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On the outside


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I had an interesting experience last night. It was a somewhat stressful end to a fairly nice Christmas (except for the fact that my dad had accidentally just deleted my iTunes library while trying to save my computer from imminent death). I was trying to get home to Raleigh, as I had to be at work the next morning and it was already 8 at night, and my car got stuck in the mud—first in my mom's driveway, then in her backyard.

Neighbors heard the noise almost immediately: the sound of tires digging themselves into soupy, red, Virginia clay. A man and his son and daughter ran outside and immediately began pushing the front of my car while the tires of my Camry sprayed them with mud. I'm sure they'd been relaxing from a long day of eating and opening presents. And the father is a pastor, not just any pastor, but the sort who is a friend of Liberty University and Jerry Falwell.

I am a lesbian. Not that these people knew this about me, but still. As these men were pushing my car and becoming caked with mud, it occurred to me that I wanted to shout out my window—"Hey, I'm a dyke; do you still wanna help?" I resisted the impulse. But these men were so kind and earnest in trying to help my car obtain some kind of traction that it occurred to me it might not even matter—that even if I revealed this damning fact about myself, these men would probably still be knee-deep in mud, pushing my car. They might reflect later on the sorry state of my soul, but I'll bet it wouldn't have stopped them from freeing my car.

The saga continued as it became apparent the car was not going to back out of Mom's driveway anytime soon. So I drove down into the backyard to try to get out that way. The preacher retreated into the house, hopefully for a hot shower, but his son dutifully followed me and offered to jump in the driver's seat when I became stuck yet again. After shedding his ruined socks and slopping through the mud in bare feet, he finally succeeded in aiming the car into the backyard neighbor's driveway. Now all I had to do was go knock on the door and ask him to move his vehicles so I could get my car out. The man answered the door, confused and slightly irritated, but he complied, and after moving his cars, offered to back my car out for me so I wouldn't hit his motorcycles. He was a kind, elderly man dressed in some sort of uniform, and he explained that he was just about to go to work anyway, so it was no trouble at all. As I backed out, I noticed that he had both George Bush and Jesus stickers on the back of his van. Again, I wondered if it would matter.

As I drove home, I pondered the fact that all of the people who helped me that night would probably fight any measures to give people like me more rights in the world or even protections from harm. And I would fight them with equal venom. It's interesting how, when we see people as only their political affiliation, race, class, gender, orientation, whatever, we are not seeing people. But when an individual is in front of us needing help, I think most people, as I saw last night, would answer the call regardless.

Last night gave me some hope for humanity. Maybe we need to start looking each other in the eye instead of just looking at the bumper stickers on the back of our cars.


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