Writing this on the day after the Orlando tragedy, my mind is filled with thoughts about love, hate, and community.
Recently I had one of those quintessential moments at The Gathering Place where what we believe, and how we act come together in a way that is both startling and reassuring. It was a time where I realized how very special our particular community is and how fortunate I am to be part.
A week ago, I attended TGP’s annual memorial service, a ceremony on our rooftop patio where we honor and celebrate those members of our community who have passed away. Names are read, and colorful tiles are placed on a garden wall. I make it a point to attend this annual event, because for me, it’s personal. It reminds me of my parents. I lost my Mom in 2000 and Dad in 2011. Both volunteered at The Gathering Place, and the service gives me a moment to remember them and their contributions to my life. I also always think about Tina, one of our most important staff members, who died in 2003. She had everything to do with my personal and professional development, as well as with improving the lives of literally thousands of TGP members.
I know that the wall contains names of babies and people who lived very long lives. I know at least two people who were murdered – victims on the street. So I pause to remember, reflect, and think through what it means that The Gathering Place brought them – and us – together in some way that touched all of our lives. We impacted each other, grew together, fought, and celebrated life together. And now, we share a common grief and a sense of gratitude that these people will never be forgotten. These people will always be part of The Gathering Place.
This year, our new choir sang at the service. And, for me, the mere presence of the choir meant more than any words. Here they were - a wonderfully diverse group of people with a range of ages, skin tones, genders, and backgrounds. There were no choir robes or conductor, and the sheet music blew carelessly in the wind. One member played the guitar, another the ukulele, and to my amazement and pure joy, they lifted their voices and sang “Imagine” and “Let it Be” and “Amazing Grace,” and tears filled my eyes. Because here was a group of people – a community of wildly different people with seemingly nothing in common – that had no earthly business being that beautiful and that profound, on our rooftop singing together. No one person stood out because they listened to each other and sang as one.
Hearing the melodies in the background, I thought, “All of the people I love, all of the people who are here with us in spirit, are looking at this choir and saying, ‘This is right.’” For a blessed moment in time, diversity spoke as one. Right here in the middle of Denver. And I realized, this is good and perfect, and a model for the world. Love wins.