Valuable Lessons in Every Life

Article excerpt

The History Month Project (October), now in its second year, was designed to remember and honor the lives, values and accomplishments of women and men with a same-sex orientation, many of whom were for decades erroneously presumed to be heterosexual. This project was endorsed this past July by the 2.2 million member National Education Association. The resolution says that the NEA "recognizes the importance of raising the awareness and increasing the sensitivity of staff, students, parents and the community to sexual orientation in our society. The Association therefore supports the development of positive plans that lead to effective ongoing training programs for education employees for the purpose of identifying and eliminating sexual orientation stereotyping in the educational setting."

Such programs, the statement says, should provide "accurate portrayal of the roles and contributions of gay, lesbian and bisexual people throughout history, with acknowledgment of their sexual orientation" and "support for the celebration of a Lesbian and Gay History Month as a means of acknowledging the contributions of lesbians, gays and bisexuals throughout history."

I like the idea of acknowledging the contributions of individual lives, and not just the lives of persons such as those already mentioned who have achieved national acclaim, but the lives of ordinary citizens as well. Every one of us, regardless of the circumstances into which we are born, touch in profound ways thousands of other lives during the course of our brief existence on this planet.

One such person came into my life a couple years ago. I came home from work one day to find a package on my doorstep. Upon further inspection I discovered that the parcel contained a 60-year-old copy of "The Well Of Loneliness" by Radclyffe Hall. I was familiar with the volume. It is essentially about the difficulties of being lesbian during a time (1929) when the lives and value of women, particularly lesbian women, were not recognized, understood or honored.

The accompanying note read, "Dear Ms. Strongheart: Permit me to apologize for the condition of this book. It's been around for a long, long time, as have I. I am an avid reader of your column. Let me explain my reason for sending this to you. It has literally been my Bible all my life, and I must have read it a thousand times. Having reached a time of life when I am disposing of some possessions, I pondered about this book. I know of no one in my circle who would appreciate it. I assume you might. (Signed) Yvonne Runder."

I looked up the sender of my cherished gift in the phone book and gave her a call. A voice deepened by decades of cigarette smoking answered the phone. …