Last summer, we threw a huge retirement party for my mom. After 30 some years of teaching Social Work she was ready to slow down and smell the roses. As part of the celebration, we held an affirmation circle in the back yard where everyone circled up and she sat blind-folded while being showered with love, praise and stories about her and the impact she’s had on so many people. As we round into Black History Month, one story from a women from that night keeps reverberating in my head.
Here’s a retelling of the story from the woman’s perspective…
I enrolled in my first year at College of Dupage and as an openly gay person, I was interested in joining the Gay-Straight Alliance on campus. I asked around as to who was the advisor for the club, and everyone kept pointing me to Maryann Krieglstein. I went to her office and asked to meet with her. As we sat in her office, I noticed on her wall were several pictures of her kissing this man. There were also tons of pictures of her surrounded by five boys that looked like they could be her kids. I thought to myself how odd it is for a gay women to have so many pictures of her kissing a man. So I asked about the pictures and Maryann said it’s her partner of almost 50 years and their five kids. Without thinking I blurted out, “Wait, so you are not gay?” Maryann laughed and responded back that she wasn’t. Why would someone who’s not gay be so dedicated to the Gay-Straight Alliance club? My next thought was to assume that one of her boys was gay, so I asked and she said no. I was stunned. Over the next year I worked with Maryann through the club and I’ve never met someone so passionate about Social Justice issues. She taught me such a valuable life lesson, Social Justice isn’t just for those who are struggling to have it, social justice is an issue we all should deal with because when one of us doesn’t have full equality, none of us do.
February is Black History Month and my Facebook newsfeed is filled with many of my black friends honoring the immense historical fight for African American social justice in this country. But most of my non-black friends are going about life as usual. So here’s my challenge to everyone, use this month and every month to not just fight for the social justice issues that directly impact your life, but to also see beyond yourself and battle injustice where ever and whenever you see it.
Social Justice isn’t just for those who are struggling to have it, social justice is an issue we all should deal with because when one of us doesn’t have full equality, none of us do.
Tom started his first business, an online retail store, as a junior in college which he grew to $1.5 million dollars in annual sales. Through his second company, Swift Kick, Tom has spoken to over half a million leaders around the US and the world including South Korea, Indonesia, and Bermuda. Tom was named the #1 leadership speaker an unprecedented 5 years. He’s a TEDx speaker, Guinness World Record holder, and has co-authored the Amazon.com award winning book “First Year Student to First Year Success.”And on a personal note, Tom lives in New York City, was named after a cat, and loves peanut butter.