One of the joys of belonging to a church is that you meet people you wouldn’t normally get to meet. While Sunday morning is still one of the most racially segregated times of the week in America, South Church in New Britain is a real mix of people of all colors, classes, ages, denominations and ethnicities.
One of the joys of belonging to an Open and Affirming church is that you get to meet more , as they sing on Sesame Street, “people in your neighborhood”.
Patti is one of those people from the “neighborhood” that is South Church. She is a deacon, she sings in the choir. She used to be a teacher (maybe still is?). She continues to grow as a person — recently she went back to school — she’s now a pastry chef and married. Patti — after years with one nice woman, married a spiritually feisty younger woman this year and they seem to balance each other out really well.
When my wife and I joined South Church, Patti was one of the first people at South Church we met, and the distinguishing thing I noticed was her haircut that screamed “I’m a lesbian”. Of course, the pink triangle button added to the impression, but it was mostly her haircut that made me assume she was gay.
That said, because I have trouble with names in the early stages of meeting someone, Patti became “that nice lesbian”. If we were talking about her after church, I’d say to my wife, “you know, the nice lesbian whose-name-I-forget really gets our kid. I guess she works with Special Needs kids and she absolutely treasures our younger daughter. Says she’s really bright and creative”. This is a good thing to hear when your child has you at your wits end. Children aren’t always easy, but Patti said it more than once just to make sure we got it. (We like to think our children are brilliant, but every once in awhile, it was nice to be reminded of it when they were getting into things or running around at the speed of light).
Patti is — like many people in churches — remarkable but not spectacular about it– and that’s what makes her special. She’s not a public figure like a politician. I don’t know her political views, though I could guess. She’s not on the news, changing the discourse on public policy with the pundits. Instead, she is one of those people who changes your life in small ways, building people up until they believe in themselves and others. She is the person that always gives a hug if you ask for it, but will also tell you the truth if you ask her for it — the kind of person that slows down a screaming child with a big hug.
So, on her birthday, here’s to Patti and all other people who just make life worth living — the people you meet in your average Open and Affirming neighborhood.