|Cody and Judy Shepard|
Last night I had the distinct honor of being able to hear Judy Shepard speak at Lawrence Tech University. For those of you don’t know, in 1998 Judy’s son, Mathew, was the victim of a hate crime. His attackers viciously beat him because he was gay. He eventually succumbed to his injuries six days after. As a mother, I can’t even begin to fathom the pain Mrs. Shepard went through. To lose a child is every mother’s worst nightmare and I don’t know if I would have her courage.
After Mathew’s death, Judy decided that she would become a crusader against hate. She formed the Mathew Shepard foundation in an effort to, “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion & Acceptance.” For the whole story, I encourage you to visit the Mathew Shepard Foundation website.
I wish I could say that the days of hate are behind us, but every day I’m faced with situations that prove just the opposite. Last week my daughter came home in near tears because some older boys had been teasing her. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time she was on the receiving end of taunts. Joie has a marked speech delay, is the shortest one in her class, plus she battles with learning disabilities. This day was different thought, for you see the bullies had been taunting her because her big brother is gay.
“They told me that gay’s are killers and that they are going to hell,” she asked, clearly confused. “I told them they are wrong because my brother is nice and I love him.”
Thankfully, when I went to her school the next morning, the staff at her school took my concerns very seriously. Not only did they promise to look into the situation immediately, but they also sent me a follow up email from two other teachers who assured me they would be carefully monitoring the situation. They even promised that if the bullying continued, they would bring in social workers to teach all of the student body about diversity.
The sad thing about all this is I know these boys were most likely echoing the same hateful rhetoric they hear at home. How many times have we seen those despicable signs that read, “Homosexuality Kills” and “Fags go to Hell” ? I am a firm believer that most bullies learn their hate and intolerance from home.
This has to change. America is supposed to be a place where ALL people are created equal. Yet, my gay son can’t marry or serve in the military. In our home state of Michigan it’s still perfectly legal for someone to fire him from a job just for being a homosexual. I ask my elected officials how any of that is fair or just?
Judy ended her speech with an old Cherokee tale of Two Wolves and I thought I would share it with you. I think it fits this situation perfectly:
One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’
The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’