Wednesday, thousands of the credulous lined up in the hot sun outside Chick-Fil-A to celebrate a Mike Huckabee-inspired "eat chicken for Jesus Day." Apparently, the idea was to support a billion-dollar company because that's exactly the type of social justice work that Jesus had in mind when urging followers to "love your neighbor as yourself." The fact that millions in Chick-Fil-A corporate money goes to causes that have nothing to do with love was a minor matter compared to the lure of political & religious sanction to "pig out" with fried chicken on a buttered bun.
Today, the Young Cone & I also spent the morning in the hot sun, but with a different purpose. We joined with others who embrace an alternate concept of "loving our neighbors" and spent the morning with members of the Huntsville-based support group for GLBT teens - GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services. Our group of about 10 people ranged in age from 14 to 50+ and included teens from Huntsville City high schools and from as far away as Hartselle.
We were working with community volunteers at a Huntsville City Title 1 school - Westlawn Middle School - to help prepare the struggling school for the new school year. Our group painted, worked on bulletin boards, and hung banners in preparation for next week's "Community Day."
GLBAYS founder & executive director, James Robinson, explained that he organized this event in response to "the many hurtful statements that have been aimed at the gay community during the Chick-Fil-A controversy."
He wasn't kidding. It's been ugly out there folks. Have you been on Facebook lately? Robinson reported one exchange on his own FB page:
Hey buddy just a heads up. I responded to a kid saying he couldn't take all the hate of people with this CFA crap and was going to kill himself. I responded with an its getting better everyday type comment and seconds later my inbox was flooded with hate mail telling me to kill myself, quoting the Bible, and even two death threats.
I just wanted to tell you so you could inform your staff and kids. I know we shouldnt ignore any post of someone in need but sometimes being prepared for the ambush is enough to make it easier to get through.
Robinson thought that the most Christian way to respond to such pseudo-religious vitriol was with love and outreach.
"There's plenty of anger out there, so I thought we should respond with love.
We can make our point by stepping outside ourselves to help others in our community. When I got a call from Westlawn volunteers asking for help today, I didn't hesitate. Sure, our focus is on GLBT youth, but we care about all the kids in the community.
This is how I live my faith."
Give the man credit. He roused a group of teenagers, Christians, Jews, & agnostics, gay & straight at 9am on a steamy Saturday morning, fueled us with donuts & bottled water, and showed the school's volunteers & staff that at least part of the local community cares about their success.
But the actual heroes in this story are the teachers & staff at the school. They were meeting when we arrived and shortly after, fanned out on foot throughout the neighborhood armed with clipboards and Costco-sized boxes of Charms Blow Pops. They were spending their Saturday morning trying to meet students and their families, learn about their lives, and invite them to the school's "Community Day" celebration next Saturday (August 11).
Given the budget constraints in the Huntsville City Schools (so much so that the superintendent is considering charging international exchange students), it's hard for me to believe that either the teachers or staff were being paid for this time. They were doing what every dedicated teacher always does - and what my mother did when she was teaching: go the extra mile to engage and help students. Even it costs them personal time or money for supplies that aren't reimbursed.
These are the people that GOP leaders (like Rep. Lynn Greer) likes to call a greedy & lazy bunch. These are the people that are working hard against difficult odds to teach our children & prepare them for the future.
As we painted & cleaned, I reflected on the idea that the "Chick-Fil-A Christians" from Wednesday were nowhere to be seen this morning. Sure, the work we were doing isn't as easy as cruising through a fast food drive-thru. But which could credibly be considered a more "godly" pursuit?
One feeds your body. The other feeds your soul.
Photos on the flip....
This was the best broom I could find at the school.....
Local TV station, Channel 31, interviewed Robinson about the effort.
An interior hallway that's being prepared for school:
A hallway that's ready!
Painting an outbuilding in the courtyard.
How about taking the money you didn't spend at Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday and making a tax-deductible contribution to the GLBTAYS group? Robinson works full-time at the agency with no salary. He keeps the non-profit afloat with grants and donations from people like us who care about what happens to the GLBT teens in our community. Kids who are more likely to be homeless, to commit suicide, and to engage in risky behaviors.
Or, contact Westlawn Middle School to see how you can help!!
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’