Giving away our fears

How can we rebel against those who would paralyze us with fear? We can open our wallets and give, out Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson told a recent philanthropy conference in West Hollywood

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 24 2005 11:00 PM ET

The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson is bishop of the
Archdiocese of New Hampshire. The following
remarks were given on October 8 at OutGiving, a
conference on GLBT giving hosted by the Gill and Liberty
Hill foundations.
 

I grew up in
Kentucky. My parents were tobacco tenant
farmers—about as close to slavery as white
people have come to in this country. When I was born I
was completely paralyzed on my right side and my head was
all crushed in. The doctors told my father they needed
a name for my birth and death certificates, so he took
the name that they had picked out for a girl, Vicky
Jean, and just changed the spelling, figuring it
wouldn’t matter on a tombstone. So my actual
name is V-I-C-K-Y G-E-N-E. I still can’t use my
credit cards without people saying, “I’m
sorry, sir. You can’t use your wife’s
credit card.”

But I lived. I
was paralyzed for about a month and then my parents took
me home. They were told I would never walk or talk or have
any use of myself. The night before my consecration as
bishop, my mother—who had always said to me she
believed God had saved me for something—gave me a
little card. All it said was Now I guess we know what it
was. How could I not feel blessed?

This is the time
of year when many people try and take stock of how
blessed they are. Over the next few weeks, every time you
write a check, let it be a reminder to you. Holding
awareness of how blessed we are isn’t easy.
Today, we are getting bamboozled around the security issue.
It is meant to scare us. Our anxiety is even color-coded! We
are told it’s a yellow day, an orange day, a
red day. We’re not told how to make the anxiety
go away or how to protect ourselves. We’re just meant
to be more anxious. We need to stop being afraid.

There’s a
lot in scripture about leprosy; in biblical times it was a
much feared disease. It affects the nerve endings in
your hands and feet. You can put your hand on a
red-hot stove and it doesn’t communicate to your
brain that your skin is on fire. I think it’s used so
much in the Bible because we all want to insulate
ourselves from the pain of the world—whether it
be for our GLBT brothers and sisters or just for the
world. The trick is to stay connected to the world so that
we feel the pain and then make some kind of response
to it.

This year let
your giving be a rebellious act against those who would
paralyze us with fear. Who could have imagined we would live
to see the changes we’ve lived to see these
last few years? We mustn’t lose that ground.
The most surprising thing for me when I finally made the
decision to be a “tither” and give 10%
of my earnings was to discover that I was the greatest
beneficiary. I was the most blessed by that giving, never
mind those to whom the money went.

When
you’re wondering if you’re giving enough, I
have a rule of thumb: You have to give enough to get
your soul’s attention. When you’re writing
out a check, if you don’t get a lump in your throat,
it’s not big enough. Put enough zeros down to
remind yourself how really blessed you are.

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