed to last 244 years is a testament to people like the Rutgers students, committed to unity – not uniformity, equity – not equality, and respect for all.

After transitioning and going through the massive rejection I experienced from the church, I have developed a pretty tough skin.  But I don’t think I want to make any more forays into the realm of politics, at least not in the near future.  I’ve faced enough poison arrows from the far right.  I don’t need any more from the far left.  The wounds accumulate and you get weary.  I would like to live in relative peace for a while, at least until my memoir comes out.  But then I’m pretty sure I left relative peace behind when I transitioned.  It’s one of the prices you pay for believing the call toward authenticity is sacred and holy and for the greater good.