While doing interviews for the Chronicle’s story on our LGBTQ neighbors, there was one moment at which my heart literally jumped.
Andrea Denney — she and her wife Beth Reich are the parents of three adopted children — told me about an email she once received from Lynn Cheney, the former pastor of Flossmoor Community Church.
I’m not going to tell you what Cheney said — you’ll have to read the story — except to say that it contained the words “God’s love.”
To be honest, I am not much of a religious person. But I reacted immediately to the idea that we, as human beings, have this enormous gift of being able to love one another. Maybe it’s divine. Or maybe it’s the result of all the millennia our species has been on this planet. To survive, as something other than tribal animals, we need to love each other. The older I get, the more I know this to be true.
In the last couple of weeks I have done a lot of thinking about what Cheney told Andrea. In writing the LGBTQ story I came to realize that it was all about love. Among family and friends. And in the greater H-F community.
Our decision to go with a story about gay people goes back at least one year, and possibly two. On a Sunday in June 2014, my wife Patty decided to go downtown to meet a friend for lunch. She got on the 12:10 p.m. train in Flossmoor, not realizing it would be mobbed with rainbow-attired young people on their way to the Pride Parade. She talked with them all the way into the city. Nearly everyone on the train was an enthusiastic backer of the LGBTQ community and wanted to spread a message of love and acceptance.
“It gave me hope,” she said to me the other day.
Last June, Patty went to the Homewood Metra station to interview young people going to the parade. The Chronicle ran her story and she also took the photo that’s on the cover of this month’s print edition.
In planning for this story, we had a few goals in mind. We wanted to tell the story of our gay neighbors and why they chose to live in this community. We all know that the H-F area is extremely diverse, and that we are proud of that fact. We wanted to see how well LGBTQ people – whose diversity is not always apparent – fit in with the rest of the community.
And, as I have been telling people for weeks, we didn’t want to set anyone’s hair on fire. We did not want to be preachy.
Originally, we planned to release the LGBTQ story in just the print edition, then post it online a week or two later. There were no plans for me to write about why we did the story.
Then last weekend’s massacre at a gay club in Orlando happened.
There are no words for this kind of horror. I know how I feel about an event like this and all the factors that make it possible. I cannot look at the pictures of the victims and not think about my three sons, who are all about the same age. I grieve for all those young lives lost, and for their families.
I will just say this: What happened in Orlando was the very antithesis of God’s love. The worst has happened all throughout human history whenever we choose hate as an all-consuming passion. Civilizations have fallen because one side or another chose to follow bigotry and hate.
Also, it’s obvious that the Orlando victims were targeted because they were gay. In recent years, we have seen much progress in the acceptance of LGBTQ people, at least in this country. But homophobia — encouraged at times by religious and political leaders — is still very real.
While interviewing for the LGBTQ story I heard several people say that the Homewood-Flossmoor area is different. That it is an ideal place for them and their families to live. As an H-F resident, I was heartened by what they had to say. And I am pleased that I was able to write their story.
Love is not simple, though. It should never be taken for granted. And it requires steadfast attention. We are all constantly changing and that has an effect on our capacity to love.
In our corner of the world, I think, we have a good start on treating our neighbors the way we’d like to be treated. Now we need to make the most of it.