— My work day ended Thursday at roughly 5:30 p.m. Punched out. Done for the day. On my own time. Free to do what I want, right?
After making omelets, toast and bacon for the kids (including an interesting product I refer to as “fake ’n” for the vegetarian in the house, my daughter and I headed out the door. Ten minutes later we were sitting in the basement of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
I know what you’re thinking. Robb? In a church? Puh-leez.
It’s 100 percent true. And we weren’t alone.
While the room wasn’t brimming with people, there was enough to call it a gathering. A gathering for what?
A representative from Minnesotans United for All Families had come to conduct a workshop. MUFAF is the group that is opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment that would embed into our state’s governing document this idea: That marriage should only be the province of the heterosexual, that two people of the same gender, no matter how in love they are, no matter how committed they are, should not have the same right to marriage as a man and woman who are in love do.
Along with the MUFAF rep, there was another person at the front of the room. It was Lisa Coons, a woman I’ve known for a quite a while.
Lisa is one of those people who, when you see her, your heart instantly warms. She exudes a uncommon kind of goodness. Every ounce of her is positive and affirming. I just want to bake her some cookies or something, or have her over for a beer to discuss the meaning of life.
For purposes of this article, I’ll also say this about Lisa: she’s sometimes the first phone call when someone in the newsroom is doing a story on gays or lesbians, and we need to talk to “one of them.”
Lisa stood at the front of the room talking to a group of people who were looking for help. Those gathered in the church basement Thursday believe marriage should be available to all couples, regardless of gender. And they believe this amendment is a bad idea and should not pass. And so they’re planning to vote “no.”
The help they needed was in explaining to people how they feel about this issue, how they plan to vote, and convincing prospective “yes” voters that a yes vote is divisive, unnecessary, and not in keeping with the golden rule, the teachings of Jesus (if you’re into that kind of thing).
The message from the MUFAF rep and Lisa was a simple one: when speaking to people who plan to vote “yes,” the best thing to do is … listen.
Before putting up your dukes and getting ready to hit them with facts, hear what they have to say. Understand where they’re coming from. Try to appreciate their position.
Afterward, try and convince them that they should now listen to you. When they do, tell them about people like Lisa, or my friends Jessica and Maria and Lauren and Tim and Todd and Jake, all good people who just want the same rights you have.
As my daughter and I left that night (early, actually, because she had to watch the vice presidential debate for her AP U.S. History class,) I felt pretty good about the message of the night. Listen. In a political ad season where all anyone does is shout and make accusations anymore, isn’t the idea of listening a refreshing one?
Robb Murray is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 344-6386.