Pride: Loving our Neighbors

When I arrived at PrideFest Saturday, I had a sensory overload. Rainbows flew above the crowds of people, who were all grinning from ear to ear. People of all genders dressed like themselves, children excitedly walked up to booths to learn more about their neighbors and dogs rocked the most colorful tutus I have ever seen.

As I headed into Civic Park, I was handed a bottle koozie that read "Love your ___ neighbor" (fill in that blank with every intersection you can think of, ie. gay, transgender, immigrant, homeless, and it was written there). Political groups collected signatures in support of candidates who would perpetuate love through legislation. Organizations I had never heard of called me over, explained their purposes and asked me to stand in solidarity with them by wearing a sticker or a pin.

The RMS provided helping hands at the Episcopalians and Lutherans Welcome You! booth. I was unsure of how well we would be received, as I know that many associate being Christian or religious with condemning those who do not follow a strict set of social guidelines. However, I walked up to start my shift and found stickers that read 'LYN: Love Your Neighbor,' suckers with the words 'God thinks u r fabulous' and rainbow bracelets. Most notably, there were stacks of pages with lists of affirming Episcopalian and Lutheran churches.

I sort of expected the booth to go unnoticed or ignored, but that wasn't the case. Some of that might have to do with Pastor Brigette Weier, who broke some festival rules by standing in the middle of walkways to hand out swag to, have conversation with and cheer on those passing by. People came up to us, thanked us, engaged in conversation about God and were reassured that they will always be loved. It was beautiful. 

People of all ages got our tattoos and stopped by to tell us their stories, of heartbreak, love, discouragement and acceptance. After hearing their struggles, I think the easy thing for them to do would be to give up faith in both God and each other, especially when some so easily use their own faith to perpetuate hate and belittlement; the amazing fact was that those individuals were still searching for a place they could worship, love and be loved. Through our own faith, we were able to give people of all identities and intersections a sanctuary.

The joy of PrideFest was that no one asked another person to give up what they believe or to diminish who they are. It was a celebration of love in the purest form, and an encouragement to accept our friends, family and neighbors exactly as they are.

- Intern Katie