The Right Side of History

I relish being part of something bigger than me when I see the “This Business Serves Everyone” sticker outside my office. It doesn’t just mean, “Hey, anyone can come see me.” It means, “You are worthy. I accept you unconditionally. This is a safe space for you. You are included.” - Angela Jorden

Loving What Is

Loving What Is

Several years ago I found myself standing next to one of my very best friends singing Amazing Grace to drown out the shouts of hate and bigotry. It was a surreal moment that still sends chills down my spine. That day, I was making sure my voice was heard in opposition to RFRA, not because I was directly impacted by the legislation but because people that I cared about would be.

Someone Threw a Drink on Me

 

Not long ago, someone threw a drink on me. 

I was walking down the street to grab lunch, and out of nowhere – an open cup full of soda hit me square in the shoulder and I was soaked.

I didn’t see the driver of the car that did it, but I watched them head off down the street. 

My first reaction is surprise.  “I can’t believe that someone did this. Who does that? 

Then it turned into anger.  “My clothes are ruined; how could they do this?”

And then it turned into insecurity. “I wonder if it was because I am gay.  I wonder if it was someone that doesn’t like me.  I wonder if it’s because I am at this location on the street.  What did I do to cause this person to throw a drink at me?”

Because I had meetings for the rest of the day, I diverted into a store and bought a new outfit, (with the exception of shoes).  I told the cashier what had happened and they let me change in the dressing room and I threw out my old clothes.  During this time, I kept trying to process what happened.  I bounced back and forth between anger and despair. 

For the rest of the day, every step I took I felt defeated and unwanted.  My meeting went awful because I couldn’t focus and I didn’t have the confidence to use my voice – and I left it not getting the resolution I was hoping for. On the way home, my driving was erratic and aggressive.  Luckily I wasn’t involved in nor caused an accident.

I thought to myself, “because of this XXXX, I got hit by soda.  If it wasn’t for XXXX, this never would have happened.”  I was drawing blanket conclusions as to why this happened to me and blaming things that most likely have no correlation to my incident. I wanted to get on social media and blast every person/group/etc. for somehow being involved in this act of violence that ruined my meeting and the rest of my day. I wrote my post 4 times, in different ways to phrase what I was feeling in my mind.  I looked at other media sources to see how I could justify my rage about what happened to me. 

But then . .

I thought to myself, “maybe this has nothing to do with me.” Maybe this person has had a bad day. Maybe this person thought I was Ryan Reynolds, (I get that all of the time, believe me) and didn’t like his last movie. Maybe they got fired, or a loved one passed away, or they may be upset about the same issues that bother me, and that’s how they chose to process it.

If I had the chance to meet this person face to face, how would I handle that?  Would I, “come in hot” and let them know how mad they made me? Or would I want to understand why they did it. What if they realized (however long after) that they made a mistake? Would I take the opportunity to affirm their perception if true, (totally the Ryan Reynolds thing, right?) Or would I try to show them that I am not that bad? Start a dialog perhaps, listen first – speak later. I don’t know, I would like to think that I would at least try to hear them out.

After I got hit, I still went in the same direction down the street I was planning on going.  I went and bought an outfit – which honestly, I needed more polos anyway PLUS it was nicer than what I was wearing before. I bombed my meeting because I let this get to me in such a way that I gave up before I even had a chance. I’m sure everyone that was driving near me on the way home had some very choice words and gestures they either wanted to or really did gave me.  But I still made it home.

The more I thought about what maybe this person was going through, and perhaps that it was just a wrong place/wrong time situation helped me to get closure.  It helped me to walk down that same street the next day, and it helped push me to go do something I needed to do anyway. 

My point is, that I am seeing a lot of, “soda throwing” going on everywhere.  Much like the soda, blanket generalizations of people are lobbed towards another group – not because they personally did anything – but because we assume they are against us – or because you are “one way” you must be “this way”.

 This is dangerous.  Much like sexuality – faith, political beliefs, gender, etc. are a spectrum. Yes, there are terrible things going on and yes we’re all hurting one way or another – but how you choose to project that onto others really is telling about your character.  Will you prove your point by throwing your soda at someone you perceive as being, “the enemy”?  Are you adding to that bad reputation by acting out and negatively affecting someone else? 

Yes, a soda-soaked shirt doesn't even come close to issues we are, as a human race, faced with. We all know things aren’t working out for one reason or another. As much as I hurt, about recent events (soda included…still), I have seen more compassion and unity than ever.  The solidarity at peaceful marches, the messages of support on social media, and the examples of bridges being built despite how polarizing it has become is pretty great.  People are continuing to get hit by soda, and still walking down the street in the direction they were going in the first place. People aren't letting events get them down, they are "buying a new polo" and seeing better ways to make the world a better place.

I think that is the most inspiring part for me – and makes me want to do more, learn more, and grow more.  I’ve learned more about “the other side, whomever that may be” in growing this organization than I ever had before. I see how my actions make them feel.  I know how their actions make me feel – but I keep going.  And some of them have even come around!

In conclusion – I’m proud of you, for doing what you feel is right.  I’m more proud that you are chosen to take the negative and adjust it into the positive.  I’m even more proud that you are still heading in the direction that is best without bringing others down.  Remember that we have a choice when someone throws their soda, it’s up to you on what you do next.  (Hint: Get the "polo".)

 

(I apologize to my friends, family and co-workers for not telling you this happened to me. Still love you all tons!)

#today

Good morning!

Today is a big day for the United States.  Some are happy, some are not.  Some feel empowered, some do not.  Some will handle today with grace, and some will not.

Open for Service's core focus is to grow our network to help people who may feel marginalized or unsafe find businesses, organizations, resources, and hope through our directory

I built this initiative because this can exist no matter what happens in our legislature, (I hope).  Because we are growing so fast, we could potentially mimic the protections that are so needed for minorities in this country.  I believe we can and will be ready if that time comes.

Over the past year, I have come to realize that the directory is integral for this goal - but I also know that we have opportunities ahead to do more for the "bigger picture".  This includes education, new connectivity, and a belief in the positive & proactive.  We have some new partnerships to announce soon as well as a few introductions to Board Members that are going to do some amazing things this year.  I can't wait to tell you more!

Back to today.  We as humans have an opportunity to act. If possible - be the example of what you want to see in the world moving ahead.  Be kind to everyone.  Go out of your way today to support others.  If someone believes differently than you - show them what it means to believe in our differences and start a healthy, positive conversation - learn about why they may feel differently.  

A really awesome friend of mine, (Ryan Larcom), posted a great MLK quote that has inspired me to push past my limits to do better and do more.  The quote says"

"People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they on't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other."  - Martin Luther King Jr.

So today, I'm choosing to offer support to all.  I've relaunched weloveyouhere.org and I would like you to tell us what you're going to be doing today to be kind - to others and to yourself.  I want to know what you'll be doing that will make a positive difference for all.  We'll post what you are doing on our social media to give others ideas on ways that they can redirect any energy towards a better future.

A great example comes from another amazing friend David.  His plan:

We'll be keeping it positive today on our posts - and focusing on how Open for Service can be a better support to you.  As always, email me if you need anything - josh@openforservice.org 

You're not alone. And we love you here.

Sincerely,

Joshua Driver
Founder
Open for Service

The Friend I Needed

The first thing I learned in middle school was to never wear shorts that stop above the knee, that’s gay.  The second thing I learned was to not be gay.  It’s different for everyone, but for me in particular, I knew in fourth grade. 

Maybe third. 

Doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I knew.  And no one else did. 

(Until they did.)

Being closeted is an incredibly unique experience.  There’s a spectrum of privilege involved, but mostly everyone is being accused of being something they don’t initially want to be.  For me, these instances happened often.  I’d be with a friend and a homophobic bully would accuse me of being gay.  You’re a faggot.  You’re so gay.  My heart would race, I felt exposed, and a friend (usually) defended me. 

We all moved on, and the cycle restarted.

Of all the times this happened, I only really remember one.  I don’t know why it sticks out to me, maybe because of the friendship it created, but it really set into motion the kind of person I am today.  As always, I collided with another bully, he called me a faggot, and my friend defended me- nothing out of the ordinary.  But this time, the defense didn’t stop.  My friend didn’t just comfort me in the moment, she continued to for years.  Her defenses weren’t just a desperate attempt to end the awkward situation and return back to the normalcy of Negaunee High School life.  She didn’t neatly tuck my issues away and pretend everything was fine, she dove in head first.  She didn’t treat me as token gay friend, but as an actual human being.  She didn’t glamorize my sexuality; she didn’t make it my defining feature.  She wrote me endearing letters of encouragement when I really needed them and made sure I knew that, even if I was gay, who honestly cares?

This was the first time, regardless of my rumored sexuality, that I was taken seriously.  And that’s a big deal for someone who was 15 (and wore XL cargo shorts).  That moment was the tipping point, where I started to move from fearing homosexuality to embracing it. 

The memories of bullying are starting to fade, thankfully.  I only remember a small fraction of the remarks the alpha males said to me, but these moments of true compassion shine above all else.  I am forever grateful to have those in my life who instead of comforting me with a “they’re wrong” instead said “don’t listen to those who talk to you as if you are their equal, when in reality you are, and always will be above them.” 

-Zach Carlson, Guest Blogger

This Week.

Hello everyone and Happy Father’s Day!  It’s been a hard week, hasn’t it?  I’m so sorry for everyone’s loss.  It really has been a loss for everyone.  We lost lives.  The US lost citizens, The LGBT community lost brothers and sisters, the families lost their loved ones.  We’re watching the negative political ads, the finger pointing, the attacks across social media.  It’s been really difficult for me to watch.

I am not a gun owner.  I don’t know if I would ever be one.  I do have a permit.  I got it a few years ago.  Why?  Not quite sure.  I’ve been to a shooting range.  I wasn’t very good.  I didn’t feel any more or less powerful nor any more in control of my environment because I had a gun on my person.  I am not sure I understand this fight . . and the motives behind both sides.  I’m not sure what will happen. 

Open For Service is not here to be a political vehicle.  Open For Service stands to be a positive response to whatever life brings us and builds a path to help people no matter what politics are going on.  Of course we want to see LGBTQIA people be protected.  We want women to get paid the same as men, we want people to live in a discrimination-free world. We want everyone to be happy.  While I don’t intend for us to be the hero in any of this, I want to be sure that we are helping in some way.

Which is why I re-launched “We Love You Here”.  Personally, I needed to see messages of support.  I think people wanted to be heard.  I think people needed a way to express their feelings.  I hope that this opportunity helped.  We had hundreds of submissions.  I am still trying to get them together to redistribute for the next few days.  I’m sorry if your submission doesn’t make it online.  Please know that I am reading each one.

To be honest, I had to take a break for the last few days.  A break from social media, CNN, politics, and a break from life.  This past Monday, I could barely get any work done.  I think about all of the “what if’s” and how other people are handling these events.  While I still don’t feel recovered, I feel . . okay.  Okay enough to start answering the 300 emails in my inbox, and checking in on our team to make sure they are okay.

Once thing I will gladly support with Open For Service is a discussion that I am not seeing very much after last week.  And that discussion is mental health. 

I suffer from severe depression and anxiety.  I’ve had it as long as I can remember.  Over there years, it has manifested in different ways.  I’ve almost lost jobs.  I’ve lost friends and relationships.  I’ve missed out on so many opportunities because I lacked the confidence to speak up, or take a chance.  There was a time long ago that I didn’t get out of bed.  For a week.  An entire week.  I can’t remember what finally made me get up and move forward, but something did.  One day, life didn’t feel, “as heavy” as it normally did.  If I had to describe what my depression and anxiety feels like – I would say it feels like I am constantly underwater.  It’s hard to move, to think, to breathe.  There are times where a small negative issue can snowball into a life-ending thought pattern.  It won’t get better.  It’s over.  It’s not reality. 

Something as simple as not getting funding, or getting negative feedback about Open For Service really gets to me.  I fortunately have been able to swallow it down and move on . . butI am lucky. 

Mental health is a significant problem in this world.  ISIS/ISIL, etc. feed on people how are struggling with mental illness and can motivate these people to do terrible things.  We see our soldiers and first responders come home after seeing gruesome things, and how can we protect ourselves and each other from something bad happening that is rooted in a mental health issue?

Now, I am not equating my struggles or a mass murder, or PTSD to a ISIS sympathizer.  What I am saying is that there are many components as to why bad things happen.  We mourn the deaths of our young when they take their lives because of bullying.  Why weren’t we there sooner to help them?  Why do we bully in the first place?  How can we work on this problem?

I don’t have the answer to those questions.  I can say, that I think we need to destigmatize mental health.  You shouldn’t feel guilty that you may have to take a pill to get through the day.  You shouldn’t look down at yourself for spending that hour with a therapist.  You should be proud that you are doing something for yourself, to make sure yourself feel better.  I want Open For Service to help find people better access to resources that they need to work on their mental health. 

I take a daily pill to help with my depression and anxiety.  I’m going to my therapist this week.  I have to. I have to do this for me.  My friends.  My family.  I have a TON of work to do on myself and I cannot do it alone.  And neither should you. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, or any type of mental health issue, please seek treatment through your doctor, health care system, church, friends, family, work, wherever.

Resources to call if you are struggling:

 

The Trevor Project - (866) 488-7386

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255

 

 

 

 

[OFFICIAL STATEMENT] - Regarding Pulse Nightclub

PLEASE SEND FOOD AND WATER TO ORLANDO TO HELP THOSE IN NEED:  http://primenow.amazon.com

For Immediate Release: June 11th, 2016

 

 OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY JOSHUA DRIVER

 We, at Open For Service, are deeply saddened by the act of terrorism targeting LGBTQ members at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  We hope and pray that no more lives are lost and the families of the victims can begin the healing process.

 We extend our support with the businesses, organizations, churches, and advocates located in the State of Florida as they attempt to offer aide to the family and friends impacted by this tragedy. While this attack was targeted against the LGBTQ community, events like this can happen to anyone, anywhere, and anytime. As the country celebrates pride in the month of June, this serves as reminder that discrimination is still present and carries the threat of aggression.

 We stand behind our mission to continue the development of a worldwide community by encouraging positive dialog to educate individuals, making the world a more culturally sensitive and united place. In the pursuit of offering help to individuals experiencing adversity, we also value personal safely above all else. If you do not feel safe, immediately relocate for protection.

Open For Service will be consulting with our partner organizations such as Salesforce and Geofeedia to leverage our technology to help LGBTQIA people, their allies, and others to find safe spaces and minimize the opportunity for events like this to occur again in the future. Open For Service will also donate stickers to community organizations and businesses that wish to create safe places for LGBT people in their area.

 We ask that our Open For Service community connect with other organizations and resources to help those affected by today's tragedy.   If you have any questions or need support please contact me at josh@openforservice.org.

 If able, please donate blood at your local donation center.

 PLEASE SEND FOOD AND WATER TO ORLANDO TO HELP THOSE IN NEED:  http://primenow.amazon.com