It’s the Little Things

I remembered an old quote from a former Hall of Fame major league baseball pitcher by the name of Satchel Paige; “Never look behind you, cause something might be gaining on you.” Ain’t that the truth?

This year has been full of challenges; very difficult times, full of loss and with more to come … Despite all odds if we are to find peace we cannot and must not look back, but rather continue to move forward.

As I write this blog this evening all across our nation people are caught up in a war of words and ideology. It feels like we are stalled and a fierce fight is going on to push us back to the “good old days”, whatever that was or is.

Folks on both sides of the various debates will tell you they are fighting for the very soul of America. Some have such a heighten passion for their side of the argument they are willing to kill another to make the point. Still others will offer their life as a sacrifice to prove their point.

All across our world these debates are raging and sometimes resulting in historic change and at other times resulting in mayhem and death.

No one person or institution is immune from the cultural earthquakes shaking us to our very foundations of life and faith.

Mainline traditional churches are in crisis mode as they loose more and more members.

Church’s big and small suddenly have found their buildings being foreclosed on. I think I read somewhere that there are 113 churches facing foreclosure in the Atlanta metro area.

The split among churches over sexual orientation, gender identity and their role is society is as great as the split of 1064.

To stave off the impending loses of both people and revenues leaders of some churches have resorted to turning worship time into productions befitting of a “Broadway play” leaving far behind the “gospel” purpose of their existence.

In our LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer or Questioning, Inter-sexed and Allies) community as the movement for our acceptance and all the rights and privileges which goes with it moves into it’s 43rd year the divisions and debates are as bad as it is every where else.

We too have people maneuvering for power and control of the movement not caring how many people they have to step on in their climb to the top.

We have our share of those who will cry out that one group or another is too male, too female, is too white, too black, too racist or privileged.

We have too many in our community whose mantra is “thank God I am not like them”

North Avenue in Atlanta is still an invisible fence that too few from one side or the other will not cross to do the work of the community. The areas around this invisible fence are war zones of drugs, prostitution, the homeless and property values.

We have those in our community who are young and new to the movement and think us older folks are too slow or have become apart of the establishment and are starting to push.

Sadly we also have our share of folks who have “made it”, feel safe in who they are and have left the reservation and don’t give a crap about those left behind.

Somewhere in all this arguing, positioning, name-calling and temper tantrums it seems we as a whole have stopped listening to each other. We talk past one another, and rather than acknowledging the person and what they are saying most of our response begin the word “but”.

We have forgotten it is the little things that count. It is the little things we do for and with each other that will ultimately make the difference in all our lives.

Let me tell you the story of two people who are living examples of what I mean. Their names have been changed.

This is the story of Thaddeus and Sophia. Thaddeus is a black mid forties straight alcoholic male and is homeless.

Sophia is a 50 something male to female trans person and very active in the community and has had to fight for acceptance at every turn.

Thaddeus started coming to church services in the park about three and half years ago and I dare say there was not more than a handful of services he attended in which he wasn’t well past the legal limit of alcohol consumption.

Thaddeus originally showed up each week to get something to eat and a bus pass or money for this or that. Eventually as he got to know folks he started coming earlier and staying for the entire service. He knew a lot of the folks who attended were gay but that didn’t bother him as he loudly announced on several occasions, because he knew he was straight.

He did however; have a tough time wrapping his mind around the “whole changing bodies thing”. He was just as pronounced in that little gem as he was about being straight.

Sophia who generally had a low tolerance for people who were critical of the trans community for some odd reason always took Thaddeus as he was, giving him a hug and conversation of one sort or another every week he and she were there.

Over the years Sophia and the rest of us learned of Thaddeus plight, how he ended up homeless, his fear of the “DT’s”, his distrust and real fear of doctors and his very uneasy relationship with APD. He was a marked man and APD would and did stop him often. In fact many times when he wasn’t at church he was in jail on one charge or another, all misdemeanors.

Along this journey with Thaddeus, I noticed Sophia never criticized or ignore him. In fact she was one of the first in the group to “acknowledge” his story, his life and challenges.

As you might imagine this confused the hell out of Thaddeus. At one point he came to me and asked if she was single and I told him no she had a girlfriend. He seemed to be greatly relieved…anyway I digress.

One Sunday he shows up to service with a beat up bicycle and most of us in all honesty were wondering when APD was going to show up and arrest him for having a stolen bike.

During prayer time he asked for prayers to find a way to get the brakes on the bike fixed.

Before I could finish my thought of Thaddeus wrapped around some tree, Sophia said she would fix his brakes.

You have never seen separation anxiety at it’s worst until you have an intoxicated person ask for help to get the only thing they own in the world fixed and it dawns on them you are going to take it away for a while…Oh my God we had some drama that day. Suffice to say we got Thaddeus calmed down and Sophia took the bike to her home.

It was then that one of those “little things” happened. Sophia had planned to take the brakes off a bike she had in storage. This was a brand new 10-speed bike that she had bought sometime back but for various reasons had never used or ridden.

One the way to the storage area it hit her. Why tear apart a perfectly good bike?

2 Sundays later Sophia presented Thaddeus with a brand new ten-speed bike. His face lit up like a kid at Christmas time.

That happened 4 months ago. The same week he got the bike Thaddeus found his way to an AA meeting, within 2 weeks of that he had gotten a medical doctor’s appointment, gotten referred to a therapist and did what he swore he would never do and found a shelter in which he could stay for as long as it takes to get his feet firmly on the ground.

Sophia, in this one little thing convinced a broken man he counted, he was worthy and his life was important.

The story isn’t over; this isn’t a fairy tale ending. Thaddeus has a long way to go for full recovery. There will be challenges and trials, but they will be different now because one person did the little thing that shouted for all to hear; “You count!”

We all would be well served if we took notice here. This is a story of one straight man and one trans women. This is about as polar opposites as it gets. This is a story of one looking for a reason to live and one looking to live in acceptance.

Last Sunday Thaddeus said during prayer time, “I praise God for this church, I would not be alive if not for this church.” That was the theologically correct way to say, Thank you Sophia. I am alive because of you doing this little thing.

You see it is our story too…for it is the little things that really count. It is the little things we do for and with each other that will make the difference in those big things, which occupy the headlines today.

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.