I really showed up to say that I RESPECT and LOVE anyone who is willing to put their life on the line so we can be free and safe. I think that is an incredibly impressive thing for a person to do, especially for a career. Call it work, or service, or whatever. Most of them make the world a better and safer place for my kids and grandkid. I’m appalled that the man chosen to lead our country would communicate that Transgender members of the military are not worth the skin they’re in (essentially). He claims he won’t even send them into battle. They have prioritized the discipline of their bodies and minds and even their spirits. Many have ventured far from home and loved ones, serving for multiple tours and in doing so, they have suffered great emotional and physical harm. Now they’re suddenly not what? Strong enough? Cheap enough to insure even though the military spends more on Viagra? Straight enough? What exactly is it? I can think of no greater insult for these heroes. I proudly call myself an American even though I was just lucky enough to be born here……and I’m embarrassed of our Commander in Chief and the way he treats the people who serve this country.
As if his words on the topic of Transgender people in the military aren’t harmful enough, they may communicate to every young trans person who is all too aware of how different they are from everyone else, they are officially less than human. Dogs serve in the military. Now these people can’t? How does that strengthen our nation? How does it foster us ever working towards understanding these amazing souls (aren’t we all full of amazing possibility)? Do his words point us towards one another, seeking peace and respect or prompting kindness despite our differences? Or do they blow up the frail bridge that extended between those already deeply divided in our nation? How does it lower the suicide rate? How does it communicate love and acceptance of the person regardless of how they appear or how they define themselves? Is that the message we want to send our kids? What are we willing to do about it? Will we ever reconsider how we approach those who are so different from us (in all areas of our lives) but made by the same God (for those who believe)? For some reason, there’s enough inequality and inhumanity that we are still spending time on this even though there are kids starving to death all over the world. I’m not finished trying to be a bridge between those who harshly judge LGBTQ people (as I once did). However, I am done communicating as if I am apologizing for my passion for living and breathing people who are different. If you want to exit here, I sincerely respect you, but don’t tell me how sorry you are when the kid who usually sits on the front row in church is found dead in his bathroom next week because his pain and torture over your inability to accept him as he was became too great to bear for one more night. Are you willing to have this conversation? It takes every single one of us to do our part. You are either helping to marginalize these people or you’re working to understand what you don’t know and what frightens you, bringing Transgender people into your circles of worship, friendship, and family.
I know young people who seek out opportunity to honestly express themselves on the outside in a way that matches up with who they feel they are on the inside. Their BRAVERY outshines most people in our country. Simply said, every single person deserves the right to be the one and only person who defines themselves. I know I do! I want that for you and for the kids in our nation and moreover in our world! THAT, my friends, IS FREEDOM. It’s no wonder that when I went to friend @Kristin Beck (retired Navy SEAL Team 6 transgender hero) on FB, she had reached her limit for friends! Way to go, woman! I hope THAT tells our kids something! Bravery and honesty should be synonymous with HONOR and PRIDE. So listen up kids! If someone doesn’t agree with you or like you, go find someone else to play with, but DO NOT CHANGE the presentation of who you are. Being yourself is part of how you silence the recordings in your mind of harmful words spoken about you or others like you. You keep leading the way for the rest of us by being exactly who you KNOW you are! Walk with your head held high and remain full of courage! I’m pretty sure you call that being savage! You keep living your truth! Surround yourself with those who will encourage the person you are to come forth. Work on making your will like that of iron and caring less about what others think (I still struggle with this and if everyone was honest, they’d say they do as well from time to time). Though you may have been victimized, work to shake off a harmful and bitter victim’s mentality, choosing to see yourself as something greater than a victim. Your fight for equality will take less effort when you don’t walk like a victim. Being brave costs something, but you are NOT alone and I’m willing to pay a cost (clearly smaller than yours) to stand by, continually learning and understanding how to make life better for you and to bring those whom you love closer. You keep ignoring the haters as best as you can and blaze that trail for the kids in the next generation. WE ALL NEED YOU TO BELIEVE YOU ARE POWERFUL!
And here’s a little nugget for those who practice being faithful…..
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-38
I spent the weekend in WeHo for all the kids I know. We went to the PRIDE Festival on Saturday and I suddenly wished I was 20. After a burger and 30 minutes of an amazing experience, I left and went to bed! (#old) Sunday morning when we joined the Resist March, I paused for a minute to thank the police officers and sheriffs standing by. Through a few unexpected tears, I told them if it weren’t for their presence, I couldn’t try to make the world a better place for my son and that I needed a peaceful, safe place to do just that! So my makeup was a mess from the start! Then Coop and I met our newly married gay friends plus more of their friends and we stood at the pre-march rally. After many a speech, they held a moment of silence and released enormous purple balloons. Each balloon represented one of the Pulse Orlando victims. The balloons were released by high school students with the hope that they will remember the history of the lgbtq community, see how far it has come, hold on to hope for equality. They encouraged us all to respond to unkind and even hateful people with love, standing firm in the knowledge that they are more than ok and that together we can continue to make great strides for all of humanity. We paused to remember the Pulse victims, the 12 transgender people of color who were murdered this last year, and even some individuals like the “young man” who years ago was tortured and left to die all alone tied on a fence. It was not that long ago. Matthew Shephard’s name a face flashed through my mind and tears spilled onto my face at the thought of his precious and harmless life being cut short in such a horrific way while my own gay little guy was running around in a diaper. All those who have passed so tragically still matter today. Tears welled up and you can bet I marched for that young man! I NEVER want another story like Matthew Shepherd’s to exist again. We sang the national anthem and BOY did they sing pretty! For the first time singing that song, the words, “land of the free and the home of the brave” meant more to me than citizens and our soldiers. It meant to me, everyone responsibly trying to make a good life for themselves AND of course those who are willing to defend us all. WE MARCHED and I held a sign asking on one side for people to stop shaming each other, and on the other side reminding them that tolerance is not love.
Cooper held a sign that would be less of a bridge building communication so we will leave his out. 😅😜🤓
It is a disappointment to say the least to realize the parade was cancelled because the need for the Resist March was greater. By the way, to those of you who think the pride parades are just a bunch of naked people, you are misinformed. So how on earth has equality come down to politics? And yet it wasn’t that long ago that even I was so busy in my happy bubble that I couldn’t see to need to recognize that injustice was all around me and
deserves a chance to live without fear of judgement from others, in freedom and truth, able to say, “THIS IS WHO I AM.” It feels like yesterday in a bad way and I still have blind spots! I asked myself why was it so hard for me to simply focus on myself and let others walk their own path without judgment, and yet it is so easy now? The answer has far less to do with Cooper being gay and far more to do with my expectations of humanity, and my own life’s circumstances forcing me to look humbly at myself and faith from a more honest place. I see a lot of people less willing to simply buy into what they’ve been told. They are doing the heavy lifting of reconsidering. I believe one day at a time, we mobilize together and step towards progress! It’s a GREAT TIME to be ALIVE! It really is!
We were just about to march when I saw this little friend! Her sign choked me right up! I peered into her quiet eyes and sensed a gentle heart. I met her calmness with a tempered version of the same (for as long as I could hold back) and I pointed to her sign and told her, “You are right and I am SO proud of you.” I hugged her. When I stepped back, I realized there were three young girls together. In classic, slightly loud, and very excited Allie fashion, I said, “Oh my gosh there are three of you!!! AND YOU’RE KIDS!!! I’m SO excited you’re here!!!! HAPPY PRIDE!!” They all smiled and I literally wrapped my arms around all three of them. They looked a bit surprised but I could feel the love in their arms as they held me tightly. I want so badly for our kids to have an increasingly kind world. Asking someone to pray away the gay is like saying you can pray away your freckles! I LOVE THAT SHE KNOWS SHE IS EXACTLY AS SHE SHOULD BE. I want “the land of the free and the home of the brave” to have more people like that, gay or straight! Be you, bold in your own way, and full of courage!! Sometimes we parents and adults need a little time to slow down and remember how important it is that you be free to be who YOU want to be, who you were created to be, not who we have expected you to be from the day you were born, living out the future we think is best! How boring! Fear and arrogance is often the driver of that kind of thinking, wanting everything to be just so. Been there, done that! Still do it sometimes!Trials will come and go but equality shouldn’t be one of them! There are many ways to overcome and stand up strong after being knocked down! I love the verse this young lesbian has on her arm as a reminder that life can be hard but freedom from fear is coming, and in her case it involves her faith. “I SOUGHT THE LORD, HE ANSWERED ME AND DELIVERED ME FROM ALL MY FEARS.” Yes, you can be gay and be a person of faith. Some people are afraid they can’t and this girl obviously reconciled the two. YAY!
The march finally ended and I hit the festival and some clubs! You know, I never even went to a bar until last year! As much fun as I am, I left one really rigid life, friends! I laughed inside at how five years ago I would have been leading a bible study and now I’m out living it. Unafraid for the most part and thinking for myself. I am so incredibly grateful for my imperfect life and the freedom I give myself and others to not have everything figured out! It’s free, full of irresistible grace, love, and even peace. I know this the most when I am with people who are marginalized. All I can say is I feel alive and right in the center of part of my purpose. So the fun continued! I got a few pics with people of various ages who know I’d do any thing for them…. and they all come from Christian homes (some accepting and some not). We stopped on the streets and talked to homeless people and gave hugs and love. We danced (and I have no business dancing)! We sang. We sat while some shared with me in such vulnerable ways, that I am forever marked by them as individuals on the whole.
I ran into a few people I barely know but share a depth with like *Brian Terada (you know young people…..always snap chatting! I think it is so funny when they want to take a pic for their Snapchat so I play along in an unpolished way loving every second)! We had a GREAT day!
Wrapping up this post, I would never push my belief on you, but I would like to think we all belong to a divine creator who made us with great purpose and incredible potential! We can make a world that allows space for each to be free and to walk with Pride in who they are every day! Go create the life you want for yourself in this world and CHASE IT, my friends! XO
❤️*NOT EVERYONE who is gay has difficulty in their social circles or their churches. Check out my friend Brian’s video and you will BE SOOOOO HAPPY AND HOPEFUL! His upbeat ways and loving heart are nearly tangible and I promise you will be happy for him!!! Let’s end this on a good note!!❤️
Part of my purpose is to serve as a bridge of love, hope and healing between the church and the marginalized. It isn’t something I desire to do forever. There’s great pressure involved to treat both sides fairly and that sort of goes against human nature when you feel like someone is in need of justice. It requires being willing to walk together, extending hands to both parties, knowing there is terrible pain and disagreement on each side of the bridge and each person is valuable. It’s costs my comfort within the walls of some churches and in almost all of my oldest social circles. It cost me a spot on the worship team at my old church, which at the time was one of a very few things that brought me pleasure to be a part of and made me feel useful in faithful circles. It costs my physical well being as the tension can be so great….but it made me find yoga! Many of these people who are costing me something don’t know they’re hemorrhaging toxic attitudes as the rest of us can’t help but feel they have harshly judged gay people and their allies. Most are generally really good humans and they often help those in need. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Now I go to a church where although it isn’t affirming, I am encouraged to love the marginalized and my pastor is trying to move people towards empowering women as equals, protecting the refugees, accepting not just tolerating lgbtq, and shining a light on the real and appropriate questioning that exists in faithful people when they look at the pain in the world. All these other people on the other side of the bridge, some in my church and most in other churches, they often communicate their “love” for marginalized, but limit their contact with them and won’t give them positions of leadership because they call their behavior sinful. I am therefore limited in my role to one of simple presence and that is really ok because it’s made me maximize my desire to run towards those set aside in even the slightest way. I chase after broken hearts. I race toward those who are older and have survived the repeated blasts sent their way by family, friends, and so-called Christians. I seek to understand what hurts the most so that I can effectively communicate with anyone who doesn’t want to bury their child over something small. Often people don’t realize gay people simply want to love someone who is the same sex….they want to build a good and productive life with a partner, having close circles of gay and straight friends, and possibly showering their own kids in love. Sometimes it’s not that simple, but simplicity still exists if you remain mindful that we are ultimately talking about your kid, my kid, the neighbors kid, and our future generations of humanity. You’d think pro-life, kind hearted people would get that, and it makes me terribly sad that they so often don’t. 😦
In the last year, I’ve seen that most young gay people are desperate to know their parents love them as they are. Completely. Not hoping they will change. Though I sit for hours with these young people, mostly in their 20’s, it only takes minutes to see that often, their eyes hold a story becoming all too familiar. I’m thrilled when this is not the case! I have only found it two times. I see parents don’t even realize this child of theirs wants to walk through life close to them. They feel their parents are inching away because of their sexuality. Maybe some just to figure out how they feel as individuals. But often for longer than that would seemingly take and without much reassurance or relationship. So I find myself listening and holding the adult hand of men and women. We talk and sometimes if they initiate it, we pray. I see the hands I believe God created and the hearts He would never abandon. The same hands were once tiny, chubby, satin soft and dimpled. Some parents held those hands through incubators praying for that little heart to keep beating. Some bent their backs for hours holding those tiny hands while fat baby toes squished in the sand and fatter feet dipped in the edge of the ocean. Those parents hands kept their beloved baby safe in many a setting, holding tightly. They opened up to express love and were an entension of arms that hugged those kids with such immeasurable pleasure and delight! They established a parental trust. Those babies grew to be kids who knew they were loved immeasurably. Parents managed the ups and downs of babies and toddlers, preschool all the way through high school, and all of the experiences. They advocated for their kids when bullied and agonized over it all in the night, only to wake up and relentlessly do it again the next day. They did school projects and lots of first aid. They celebrated achievements of all kinds; sports, academics, the arts, etc. They survived failures and heartaches. This is living, and this is what we do as parents. We send them off to dances, driving, and dating. There are times where we don’t always like them. Yet we remain faithfully present. We want to hear about who they like and why, or what class they’re enjoying or hating. Whatever they want to share, we want to hear! Until they tell us they’re gay or transgender. Capable hands held so tightly often end up opening completely. Feet that led step back and away. Only now these kids are grown enough to feel they’re being rejected. Some are adults and they know they’re being rejected.
Too many kids find themselves sitting next to a red haired woman asking them to tell their story because they are different and she seeks to understand. Why? Because too much of the world feels that what they do in their bedroom defines their overall worth. The hands that should be resting in their parent’s now rest in mine from time to time. That step back that parents and pastors and people of all kinds thought was a tiny quiet one will forever be remembered as a thunder that shook the heavens and the very foundation of established trust in the heart of their child. The longer that person feels their parent has stepped away, the more war-torn their heart and mind become until one day they give up in one manner or another. Give up on family accepting their sexuality, give up on the relationship, or give up on inhaling and exhaling pain for one more day. That’s not always the case. Sometimes parents work hard to understand and the distance becomes minimal or nonexistent. Too many can’t wait indefinitely, as it is hard for us all to deal with the uncertainty of when things will improve. I see no one who would choose this. Going home starts to hurt. Going to church feels like walking around with a scarlet letter on their chest. Unless we all cultivate places that feel completely safe.
MAKE NO MISTAKE. LGBTQ are strong enough to stand alone if they have to in order to be who they really are. They get tired of being made to feel less than, shamed, or second class. And it hardens their resilience and sometimes makes them angry, as it would anyone. One day they just might walk away from you. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
So what do I do? What can you do? If you can’t come up with anything, you can try some of these things I have tried. I have patience for a time with parents. I tell their kids what it is like to be a parent of a gay son and the terror we experience as we worry for their safety, their hearts, their acceptance, their love lives, their freedom and equality, their faith, their circles of friends, their family, their emotional well-being, etc. I point parents, friends, and family to helpful support groups like PFLAG https://www.pflag.org/our-story. I tell them they might enjoy Rob Bell’s podcast, as he offers more honest ways to see faith and life. https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/. I have lots of books and resources for studying theology for those who want it. Try http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/about-walking-bridgeless-canyon/ . I go to a church that isn’t open and affirming, but is in the process of loving all so I can be a part of the pioneering of something new and good, attempting to be full of grace and love and hopefully consistently safe in the mind of a gay person. I remind them we are all learning and hope they can be patient with us. I sit with gay people and we talk about this aspect of their lives. I hug them and sometimes I even kiss their cheek because they are so dear to me. I cry when they cry, or laugh so hard and loud I nearly lose my ability to breathe. I treat them like everybody else, except I’m not afraid to be raw with them because they often know what it’s like to be raw. We end up sharing all kinds of aspects of life and IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL! (Side note: more gay people have come to my aid offering support on a daily basis than straight people since my straight 20 year long marriage fell apart last year.) I remind them that on June 14, 2014, when my own son came out, I only knew one gay man and was acquainted with another gay man. TWO total. People learn and change very quickly when love, faith, and relationship is the priority and the motivation. Sometimes it takes telling them how their step back makes you feel. Everyone deserves their own experience in the process, parents, kids, and the rest of you. I wouldn’t dream of mandating what that looks like. But I do believe that we are progressing towards more people offering overall equality. Moms and dads usually, eventually realize these kids of theirs want them in their lives. It can be a difficult transition and is hard on everyone even in many good circumstances. I also seek to make it known that we all have to remain humble and full of relational stamina in circumstances where people are truly trying to understand each other. I weep for the division among good hearted people. Pastors, doctors, counselors, parents, teachers, and any person anywhere. Their continued refusal to ruthlessly open the issue and wrestle with it will burn down the very things they seek to build. So I am tenderly and humbly pleading with you for the sake of all of our children. Consider getting to know them before you decide it is a choice. Look for resources to help you along. You can imagine what you would do or what you would say if your loved one came out to you, so that you are ready if they ever do. You can teach your kids to be kind. Remember the sting of rejection you surely felt at some point in your own life and ask yourself if you want to be a part of the blast of dynamite to the soul or not. It’s a yes or no question. You either are or you aren’t. Maybe, there is a very, very fine line of shaky middle ground. I suppose true humility would say there is.
I know for myself what it’s like to begin to embrace political and theological differences instead of letting them divide me and those I associate with. It is incredibly freeing and before you know it you are overflowing with love for all of humanity in ways you never knew you could. As someone who calls themself A Christian, I do not doubt for one second that truly and deeply loving and accepting these people who are so different than me, is exactly what Jesus would have me do. I am increasingly aware that each of us is beyond treasured to a divine God. Our worth to him cannot be measured. And so for now I leave the walls of a church on many Sundays to share that love. Or sometimes I sit with them inside those walls!
Those of you who don’t struggle with this and are already giving equality and making a difference in other areas for those who need justice and love, thank you so much. The sons and daughters of so many need your voice now more than ever. All our kids do really! Please stand with them as allies. We think it’s their world but I have had many a gay person tell me, “We can’t do this alone. We need our straight allies.” PLEASE consider investigating how you can be an ally if that seems right to you. It simply means being a friend. I know we can’t all champion every good cause. But it isn’t hard to just be a friend.
If you’re a pastor, or a person in a position of influence and leadership, would you consider giving us under your influence a chance to grow and think for ourselves by creating visibility and a voice for parents of gay people and MOST importantly gay people themselves. Do this by simply letting gay people be seen as the humans they are instead of just opening your door to them. Why on earth do we care what they lovingly do in their bedrooms? Can’t we just let them be and unite forces for good, chasing after how to care for the sick, the poor, the windows, and the orphans? Or will we all continue to needlessly make our gay people spiritually poor and orphaned?
I can only look at bloodied hearts for so long. I have no college education or training on how to handle the view into the pain of others. All I have is a gay son, a bunch of gay friends, a kind heart and the offering of love. No one is making me do this. It is actually an honor. I am not complaining at all. I choose to be a peacemaker for now. But I am telling a story in hopes that you will be compelled to reconsider your views, your actions, and the facts. For now, I possess the grace to be strong on the bridge between us all as I attempt to live out Micah 6:8 one day at a time.
Micah 6:8English Standard Version (ESV)
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]
and to walk humbly with your God?
I can do that. And so can you if you want.
I would add some practical steps you can take as a call to action:
•Parents of LGBTQ kids, don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation with your kids, but let them set the pace in their readiness to answer. They are more than likely wanting to discuss it with you if they feel safe It’s scary for both sides. Stay committed to loving and working out the relationship over time. Understanding follows patience.
•Go to a Pflag meeting (they’re held monthly everywhere) and just listen if you’re too afraid to speak.
•Ask your pastor how you can help your church be more inclusive of LGBTQ people. Ask him to look at Kathy Baldock’s book in the link above for Canyon Walkers. OR, face the strong possibility your kid will become an atheist because they’re so sick of hearing the phrase, “Love the sinner but hate the sin.”
•Rememeber that the Bible is a book that has been altered in translation. Are you willing to look at that and still find it to be worth our any error whatsoever? (I know I’m really rattling the bees nest now, but I simply and gently ask you to evaluate for yourself how much you are willing to risk over faith and belief verses facts. I am a person of great faith! It is still of GREAT worth. I’m just sayin’ maybe reconsider some perspectives. Ask why you believe what you believe in the first place! That can never be bad.
•Willingly educate and have open dialogue with your kids about who gay people are. When Cooper came out, Jack was 7 and said, “Does that mean you want to wear a dress?” And Cooper replied, “No, it means I want to marry a man when I grow up.” So simple!
•This Sunday, there is a RESIST MARCH. STAND AS AN ALLY in West Hollywood! Message me for more info or google it. THIS IS AN AMAZING CHANCE TO GET OUT THERE AND BE A PART OF THE PROGRESS IN OIR SOCIETY! I can’t think of a better way to spend a day many of you would normally be in church. Share your love! It will multiply!!!
PS – To my GLBTQ Treasures – Hearts and minds can and are changing. GOD is working on your behalf to unshackle you in the eyes of the church. Some churches are already there! Thank you so very much for sharing yourselves with me and loving me in all my inexperience. I stand alongside to encourage you, this month especially, to hold your heads high! Not as victims or those who shouldn’t be seen. But as one with PRIDE, dignity, and great, equal worth. Your courage is astounding!!!! I love you with all my heart. I really do. ❤️
PPS – Parents of gay kids, please do not take this post as a criticism of wherever you’re at in your transition with your kid. It is simply meant to tell my personal experience with gay young people. So whether you’re just finding out your kid is gay or you’ve known for 50 years, I completely respect your individual process. If you have been following this story, you know I come from an ultra conservative background politically and religiously. I have only recently been this loving and open to the gay community. So I won’t judge those of you who aren’t sure what to think or do or feel. I love you right where you are and I know how difficult it is to be where you are. BIG LOVE to you.
On Sept. 11th at 9 am, Tom Wojcik was supposed to end a 24-hour shift. By 9:15 he was headed to Tower 1 with the other firemen from his firehouse. They stopped a city bus, got everyone off, loaded up all their gear, and picked up four more fire companies. Tower 2 fell, and around 11:00, they were dispatched there so all the units wouldn’t be in one spot. When Tom arrived, one of the first things he saw was Emergency Services NYPD Truck 2. This was the truck his cousin, John D’Allara used as a member of an elite unit of the PD that responds to large emergencies. John gave his life during the collapse of the first tower and left behind his own family. Never forgotten.
Tom did not go home until Sept. 12th around 11:45 pm. His wife, Debbie, had last spoken with him at 7:45 am, before the first plane even hit. Debbie says, “Then whoever was left from the FD and the PD went to 12 hour shifts, 12 on and 12 off.” That was the schedule for nine months. When we call him a hero, he says, “It was just my job. The heroes are the ones that died.” He’s a lot bigger than me, so I don’t argue…..but I still tell my kids he IS a hero.
Tom and Debbie lost about 15 dear friends that day from the FD and the PD. Michael Cawley, Lt. Robert Wallace, Battalion Chief Orio Palmer, Capt. Thomas Moody, Lt. Ronald Kerwin and Thomas Casoria to name a handful. They lost another 40 friends who were on call that day.
If you can’t get to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, you might like to read about these heroes at – http://www.legacy.com . I read about every man our cousins mentioned and didn’t regret it. I laughed at some of the memories people shared about them and was inspired by stories of their consistent bravery. My gratitude for LIFE and LOVE increased. For STRENGTH and COURAGE. For HEROES.
“David Haskell’s Tower Memories is dedicated to the innocent, the brave and the unaccounted for who perished on Sept. 11, 2001.” This memorial is located at the Frank Hotchkin Center in Los Angeles. I didn’t really mean to smile….it was sort of automatic. Although, I do think it is meaningful that all the way over here in LA, we have the names of each individual who lost their life. I saw this memorial as soon as I walked in to pick up my race packet the day before the race.
Today I did participate in Run to Remember Los Angeles. I completed the 10k in 58:17. I thought of Tom and his friends during the race. I ran for many, to honor the loss and to cherish life.
What would you do today if your kid told you they wanted to be a police officer? You might ask them why. What if they said the main reason was because they wanted to “impact a life” and wanted to be a part of “allowing people who live life in fear or who are unable to care for themselves sleep a little better at night”? Officer Jose Soto, who grew up in Whittier, CA told me those were his reasons at 19, after his first year of college.
Jose is my new friend and he has served for 9 years with the LAPD/City of Los Angeles. The last six years have been in Watts, CA. I just met him a couple weeks ago and I thought he’d be perfect for this post, which is meant to give you a “read along” since you likely don’t want a “ride along” through Watts in the Southeast Division. Lucky for me, he was happy to assist!
When Jose graduated the police academy, he remembers looking forward to all the action and excitement of getting criminals off the street. Watts is the third city in the LA area where he has worked. Jose describes it as being “One of the most violent, gang infested areas in the nation…..with approx. 50 gangs in 10 square miles….Hispanic gangs, Crip gangs, and Blood gangs.” He says, “People living here are just trying to get by and have to live their lives in fear.” I asked him if there was anything that made him fearful or apprehensive at the onset of his career. He answered, “I was so young and excited and any of that was pretty much in the back of my mind. I had been trained well, and anything to be afraid of took a back seat to it all. I was always aware of the danger but honestly, the training just seems to become an instinct, second nature, so I never feared. I just acted when I needed to.”
I asked Jose what a typical day is like in Watts. He replied, “Every day is different. It can be slow and it can be no stop. The majority of crimes committed are violent. 90% in the Southeast are gang related. Multiple shootings a day, homicides, foot pursuits in the projects, usually with gang members with guns or narcotics. I usually arrest somebody everyday, and not for small things either. They’re shooting, murder, or robbery suspects. Where I work, that’s common so it doesn’t get much attention. If I was a cop in Irvine, or some neighborhood with money, I’d probably be on the news for making an arrest like that. The stuff that goes on like the homicides are pretty frequent, but you don’t hear it on the news. It’s not news in South LA…..in Watts. It happens so often it’s a part of living and working there.”
When Jose tells me about his best day on the job, he says, “It was the day I completed my probationary period. A whole year of having to be monitored and rated by training officers and supervisors to make sure you’re proficient in all aspects of the job. You can get fired anytime in that first year if you’re not making the cut.”
Then he tells me about another good day he had recently, “I received a radio call of a child endangerment. Mom and Dad had an argument. Dad took off from home and was driving drunk with his two year old in the back seat. My partner and I were able to find the described vehicle a few blocks away with Dad and the child. We conducted a traffic stop and a field sobriety test and dad was arrested for DUI. Fortunately, he didn’t get in an accident or try to evade us. The two year-old little girl was ok. I called Mom to come pick her up. When Mom responded to our location, I got her daughter out of the car seat. The little girl had her arms wrapped super tight around my neck. She was happy. A nice big bear hug. I don’t have kids, but it was actually really nice to be embraced like that by that little girl. Ive never been hugged like that by a baby. Never had that experience in my life and it made me want to have kids of my own.” Jose laughs. (I won’t warn him they turn into teenagers.)
I ask what makes him feel alive. He says, “It’s crazy to say this but I feel alive when I’m probably engaged in some of the most dangerous situations. Chasing gang members with guns, responding to calls with lights and sirens, and that sense of urgency. Someone needs my help and I have to get to them as quickly as possible to, at times, save their lives or to prevent a crime from occurring.”
I think it’s amazing when people can live out what they know is their purpose. Not everyone does that. But Jose does! Jose says, “I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do when I just don’t feel anything. It’s hard to explain. I see a lot. I see death regularly. I’m exposed to so much negativity but I’m drawn to it. There’s no fear. Ever. I never think about how I can die today. I don’t think I’ll get shot on a search warrant for the man with the gun I’m chasing, or that the guy that wants to fight me will hurt me, or that the gun shots I run towards are dangerous. I just know I have to do this. Someone needs my help. I need to apprehend this suspect. My will to live and go home everyday, to win the fight, is greater than any obstacle or person in my way. If you’re afraid and it’s on your mind, than being a cop is not for you.”
He says, “Some of the difficult things that you deal with is when you see legitimate victims. Not a gang member who gets shot by another gang member, but a true victim. The teen who commits suicide because the things he’s dealing with are just too much that he’d rather be dead than to live another day. I’ve seen it. Families are devastated. I think that’s one of the hardest things when you see a person’s pain when they’ve lost a loved one in a tragic way. They cry in front of you and all you can do is say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ It may be something you could not have prevented, but it’s a crappy feeling. I think police officers take things personal and are affected more when it feels personal. My partner has kids so anything involving kids affects him more. We can all relate to things based on our own life experiences.”
“What surprises me in nine years on the job is that nothing surprised me much these days. I guess it happens to us cops. What may seem unimaginable to everyone else is very imaginable to us. We see it over and over again. We live it. How can someone do this or that? How can a person be so evil? I honestly still believe that the majority of people are still good and kind hearted but the bad are slowly gaining ground on the good. Think of the past decades. Things get worse, violence gets worse. We used to be able to leave our house doors unlocked or our keys in the car. Things change and they’ll continue to. Hopefully, it will get better soon. At this moment, it’s getting worse. We had 135 officers killed in the line of duty in 2016. The number of officers killed by gun fire rose after it had fallen in 2015 by 14%. So many attacks, premeditated attacks on cops last year.”
My last question to him is what he wishes the general public understood about his job. Officer Soto says, “The thing I wish people knew about us is something people should know, but fail to remember, or want to recognize. We are human like everyone else. We have parents, kids, wives, husbands. We like to have fun like everyone else. Watch movies, eat, drink, watch Netflix, you name it we do it. We are from the human race. We have a job with a lot of responsibilities. We are expected to know and do so much. We have to wear many hats. We have to make decisions quickly because it can be life or death. We are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If we are around people and conduct enforcement, we are definitely not wanted. When something happens and we aren’t there, people want to know why. We are always there when not wanted and never there when needed in people’s eyes. We react to people’s actions the majority of the time and have to make a decision in a split second.
He adds, “One thing a person should do is put themselves in a scenario. Play my role. You respond to a call where the person calling says an individual has a gun in his jacket pocket. You arrive to the call and locate a possible suspect, to the tee. Same descriptors. Race, height, weight, hair color, jacket color, and pants color. He’s at the corner where they were said to be. You have to believe this is the guy described. Gives you probably cause to detain the individual. You use caution. You advise the individual to keep his hands up where you can see them while you point your gun at him. The individual is refusing to follow orders. He’s reaching for his jacket pocket. Hey, that’s where the caller said the gun is. You tell him to stop. He continues. You’re approximately 20 yards from the individual and it is dark out. You see a black object being removed out of his jack. He begins to lift what appears to be a gun and point it in your direction. You fire. The suspect is hit. You recover the gun and the suspect is in custody. You protect your life and others around. SAME SCENARIO. Suspect is pointing the black object which appears to be a gun in your direction. You fire. It’s a cell phone. Now people say you’re a murderer. I ask this. Shouldn’t any reasonable person follow officers orders when having a gun pointed at them? Shouldn’t they keep their hands up because they don’t want to die? We don’t want to die either. Split seconds. That’s the info we have, and those are our real life scenarios everyday. What would you do? You have children and like all humans, no one wants to die.”
My gratitude for men and women like Officer Jose Soto can in no way be measured.
My deepest condolences will never be enough for the families of those men and women who loved their jobs, and worked to make peoples lives better, but lost their own life in doing so. And that my friends is one reason why I will show up to run on Sunday and why I’ll show up here on the blog for anyone who cares to follow along for the next few days.
Please consider offering some kind words to those working in your communities.
And of course, if you’d like to give to the two funds for which I’ve become passionate about, it would mean so much to me, but more to the recipients of your tax deductible gifts.
Look at all the stuff that WE gave away!!! I let the people at the LGBT Center for Youth know just who was funding all of this. Everyone from people like me who have changed and no longer ignore the LGBTQ community, to a little girl in fourth grade who donated her own money. I let them know that people like me will stand by them and recognize they need allies and friends full of kindness and justice to come repair the damage done to their community, especially when they have no home or family to speak of. Then, I turned over the goodies! WE gave the kids at the center so many socks and long underwear! Another friend went around and bought her own socks and chapstick and gift cards AND all kinds of goodies to donate to the cause. A teenager and his mom and little brother made about one billion cookies (total exaggeration but I gave them out on the street and truly wondered if they would ever run out)! Every person who tasted them in front of me LOVED THEM and it was such a personal touch. I chatted with the young and old on the street and called them by name and in my heart, you donors were right there with me. Furthermore, all these people I chatted with asked me how I was, wanted to know why I was there, if I had kids, why my marriage fell apart and I wasn’t with my family that day, how I made it through such a thought year, and on and on. They became my friends and took time with ME! They showed compassion and love to me. WE gave to each other and for a few minutes in the cold on 12/23 and 24, and even part of 25 and 26, our souls connected. And you KNOW I will be seeing some of them again! I’m telling you friends, even though I knew I could not change their circumstances, it was so moving and energizing just to share life and love and to be able to give and receive this way. Especially when I put the softest, high quality, amazing hats purchased locally for a ridiculously low rate (given especially for this cause) from a non-profit social capitalism brand called Krochet Kids (maybe you have seen them in Whole Foods)! That almost jerked a tear or two also because I was able to use the money to buy from this company that is helping MORE people on a consistent basis (follow them on IG @krochetkids or FB @Krochet Kids int’l to see how they are changing the lives of women in Peru and Uganda). It doesn’t get any better than that unless we rid the world of problems altogether! Since we can’t do that all at once, please celebrate the generosity and kindness shown by fewer than 15 donors and see what WE did on this day in December of 2016 (an otherwise comparably poopy year, lol)! SO MUCH LOVE ALL AROUND, FRIENDS! SO MUCH! Thank you from my whole being!
XO – Allie
P.S. – You will be encouraged to see even greater change elsewhere if you take a quick peek at what Krochet Kids is doing around the globe!