on the right side of white…

Dear Dr. King,

Your ears must be ringing since everyone’s been talking about you. The media has been playing your “I have a dream” speech over and over again.

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Free...

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the National Mall facing east from the Lincoln Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One anecdote was of particular interest.  It seems a pro basketball player who stood nearby asked if he might have your speech after you’d delivered it. Evidently you gave him the 3 pages, because he still has it.

I have no such memento of that historical day, or the faintest recollection of where I was when you spoke those famous words. It’s safe to say I probably felt as far removed from the black situation as I was the day you stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I was thousands of miles away on the island of Maui in Hawaii. You were changing history…and I didn’t bear witness.

But just as a pebble causes ever-widening ripples to occur when it hits the water’s surface, your words have affected generations of lives…for the better. And so it seems only fitting that I write you this long overdue thank you letter.

If you hadn’t stood tall for racial injustice I might not be living on…the right side of “white.”

I graduated from college, and with my degree was able to work alongside white colleagues in a number of different jobs.

My family and I have felt at home in neighborhoods predominantly populated by whites.

Our daughter has thrived in all white schools.

We can shop where we please. We can choose which theater to see a movie. We can dine where we like. We can use public restrooms without reservation. We can travel by plane, train or ship. We can overnight in a Hyatt or a Best Western. We can decide which services get our business be it the cable company, the dentist, or a contractor.

No one looks twice at my driver’s license picture. Retailers are only too happy to take my money. Pre-approved applications for credit cards always arrive in the daily mail.

I owe my quality of life to the steps you took to improve your family’s life, and the lives of other African Americans, Hispanics, Middle-Easterners, Asians…and Pacific Islanders like me.

What you did 50 years ago will continue to resonate until mankind ceases to exist.

I may have been born on the wrong side of white, but thanks to your dream of what could be…

English: Inscription on the steps of the Linco...

English: Inscription on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, commemorating the location from which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington on 1963-08-28. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…i’m living on the right side of white…

…mahalo!…

………hugmamma.

“living la vida gay,” ricky martin

In his “heyday” Ricky Martin was hot, hot, hot! Then he disappeared. What was that all about? Years passed, and I forgot all about him. Seems he had a lot to figure out in his personal life. He’s gay. Now I understand. “Living la vida loca,” with guys might not sell records to straight audiences, or so he thought. It might have made me think “aw shucks,” but a singer who’s got great vocals and a ripped body, and moves as Martin does, needn’t have worried about me liking him as an entertainer. I move to the beat, regardless of someone’s sexual preference.

Upset that Barbara Walters asked if he was gay on national television the night of the Academy Awards, Ricky Martin sidestepped the question. He wasn’t “ready” to deal with the unrelenting attention the mass media would heap upon him if he “came out.” He chose to pick the moment, when he was ready to reveal the truth. Martin was still evolving into the gay man he has proudly proclaimed himself to be, today. When his mom hugged him after only taking a minute to digest his news, he knew it was time to tell everyonelse. So he wrote his memoirs.

“Ricky Martin: ME” was the platform from which Oprah interviewed him on her talk show today. In his autobiography, he told all, including his having been bisexual before determining that, in fact, he was gay. He’d had passionate romances with women, but one serious relationship with a man, for whom he would have sacrificed everything, convinced him he was gay. Older, perhaps wiser, the man refused to let Martin give up what he was obviously meant to do, entertain crowds who loved him. The singer decided his partner was not as enamored of him, as he was of the man. At the time Martin was 22.

His new love these days? Actually there are two. A surrogate was engaged to give Ricky Martin children, twin boys, as it turned out. Watching him parent the youngsters on a video, probably had women in the audience, and viewers on TV, wishing he were straight. There was no mistaking that Martin is an awesome, “hands-on” father. He changed diapers, he played “pat-a-cake,” he served up breakfast, he rode a bike, carting the twins behind in a special contraption, and he’s teaching his boys to speak Spanish. The luckiest woman in Martin’s world right now? His mom, for she’s got his heart, and the hearts of 2 precious grandsons.

Evidently, Ricky Martin’s celebrity status was a powerful catalyst in moving ordinary men to “own” their gay-ness. A man flown in by Oprah to be part of the audience, explained how the revelation convinced his own Hispanic mom to ask her son questions about his lifestyle, something she hadn’t done when first learning that he was gay. Standing at his side, for all the world to see, she shared a hug, and kiss on the cheek with her son.

While Martin is a proponent of gays professing themselves to the public in their own time, Oprah supports all gays stepping out together in a powerful show of support for one another. Admirable of her to suggest it, another thing for those affected, to do so, and face retaliation, each on his own turf, in his home, in his school, in his office, in his church, in the military, in sports, among his friends, in society.

What do you think?

hugs for ricky martin…still hot!…hugmamma.

humility, with a southern drawl

I was invited by a very, dear friend to attend Sunday Mass at her church, the diocesan Cathedral. I’d been in it before, some time ago. Upon entering the nave, I was surprised for I hadn’t remembered its simplicity. The seat of the diocese from which the Bishop administers to local area churches, usually instills awe and if not fear, then certainly timidity. Rather than gazing upon impressive architectural details, I noticed the people sitting quietly in pews, others walking down the central aisle looking for seats. When my eyes came to rest upon the front where Mass would be celebrated, I was perplexed by its lack of ornamentation. The altar was empty; 3 wooden chairs sat to the right. To the left stood the podium, partially blocking another wooden chair. And across the back, imposing in size, was a white marble sculpture of Jesus on the Cross, the Blessed Virgin standing beneath and to his left, eyes gazing upon His face, and St. John standing on the right. Cradling Jesus’ feet was a woman, perhaps Mary Magdalene. 

In contrast to the starkness below, the dome over the altar displayed colorful paintings. The lone, central figure was God, left hand extended holding the world with a cross on top. The figures to His left and right may have been of a risen Virgin and St. John, but I’m not certain for I only glimpsed them momentarily. Having seated ourselves, I continued to look around for other tell-tale signs of grandeur befitting the Bishop’s Church. They only seemed apparent beyond the pillars that flanked either side of the nave. Structural details such as cornices, sculptures and stained glass windows enhanced the otherwise, unassuming house of worship. Use of soft pastels in hues of blues, peaches and beiges both in paint colors and floor tiles, imparted an air of serenity.

Awash in calm, I observed those around me. Smiles lighting up faces as friends recognized one another. Young sons kept separate by a mom, as the family of 4 made their way into a pew. A middle-aged, silver haired couple, husband with his arm lovingly draped about his wife, fingers massaging her shoulder. Two 30-ish year old women with ebony, straight, shoulder-length hair, dressed similarly in print skirts and simple black tops, quietly stepped into a pew a couple of rows ahead. One turned her head looking over her right shoulder, a smile lifting the corners of her lovely face. Was she part-Asian, part-Caucasian, or part-Hispanic, part-Caucasian? It was difficult to tell, but she was pretty nonetheless. The single element which disrupted the contemplative surroundings was the couple seated directly in front of us. Blonde hair in a short pony-tail, the woman, dressed in short jean skirt topped with a white, slightly off-the-shoulder blouse, cinched at the waist by a beige, elastic belt, spoke in non-stop whispers to her male companion. I found myself repeatedly focusing my attention elsewhere, trying to assimilate the peacefulness that enveloped me. It wasn’t difficult.

For me the “jewel in the crown” is always the person celebrating the Mass, and I wasn’t disappointed. Different from youthful, 38 year old, 6’4″ tall, dark and handsome Father Bryan, the pastor of my church, Father Edward Steiner, the Cathedral’s rector, was nearer my age, 5’10”, bespectacled, pleasantly rotund, with silvery-blonde hair, mischievous eyes and a ready smile. When he began his homily his voice, not booming like Father Bryan’s, but soothing and comfortable, invited me to rest my back against the bench, to sit-a-spell. With a lilting, southern drawl, Father Steiner spoke of humility, the Gospel’s lesson.

I’m certain I’ve heard this particular Gospel many times over many years. Perhaps maturity gained with age and a lifetime of experiences, coupled with Father’s engaging demeanor kept me hostage throughout his homily. Drawing our attention to the calendar, he reminded us that there were only so many days left until Christmas. The congregation joined in his chuckles. Continuing on, Father said that most of us give obligatory gifts, among these are those to teachers, secretaries. Not intending to dissuade us from gift-giving, he encouraged that we do it for more substantive reasons than obligation. He then explained the cultural premise of the Gospel reading.

According to Jewish practice whoever was positioned directly across from the host while dining, was held in the highest esteem. The remaining positions were then distributed with consideration for the host’s regard toward those invited, the least favored being seated at his feet. Mediterranean practice had diners lying on their sides, dipping torn pieces of bread into serving dishes shared by all. Western practice is less stringent, with the hostess assigning, or not assigning, seats at the table. If in the latter case, a person seats himself across from the hostess and is asked to move, then that guest is humbled. Where if a guest is moved from a lesser position to the most prominent seat, then that person is rewarded for her humility.

Rather than inviting guests to dine based upon a sense of obligation for their having first invited us, Father Steiner suggests we invite those who are unable to return the favor. By bringing the humble (“low in status” according to Webster) to our table we are advancing their honor, and our own. In giving gifts, we should do so not with the expectation of receiving, we should give because we want to honor those to whom we give, knowing that they are unable to give in kind. We honor them, and we honor ourselves.

Among Jews, striving for honor was a constant. But it seemed to be a subsequence of humility. When Mary told Jesus that a wedding reception was running low on its supply of wine, she intended that he do something. Knowing that he would help to preserve the groom’s honor, Mary was advancing her own Son’s honor. Without fanfare and with only a handful bearing witness, Jesus performed a miracle to keep the wine plentiful. This act, done with humility, brought honor to Himself while maintaining the honor of His host.

After Mass I thanked Father for his sermon. The same warmth that emanated during the eucharistic celebration continued to flow from him as we chatted. When my friend and I took our leave, allowing others patiently waiting to speak with Father, I hugged him in Aloha. Comfortable in returning the gesture, Father elevated a humble follower to share his proximity to God, thus honoring me and in the process, advancing His honor as well.

I meant it when I told Father Steiner that my experience with southern hospitality is that it is akin to Hawaiian Aloha. Both have their faults for sure, but they have their blessings as well. Rather than use a broad stroke to define a culture, I prefer to use a fine brush to detail their compassionate and positive qualities. Focusing upon the humbler side of human nature advances its honor, and the honor of all mankind, and ultimately, God’s.

hugs for a humble southerner, Father Steiner…hugmamma.