I woke up this morning astonished to find a text message that simply read, “happy anniversary!” It was the first time in 33 years that anyone has ever remembered our anniversary.
In 1988, in Boston, long before “gay marriage” seemed a possible reality in our lifetime, I met my partner, Kevin, at the Names Project AIDS Quilt display at the Plaza Castle armory.
Eventually, after being together for over a quarter of a century, we married at the Brattleboro Municipal Center in April of 2014. But happy anniversary wishes have never followed in April, either.
We never thought about this, until this morning. Probably because we always thought of our first “official” date on June 16, 1988 as our anniversary, a night where we enjoyed wot served at mesob at an Ethiopian restaurant on Tremont Street. This followed a Flemish film of which the title, when translated, fortunately did not prove prophetic: Love Is a Dog from Hell.
So, why, after so many years, did our first happy anniversary remembrance come as such a surprise this morning?
Because it came from a 63-year-old, conservative Christian, heterosexual man.
In my sleepy dismay, I thanked him profusely and asked: How on earth he ever remembered it was our anniversary?
He replied, “I entered it in my calendar last year.”
Such a conscientious and intentional act of goodwill, I thought. Last year, on this very day, “Tim” had deliberately planned a thoughtful act of kindness.
* * *
The deeper story is that several years ago, following a very heated online debate, in which we were in strong disagreement, I invited Tim to come to my home in Massachusetts for a beer.
I had not seen him in about 37 years. We were not great friends even back then, but I remembered him from high school as a very intelligent, kind, polite, and always-cheerful guy. So, I was intrigued, and more than a bit surprised, by his strong conservative views.
Tim happily accepted my invitation and, after finding a weekend that worked, drove seven hours to see me.
We spent that weekend catching up on our very different lives over the years. We shared wonderful meals and drank beer at the People's Pint in Greenfield and the West End Pub in Shelburne Falls. We laughed raucously. We disagreed more than we agreed, including on guns, Christianity, and human sexuality.
Yet, Tim was still all that I remembered; intelligent, kind, cheerful and, now, very well-educated and well-read. We took a photo of ourselves, with an arm around each other, laughing, to share with those very likely to balk at such an unlikely reunion, which made us laugh even more.
Despite our vast differences, we forged a respectful and caring friendship rooted in our past, a sincere interest in considering our differences, and our ability to laugh at most of them.
* * *
In the years since passed, I've seen Tim only once, at his home in western New York state, where I even held one of his guns in my trembling, sweaty palms. But largely we have stayed in touch via an occasional spontaneous text, each inquiring how the other is doing or to wish the other well around the holidays.
Today, it was a planned act of kindness to wish Kevin and me happiness, and it came from a conservative, heterosexual, Christian man.
I can't get that part out of my mind. I don't want to. I want to savor it as a sort of reprieve from a world torn apart by differences.
Discussing activism, Alice Walker once wrote that small acts toward changing the world can often seem like a “paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope.”
I suppose it's the same with acts of thoughtfully planned kindness?
Unless, maybe, such small acts of kindness are offered to those so very different from ourselves?