Share the Spark

sparklersAs the state celebrates its pioneer heritage this month, many of Utah’s citizens are still treated as outsiders in our communities. We can’t help but think of the strong divisions that we have created within the state, and we want to do something to help break down those walls. These divisions—or walls—exist because of religious differences, race, gender and sexual identity, liquor laws, education, and politics. We have allowed these differences divide us for far too long.

On Friday, July 26, we would like to invite anyone who is tired to these cultural conflicts to come together and Share the Spark. Join us somewhere along the Jordan River Parkway at dusk, bring a package of sparklers, and enjoy the summer evening with others in your community who believe everyone should be treated with dignity.

This is a simple idea that a few of us hope will spread throughout the community. Share the Spark isn’t organized by any official group—just a few friends who are conducting an experiment in tolerance. There won’t be any speeches or political demonstrations. We hope to see you there.

**please be respectful of Utah fire codes and keep all sparklers on the paved trails. We want to Share the Spark, but we don’t want to start any dangerous fires.

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Chapter Nine – God Doesn’t Love Gays

Cub Scouts was created to test my tenacity, perseverance, and courage. Whoever chose our leaders seemed to always look at who happened to be my biggest nemesis at the time and then select his mother to be our den mother. I was always doomed to spend one afternoon each week at the home of the biggest bully that delighted in endlessly tormenting me.

If I didn’t have to go to Nick’s home after spending all day listening to him mock my girl-like athletic abilities, I would have to go to TJ’s house. TJ was more of a physical than a verbal bully. He couldn’t get through a day without pushing, pinching, or punching somebody, and his mother didn’t know how to control his compulsions.

I am not sure why I endured attending cub scout meetings at those homes, but I did so silently. I never once complained to my parents about the abuse I had to endure. To tell you the truth, I just assumed that most of the boys had to put up with the same abuse, so I tolerated it as well. I figured that most boys that age were naturally mean to each other.

During my third year of cub scouts, we got a new den mother. A new boy, Wes, had moved into the neighborhood and ward, and his mother was called to be our new den mother. I was excited, because the new boy seemed nice—and cute—and it felt like we would finally attend our den meetings in a bully-free home.

Sister Hawkins, Wes’s mother, was a wonderful leader. She was aware of the bullying problems within our group of boys, and she knew how to put a stop to the problems in a stern but loving manner. Those afternoons in her home became a break from the verbal and physical abuse we had learned to endure during the school day.

One of the highlights of den meeting was always the treats at the end of our activities. We normally had a bucket that we would pass around and take turns bringing a refreshment. They were usually cookies, Rice Krispy squares, or candy bars. Our den mother would fill us up with sugar and then send us home.

I still remember that day we piled into the Hawkins’ car to get ice cream at Dan’s grocery store. This was a real treat because Dan’s always put a large scoop of ice cream in their cones. Somehow we managed to fit all twelve boys into the suburban and made our way to the market.

We all looked at the variety of ice cream choices as we waited for our turn to order. Once we got our cone, we browsed the magazine covers on display next to the ice cream counter. I was the last to get my ice cream, rainbow sherbet (how’s that for some symbolic foreshadowing?), and we piled back into the car.

There was some extra elbowing and pushing of shoulders as we rode back to the Hawkins’ home. Before we knew it, we were all teasing and calling each other names. The names seemed pretty innocent until Wes spoke.

“Stop touching me, fag!” he shouted.

Sister Hawkins pulled to the side of the road and slammed on the breaks.

“What did you just say?” She asked. Her eyes were narrow, and she did not have the normal, calm tone in her voice.

“Please stop touching me,” Wes corrected himself.

“No, Wesley James Hawkins. What was that ugly word you used?”

“Fag.” He looked down as he said it under his breath.

“I don’t want you to use that word ever again. Do you even know what that means?”

Homo,” he said in a little more than a whisper.

Nick had been trying to be quiet, but at that point, he let out a big laugh, and a few of the other boys joined him.

“I don’t ever want any of you using those words. Do you hear me? None of you boys are fags, homosexuals, or gay.”

“But God loves gays” Wes said a little bit louder.

“Where did you hear that?” Sister Hawkins asked.

“It said so on one of the magazines at the store.”

 “That’s nonsense,” she explained. The frustration levels in her voice were rising. “God does not love gays. They are immoral, degenerate, and are not worthy of his love.”

“But, why?” Wes asked.

“They just are, and I will not talk about it any more.”

We remained silent the rest of the way back. I think we were all thinking the same thing on the way home. Why doesn’t God love gays? I didn’t even know what gays were, but I wanted to make sure I never became one. After all, I admired everything Sister Hawkins stood for, and if she told us that God doesn’t love gays, it must be true.

Chapter Eight – Angels and Cub Scouts

Publicity photo of the cast of the television ...
Publicity photo of the cast of the television program Charlie’s Angels. From left: Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Kate Jackson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Danny, Peter, and I discovered different interests as school progressed. What little time we could spend together during recess was cut when we each decided to spend that time participating in different activities.

Peter discovered his natural athletic skills. As long as the weather cooperated, he would join the other boys in a game of baseball, basketball, or soccer. Occasionally, enough boys would get together to play kick ball, and they would often argue about how the rules for tagging somebody out at a base.

I chose to play Charlies Angels with some of the girls in my class. The girls always argued over who got to be Jill and Kelley—until Jenny would finally give in and agree to be Sabrina. Sometimes I got to play the criminal they would arrest, but I was usually stuck playing Bosley, the pudgy, middle-aged office manager that spoke with a slight lisp.

Danny, on the other hand, chose to spend a lot of time alone during recess. He seemed pretty content playing on the swings or monkey bars. On the days I was a criminal running away from the private detectives, I would often see my friend digging in the dirt like he was searching for a treasure.

I had my first real encounters with a bully during those early first years of school. For some reason, Justin decided that I was an easy target for his taunting. Whenever he teased me about being one of the girls, one of the tough Angels I played with would come to my rescue and arrest him for being ugly. I never considered his taunting as a problem at the time, but it seemed more like a fun part of the game.

English: Cub Scout in uniform
English: Cub Scout in uniform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Danny, Peter, and I still enjoyed getting together for Cub Scouts every Tuesday after school. Danny’s mother was our den mother, and she always had fun activities for us. We did wood carvings, leather engraving, basket weaving, and many other crafts. We also had a bucket the boys would pass around each week to determine who brought treats to share after every scouting session.

While I enjoyed the small weekly sessions I spent with my scout den each week, I rarely enjoyed the large pack meetings. The wheels fell of my car in the Pinewood Derby, and the rocket I built got stuck on the racing wires. The older boys seemed to enjoy watching me fail at each of the competitions.

We had a pack meeting in October that was a little different than most. The leaders decided we would have a cake decorating contest. My father and I piled several carefully carved pieces of cake on top of each other and then covered it with a delicious black frosting to build the best design of the evening—a Darth Vader. Finally, I had won first place at a Cub Scout competition.

The crowd was impressed with my cake decorating skills. Many of the  mothers asked to take pictures of me with my cake, and the boys my age thought it was cool. Many of the older boys, however, didn’t act very impressed.

“Of course he would win a contest meant for girls,” one of them said just before leaving the room.