Beyond Equal Opportunity

As the activists in our community continue to create distance between themselves and plain people who don’t have the capacity to understand out of fear, the cause of becoming one as community becomes more elusive. This plays into the hands of those who would elect to public office persons simply willing to manipulate feelings for their vote rather than understand the issues as they apply to the broader society. We are now in trying times. When, or if, the economy fails particularly, we could see a return to days when politicians gained their stature by making examples of select individuals in the gay-lesbian community. We need to take on a differing approach and quickly.

The words of a song that I sang in youth choir growing up in a rural community come back to mind often and I wonder if we adopted that philosophy of life if it wouldn’t serve ourselves, our community and the greater human community more effectively. We would live more simply, be less identified with the values of Western culture, which are basically material, and we would be more focused on our relationships. Yes, this could be said of any group of persons who adopted it, but why not our community to initiate the lifestyle.

The simple words are:

” So send I you to labor without reward, to go unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, to bear rebuke and though they may revile you, so send I you to toil for me alone. “

I wish I knew the author and what prompted these lyrics.

How has this played out in my life? Well, in 2000, I prayed about going into government service. I was an Americorp Fellow in an agency that used my services, replacing a person who was being paid many times more than I would as a Fellow. The agency raised considerable public funds and non-profit funds for the project I would administrate. When I brought the paperwork to the attention of the agency’s oversight, they did nothing and wanted me to file an Equal Opportunity complaint to mask the more serious wrongdoing which initiated my resignation. The agency picked what it would allow.

I then decided to work for another bureau and worked in four settings, some historic and some in a natural setting. On the first site, I was disturbed by the language used during our lunch time. I was directed to an Equal Opportunity counselor who posted the regulations regarding discrimination. This didn’t prevent the site from posting a notice which suggested that I was a dangerous person. The system which examines complaints, even though the issues involved public safety, human rights and egregious behavior, were deemed ” unreasonable ” on my part, but I sought another opportunity to serve.

A fundamentalist Christian, who would be my supervisor at the next site accused me of lying on my government form about negotiating my resignation from my previous work. So I argued that position with another oversight agency for them to say that my resignation was for personal reasons and not forced or negotiated. The fundamentalist sought personal advantage in his supervision because he was not aware of himself.

But I continue to serve the public through this agency because “so send I you to labor unrewarded … ” The reward is in serving beyond equal opportunity.

How can we bring this practically home?

It calls for us to adopt a strategy of spending more time discussing how we can positively impact the communities we interact with — our work — our churches — our families.

We need to be known not for our orientation, but for serving selflessly and responsibly. A bit too Pollyanna ? Try it on.