Not long ago, I was in Windsor, Ontario, for a speaking engagement. Following my talk, a group of us gathered at a local restaurant for dinner and conversation. It was there that I met a man who shared with me about his mother who had recently passed. He spoke about growing up with the knowledge that being gay was bad. I assumed and subsequently asked the man if his mother was an outspoken religious type, and he replied that while his mother was a church-goer, she never preached hate to him.
I was a bit embarrassed that my assumptions were incorrect and decided to simply listen as the man explained how he learned that gay was bad.
"You just... understood it. It was her facial expressions and the odd comment now and then. She wasn't comfortable with the topic, and you knew she didn't like them," he explained.
"I get that," I replied. "That's actually how most people pick up prejudices in their youth. It's not the radicals screaming from the pulpits so much as the masses picking up the sensory virus and passing it on just as subtly."
The man went on to recount a conversation he had with his mother many years later. He was watching TV with his mom at her home, and the program contained a discussion about equality for gays. To his surprise, his mother said, "I don't see anything wrong with gays being married if they love each other."
He continued, "I think it was when she was sick with cancer. Several of her nurses and assistants were gay. When she had a personal experience with someone she assumed was bad, she felt something different."
"It changed her heart, Nate, and then it changed her mind."
About a year ago I was contacted by a woman named Terrie Johnson. She told me a bit about herself and how she'd learned about me. Then she asked me to view a video her and her son had made. I watched "Ears Wide Open?" and I wept. I knew they understood this dynamic of change the heart then change the mind. When I met them a few months later in Lawrence, Kansas, and they asked if they could do a documentary about my story, I knew they were the ones who would do it right.
Because they get it!
On Monday they took their goal of shooting this documentary another step on Kickstarter. When I watched the trailer they've created for "Not My Father's Son," I was reminded again... they get it. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with them and the remarkable team they have assembled to get this message out... the cure for bigotry of the brain is to inoculate the heart with loving connections.
I'm surprised how out of control I feel in this process. It's my story but in the end I must rely on the talent, skill, but most of all heart of those who are working to tell it. Although I can't control all of it, after working with Brad, Terrie and their talented team this last year, I can make this commitment: This investment will not return empty. We will change hearts and minds. We will save lives. We will secure a better future for coming generations.