This Story from a Soulforce Delegate Will Break Your Heart

Pop-up shops are an exciting new movement in activism. Activists set up in an empty or operating retail space for a period of time and educate whoever passes though about issues of justice and social concern.

From December 2-5, Paul Ricketts, a Soulforce Delegate, opened an Arts and Activism Pop-Up Shop in Global Gallery Coffee Shop in Columbus Ohio. He told people about the work of Soulforce and the larger issues of intersectional justice, and he invited them to tell their own stories through drawing, writing, or a combination of expressions.

What happened one day with a young man who had just stopped in for a cup of coffee will break your heart–and maybe offer some hope for the possibility of reconciliation. Paul tells the story this way:

“A 19 year old student came up to me and said, ‘I have a story to tell.’ He took a sheet of paper, and drew a color-pencil rendition of the inside of the front of a church, with an altar. Behind the altar was a blond, robed male figure with his arms raised, and hands held upwards. On either side of the robed figure was a couple. In front of the altar were 2 crouched male figures. Underneath the drawing the young artist wrote ‘He didn’t like the sons he had, so he got 2 more.’

I saw the picture and asked the young student what the story was.

He said, ‘My father is a pastor. Both my sisters married pastors. My brother and I are both gay.’

The young man told me that, upon discovering his sexual orientation, they had taken him out of college in Arkansas, brought him home, and refused to allow him to have any further contact with his partner, who lives in Arkansas. His parents refused to pay for any further education unless he took classes here in Columbus. They also refused to pay for an apartment, insisting that he live at home.

I asked him how he was doing.

He said, ‘I’m fine. As long as I stay numb, I’ll be okay.’

I said, ‘May I offer something from a 46 year-old to a 19 year-old?’

When he nodded, I said, ‘I just want you to know that it does work out. Life has a way of working this out.’

He started to cry, and I let him know that I was available as a Soulforce delegate to have further conversations with him and his family if he wanted to have them. He now knows that he has a friend who will listen, and that there are people who are standing for a world in which no 19 year-old has to be rejected by his family because of sexual orientation.

I am inspired by this young man’s story, and want to start a community that encourages conversations which reconcile children of gender- or sexual minorities to their parents, who may not be able to do anything but react to their GLBTQ son/daughter.”