Diversity should be welcomed

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 8, 2006

I had heard stories about it from Rick before he left, but I never thought it was true. I mean I never believed it could actually be to that extent. I just thought it was Rick exaggerating in his stories as he usually did when he talked to me. It was what he did, just to me though…I almost miss it.

But I digress.

Tuesday afternoon’s Linden City Council meeting almost brought me to tears. Well, actually I won’t lie – it did.

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I could not believe that it had become such a big issue for people to move into a neighborhood if they have special needs.

Even though the problem was said to be that the three men living in the home were violating zoning rules because the neighborhood is meant for single families, I, myself believe there was something more.

It was said that since they were not related, they are not a family and therefore count as three separate families living in a single family home. Three men, three individual families, makes sense. No, not really.

That is just plain ridiculous. Does that mean that if – when I find the right man – I decide to move in with him, before marriage, into a “single-family home” I am breaking the rules? Will it then be fine for the neighborhood gang up on me in attempts to kick me out of the home that my significant other and I are paying the bills for?

In my opinion, unless you are helping with the mortgage, paying the electricity, water, sewage, or something, the neighborhood shouldn’t be able to tell me that I don’t have the right to live there. Unless, of course, I am unruly, noisy, disrespectful and causing a disturbance to my neighbors. And even then, there is a fine line.

But to my knowledge, these men are peaceful. They mind their business and haven’t caused a single disturbance since moving in.

Besides, the mayor of Linden already said rezoning will not happen and homes in the area will remain R-1. So, what’s the big deal?

If anything, I these men should be the ones fighting and complaining about other people making their lives a living you know what (keeping it PG).

Wednesday, as I watched “The Bends of Life…Surviving, Sewing and Standing” being performed by the Wideman/Davis dancers in the Demopolis Middle School gym, I couldn’t keep my thoughts of Linden.

The play went from bringing slaves to what is now known as Gee’s Bend, to the Civil Rights Movement. It was then that my mind went back to the quiet protestors standing outside Linden City Hall just the day before.

As they held their signs up high, in silence, their eyes told a story I couldn’t imagine living. Here they are being different, not by choice, but because of birth defects or serious injuries, and now they have to fight to live in a neighborhood and get respect.

In the fifties and sixties black men and women were fighting for the same rights. Now here we are 40 years later, in what many would think would be a new time, still striving to achieve the same thing.

It baffles me. Your neighbor is someone who welcomes you with open arms onto the block. Someone you are supposed to able to borrow a cup of sugar from. Someone who will wave to you from their yard if they see you outside.

A true neighbor is not going to fight to get rid of you. They won’t start a nationally-known civil battle to keep you from living a life just as they are, no matter what color, shape, or dependencies you may have.

It’s truly upsetting to me that people can find the tiniest excuse to keep those who differ from them out of their neighborhoods. It is even more sad to me that Alabama’s leaders are entertaining the thoughts of dividing the city by making this a municipal fight.

These men just want to live their lives in as close to a normal manner as they can. Who are we to deprive them of staying in a home simply because they aren’t blood relatives.

They are family to them, and that is all that matters. I am sure they can depend on one another without worrying about what sets them apart.

Since Tuesday, I’ve prayed for those of you who are fighting to get these men out of the neighborhood.

I pray that none of your family members, or you, is faced with a traumatic injury that leaves you or them disabled and dependent on others for help. I’ve sent this prayer to God every night since Tuesday, because I fear that these families would be the ones to turn their backs on a friend or family member if something does go wrong.

But for once, I hope I am wrong in my assumptions, because I would hate to see a world where people turn their backs on each other due to difference.

Too bad I am living in one right now.