It's hard to turn bitter into sweet.
And I'll admit I was bitter.
I came to hate the word 'family' when it became wedded to the word 'values.' In reality, the idea of family values shouldn't be a concern at all. Because families are supposed, at least I thought, to value love and commitment and safety and warmth and everlasting welcome. But when 'family' walked down the aisle with 'values' ... an ugly thing was created. It became about politics and prejudice not about loving hearts and open arms. I shuttered whenever I heard someone use the term 'family values.'
Because I had been exempted from existing as a family member.
Because those I knew were being called a 'threat to the family.'
We were treated as if we were born under rocks not into homes.
Family values led to abandonment of family values. Children were turfed out of homes and into the street. Children were killing themselves in fear of their family and their families reaction to their difference. Family values indeed.
Years have passed. Things are changing. And I have been deeply affected by those changes.
It all started when I saw what real family values could do. When I sat with elderly parents of a man with Down Syndrome as they told me the story of doctors and social workers and relatives all trying to force them to institutionalize their son. They refused. In the face of all this pressure, they stood strong. They were told if they valued their family, they would listen to the professionals and let their son be taken away - this boy, this boy would could never be a son, would destroy their family. They pulled together as a couple, their other children joined with them, and as a family they defied expert opinion, social pressure and societal disapproval. Their son would know family and would feel value. They raised a remarkable man. A remarkable son. A remarkable brother. A remarkable husband.
I saw first hand what families could do.
I remember the first time I was marching in a Pride march and saw a woman, standing all alone, on the side of the road, holding up a sign. "I love my gay son." I cried the whole rest of the way in the march. I couldn't stop. I was so moved. This was a time, long before now, where the issue of gay teen homelessness was at its height. Kids were battered, bruised and expelled from homes simply because of their difference. But here, a woman, stood courageously saying that in her family, her son was valued.
I understood, from those five words, what it meant for a family to actually be a family.
Those experiences and many, many, many, others have brought me round. I understand that values and family can be a powerful force for good, a powerful force for change and a powerful starting point for those who are different - in any way.
In that vein, I'd like to share a post with you about a family, a boy, and a dog. And while the story is of the love of between the boy and his dog. Notice too, the love between parents and child, and
all embracing love. A love that, without which, happy stories, like this one, could never be told.