Day 222 - Throwback Thursday
Friday, July 10, 2015
This is day 222 - a day I've been eager for a long time. It has been 222 days of logging into SP and having at least 10 minutes of fitness activity every day (always more than 10 minutes, but who's counting). Anyway, it's time for a little reminiscing...
When I was a kid, there was a TV show that was quite popular and had a huge impact on my life. It was called "Room 222" and starred Michael Constantine, Karen Valentine, Lloyd Haynes, and Denise Nicholas. It ran from 1969 through 1973. It was a groundbreaking show for its portrayal of people of different races learning to work with and learn from each other in a high school setting. It was created by James L. Brooks ("The Simpsons," "Taxi," "Lou Grant," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Broadcast News," "Terms of Endearment," and more).
There was always an important lesson that was learned by the end of each episode, usually about accepting people who are different and getting along with all people. It spoke to me in many ways (even though I was in elementary school and junior high for most of the series), and I didn't want to miss a single episode.
When I was in the 5th grade in 1967, I became friends with a girl named Sonja. She was African-American, and she was my best friend. I used to go over to her house after school (she lived just a block away, where I was about 6 blocks walking to my house). Her mom was the best, and she was like a second mom to me. I loved going over to Sonja's house and hanging out. I didn't think about the fact that we were different - we were both 10 years old and we enjoyed the same things. Her older brother Bob was like the big brother I never had.
The following year, my family moved to Indiana, and my best friend stayed in Michigan. We stayed in touch for a while, but eventually, as friendships between 11-year-olds would go, we lost touch.
Fast forward 6 years, and Sonja let me know that she was going to be attending the same college that I had chosen. I'm not sure how she found out, but I was so excited. Her brother Bob had already been attending Alma College (in the middle of Michigan) for two years, and now we were both going to be there together.
For the first three years of college, we spent many a night together. We had a group of friends and hung out together, studying, talking, philosophizing, and being friends. It was like "Room 222" but graduated from high school.
In the fall of my senior year of college, 1978, I decided to come out. I had been engaged to a girl for most of college, and I knew it was a lie to continue the relationship. We broke up, and word got out quickly that I was gay. In about 4 days, most of the campus knew about me.
Sonja turned away from me in a way I would never have believed. It was as if our friendship of nearly 12 years meant nothing. Another friend that was my roommate sophomore year also rejected me. I felt abandoned and alone. My best friends for the past 3 years were gone, and I had to start over.
About 10 years after graduation, I got a phone call from my old roommate and Sonja, who conference-called me to apologize for being so distant from me after my coming out. As it turned out, both of them had gay brothers (Sonja's older brother Bob and my roommate's younger brother Chris), and they didn't realize it then, but I was the conduit that enabled them to accept and love their brothers, because they had once been friends with (and loved) me.
This year marks 36 years since I graduated from college. I'm still very close to Sonja and my old roommate. In fact, I'm flying to Michigan in two weeks and will be spending the night with Sonja and her husband and their two kids (a very blended family - Sonja's husband Jim is white, and their son Nathaniel is biracial, and their daughter Grace was adopted from China).
I learned so many lessons watching that old show Room 222 from the 60s, and those lessons are still pertinent today. Accepting people who are different is an important part of life. Being able to see beyond the differences and recognizing what is the same allows us to be respectful and connected.
That show from the 60s and 70s still resonates with me today, over 40 years later. And I'm forever grateful.