Many times, when called upon to write some sort of autobiographical paragraph, I am often compelled to write, "I believe empathy is the most paramount of all virtues."
Attempting to empathize with the plights of others has always been a very natural practice for me.
I recognize that I am very fortunate in this respect.
But it deeply disturbs me to encounter people who obviously make no attempt at empathizing.
This is particularly upsetting when the issue is homosexuality.
My younger brother Joel, whom I love immeasurably, is gay.
The day before our grandmother's funeral in 2004, he came out to me.
I had known for several years, but his official declaration left me feeling indescribably honored.
I have sat with him and listened to his story.
I try my best to share his burdens and steep uphill struggles.
I cannot even count the number of times that my poor ears have been assaulted by some ignorant blowhard, yammering on and on about Homosexuality is an Abomination! and The Gay Agenda is Taking Over! and Next Thing We Know, They'll Want to Marry Their Dogs!
Whenever I have been able to summon the strength to actually engage these people in conversation, I find that they are not personally acquainted with anyone who is gay - surprise surprise! - nor do they have any desire to be.
They are speaking from those all-too-familiar perches of As Far As I Know and As Far As I Can Tell.
As David Dark reminds us in The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, "as far as I know" and "as far as I can tell" are not far at all.
Many who make these ill-informed, hateful statements also claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, which is even more tragic.
They don't even have one iota of interest in meeting an actual gay person, much less (gasp!) hearing their story and attempting to see the world through their eyes.
I write these reflections for the all-important task of drawing attention to the ineffable role of empathy in the human experience.
It's one of the best gifts we have to offer, dear reader.
Give freely, and often, and with humble sincerity.