So You Want to be a Tomato?
Kyleah Frederic is working as a Volunteer Coordinator at Doorways in St. Louis, an organization that provides housing and services to people with HIV / AIDS.
There is an LGBTQIA identified group sitting at a table across from you. A person approaches - ‘How do you feel now that gay rights have been achieved?’ Their faces form into an interesting combination of shock, exasperation, and sheer disbelief. Oh no, come on ya’ll, speak, give an answer, educate. No? Sigh. Now they approach you instead. You speak up, ‘What do you think gay rights are? The ability to get married? The ability to rent or buy a home? The ability to not get fired because of your relationship? To not get beaten for your identity?’ You just had to engage, didn’t you Kyleah?
Twenty minutes later, you are desperately trying to get them to just read a damn book you’ve recommended. You write down a list of resources, suggest they stay for the panel discussion after this marriage rights documentary. You feel concerned and a little uncomfortable. You go about your way.
Someone recently told you that people are like tomato plants. If you continue to water them, they will grow, thrive, and produce fruit. If you do not water them, they will wilt, die, and their fruit will fall off. You remember this as the documentary starts. Well, Kyleah, at least they were asking questions. They are being watered. If they continue to ask questions, they will grow, thrive, and produce fruit. You should not feel concerned about that person. Rather, you should feel concerned about those who do not ask questions and do not allow themselves to grow and be changed.
Someone recently asked you how you see yourself when you are sixty. You speak up, ‘...Um, gardening?’
‘No, how do you see yourself.’
‘Oh my.’ As of now, you hope that you will continue to ask questions and that you will allow yourself to grow from the answers. That you will help supply the answers for others who are just sprouting. You hope that you can bear fruit which will nourish others. You allowed them to approach you and now you want to be a tomato plant. You just had to engage, didn’t you Kyleah?
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In Their Own Words
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