Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"A" for American


The White-Haired
Harbinger of Gratitude

Tim Hare
Copyright HARE 2009
All Rights Reserved

"Shining the Rainbow Light of Gratitude
from the historic West Ward neighborhood
of Easton, Pennsylvania"

If I can’t have fun living, loving, and thriving in the West Ward, I’m doing it wrong!

I’m asked some baffling questions about why my husband Earl and I choose to call the West Ward our home for the past 25 years.

My answer: I’m simply grateful for the unique qualities of life I find in abundance in the West Ward, where we live each Today.

We’ve also been asked if we’re brothers who live together! Our answer: “We’re much more than best friends for 33 years!”

For the next weeks, I’ll create and share a Gratitude Alphabet, from A to Z, highlighting one letter per post.


I’ll shine the light of gratitude on some specific reasons, per letter of the alphabet, why the West Ward is an ideal place for me and my husband to live, love, and thrive.

When I get to Z, I’ll start all over again - for gratitude is a light of infinite reach - for which I’m especially grateful!

But, first things first - here’s my 62-word introduction to my 62-year journey around our planet so full of miracles (when we’re awake to them):

Born and raised in Harrisburg, then Penn State, then Providence, then Pittsburgh, then Wales, then London, then Perth, Western Australia. Unplanned 1976 arrival in Easton, met Earl - love at first sight!

Then NYC, our first home in 1977 for eight years. Then Easton weekend home in 1981, then West Ward in 1984 to rescue condemned house, transforming it to our grand home.


"A" for American

I am grateful for freedom of the American press, like this blog, where I have been invited to express my views, as unconventional as they may or may not be.

Having lived and worked around the world, I’m grateful that my West Ward neighborhood embodies the qualities of life that I’ve come to appreciate and understand as uniquely
American. My travels far and wide have shown me many places in this world that are not always inclined to accept those who are created to live or love differently.

Having been born and raised outside of Harrisburg PA for the first eighteen years, I lived in a place where human diversity was the rarest occurrence, to say the least! I never felt comfortable in a white heterosexual ghetto, so I moved away as soon as I could. I occasionally look back, but I don’t stare; I moved on. I’m grateful to now be living each Today in the West Ward, where
Americans of the richest variety walk past my window.

My West Ward neighbors represent
America’s greatest strength – the beautiful human tapestry of race, nationality, language, income bracket, age, sexual orientation, regional differences, philosophies, perspectives, creed-choice, and much more, that comprise the magnificent human experiment called the United States of America. I’m grateful to be living in the West Ward, where my neighbors daily teach me the good American value: expect and respect our many differences.

With gratitude I live side by side my West Ward neighbors who have taught me, by rubbing shoulders and cultural backgrounds, to unlearn the well-taught fear of
Americans who are created differently from me. America proclaims a vision to embrace and celebrate our unique differences.

As for me, I know that I have been created just fine, thank you, as a non-heterosexual
American. I am grateful for the frequent reminders witnessed in the West Ward that it is a uniquely American value to reject slavish conformity, to question mindless convention, and to challenge powerful authority that isn’t always right - especially when it concerns me loving my man Earl, who was an answered prayer when I was young 33 years ago.

In the West Ward, it is with gratitude that I see the
American value, “live and let live,” prevail daily, unlike so many other less-inclusive neighborhoods in the county or region. I’m old enough to remember when my neighborhoods were built around oppressive notions, prejudice, and discriminatory laws that excluded racial minorities solely because of how they were created.

I am grateful that the West Ward is not like other neighborhoods in Easton and in the surrounding counties of Northampton, Lehigh, Bucks, and Berks, where, according to U.S. Census statistics of
American neighborhoods, a glaring exclusionary portrait is painted. In the West Ward, I don’t get nasty flashbacks to the neighborhoods of my youth.

I remain grateful for the
American promise of civil equality for all. For me and my husband Earl, married in Canada in 2003, on our 27th anniversary of being engaged to marry, this promise is yet to be fulfilled in our native land. After 33 years together in Love, we two Americans are legal strangers across the USA.

Because the West Ward is located in
America, our marriage is not recognized here. The United States is a country where most laws and institutions are currently ruled by the strange-to-me notion that heterosexuality is a superior way to love. This notion is widely taught and easily learned, so I’m grateful that this notion can also be unlearned. I’m also grateful that this reality is not solely imposed by my neighborhood, as happens elsewhere.

In my lifetime, I remember when civil marriage was restricted to heterosexuals (or those pretending to be). Nobody one else could marry the one they love. Marriage was also restricted in many places in
America to couples of the same race or the same faith-choice. In spite of improvements to the institution of civil marriage since those days, more than half of heterosexual marriages today are destroyed by divorce. Perhaps laws or a Constitutional amendment, as recently introduced in California, are needed to protect the sanctity of heterosexual marriage by banning divorce? I’m grateful that my loving marriage is immune to divorce in America.

I am grateful for daily observations in the West Ward, where I see neighbors who are
American minorities that were also once-despised like us, but who have now achieved legal equality. I am thereby reminded to take some American hope that I too shall overcome the prejudice, discrimination, and injustice that rain down on me and my Earl, solely because we fell in love one fine day.

I’m grateful that a place like the West Ward even exists in Easton - many places in Pennsylvania are not so fortunate to personify the embodiment of the
American ideal of ethnic and cultural multiplicity. It seems like I’m always discovering a new example of the abundant variety of restaurants, stores, barber shops, clubs, cafes, galleries, government services, places of faith-choice, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, daycare centers, arts events, neighborhood associations, community events, and cultural events located in my neighborhood.

The West Ward is full of diverse community energy, creativity, and vibrant edginess. It’s like living in New York City again, without the space deprivation! Manhattan was our first home together as a young couple in love. We still consider it our favorite
American city – our romantic getaway island off the west coast of Europe. I’m grateful that affordable, high-quality space is abundant in my West Ward - it attracts so many new neighbors from New York City. The Big Apple has discovered the Little Apple, and the West Ward in particular!

The West Ward reflects the
American credo that it is not a crime to be poor, troubled, addicted, despised, lost, or down on one’s luck. I’m grateful for the many times I’ve witnessed humbling examples of human compassion expressed in my neighborhood by strangers helping those whose lives have abruptly changed course, including my own.

I’m grateful for West Ward neighbors who, in that fine
American tradition, chose to “walk the walk” and not just talk the talk. They moved out of their comfortable suburban enclaves to be of direct humane service to our at-risk neighbors. They compassionately reach out to feed and counsel those tragically lost in illicit business - so highly profitable short term - selling illegal addictive substances to out of towners who motorcade to our neighborhood to spend big bucks to fuel their addictions.

I am grateful that the West Ward is a place where trust and faith trump fear, another great
American value. Our highly-visible historic home, prominently situated in the West Ward at a busy intersection, has never been vandalized after front-page newspaper articles (with photographs) appear about my marriage to Earl. Gratefully, we and our home have escaped physical assault by those who reject us solely because of how we fell in love.

I experience deep gratitude whenever a West Ward neighbor, often someone who could be stereotyped in a manner that could cause me to expect an opposite remark, says enthusiastically how much they love our wonderful home, our beautiful garden, and our hard work to improve our street and neighborhood. When this happens, frequently, I’m reminded why we love living in the West Ward – a neighborhood that has proven to be, over the past 25 years here, a genuinely-
American treasure.

9 comments:

noel jones said...

Nice post, Tim. It's high time that the American flag starts to represent something more progressive, and it's bothered me for some time that an exclusionary minority in our country seem to have co-opted that symbol. We've come a long way in this country in the last several decades and you're right, the West Ward is a great melting pot where people of all backgrounds and preferences feel right at home--definitely something to love about our neighborhood.

hopeunseen said...

Tim,

I'm looking forward to 'B' in the near future. The West Ward is a melting pot and I too am grateful to have escaped the suburban ghettos of 'sameness and monoism.'

It is really neat that having lived all over the world you have such a deep appreciation for what is 'American' and for our diverse, little city.

Timothy George Hare said...

Thanks! When I can figure out how to break my long post into pieces, it'll help with the scrolling! :-)

Ron M said...

So pleased to end my day with your post. Looking forward to counting my blessings along with you. :)

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto
Tim, thanks for your words. You know how much I respect your input and I am so glad you are back to Easton fulltime. Now that the budget is completed -- NO TAX INCREASE -- I will call to have coffee. We have a project coming up and I would like to get your input.

By the way, I used your home -- before and after pics -- at the Lehigh Valley Housing Conference last week to showcase the solid housing stock available in Easton, particularly in the WW. Remember the neighborhood about 20 years ago?????

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Tim...after you run through the ABC's I hope you have time for some war stories about saving downtown from the wrecking ball. For those who do not know, Tim was one of the founders of the movement to prevent the annihilation of downtown for highways and ringroads, resulting in the preservation movement we have today. Excellent work!

DRL

Nikkita said...

I am really looking foward to reading my ABCs!

I love all your positive energy, It's a great pick me up to a long draining work week :)

Timothy George Hare said...

Thanks for the newest comments!

Ron: Easton is a magical place having you and Ken grace it so brilliantly!

Mayor Panto: Decaf anytime! Sadly, caffeinated could kill my poor cardiologist. Well, not poor....:-)

Dennis: Modesty and flashbacks might prevent me from looking back that far! Though it is highly gratifying and comforting to experience today's Easton - knowing I had some part in saving its architectural history for future generations to enjoy and treasure. :-)

Nikkita: Glad you like! I do find that gratitude, when taken in sufficient quantity, picks me up everytime that I remember to go there - practice makes progress! :-)

Timothy George Hare said...

Hi All:

My computer drive crashed last Saturday so will be offline for awhile! Hope it's fixed before posting the gratitude letter B this Friday!

Will check emails/posts from Lafayette Library occasionally.

Tim