So, I read Margie’s letter with a bit of frustration, mostly because she had a tendency to make blanket statements about geography and religion and tolerance concerning her experience with Mormons in Sandy versus liberal Sugar House [“The Midwest Does It Better,” Aug. 29, City Weekly]. Another perspective, if I may?
I was raised Mormon, went on a mission, traveled the world and met my husband/ partner, also a returned missionary, in Seattle. We were both raised in Utah, but had lived for years in Seattle, a very liberal town. We came home to be closer to family and aging parents, and as we have lived here, we moved from downtown to Holladay; now we are in Cottonwood Heights, just a stone’s throw from Sandy.
I was a little worried that the “gay couple” would be a bit of the outcasts on our duplex cul-de-sac. Well, let me say that we hit the jackpot: Mormon/non-Mormon neighbors with smiles, and help, as well as encouragement, openness and invitations by them, and even our local home teachers, to come visit church. No pressure to change, no backs turned, no shooing their children away from the weirdo sinners. Just connection, care and engagement—you know, just being good neighbors. We could call on them for help, and we have. And they invite us, with no agenda, to family parties, neighborhood shindigs and just to hang out on our front porches to chat.
Now we have friends all over the valley: straight, gay, lesbian, Mormons, former Mormons, former-Mormon-turned-atheists, Jews, Muslims and everything in between. And, somehow, we all manage to be kind to each other, and the only time I am political is when I remind people that the way they vote can have real-world impacts on people like me, and I hope they would remind me of the same responsibility.
We made the decision to participate, and be good neighbors, and prayed we would receive the same. And we have. Those who are uncomfortable or judgmental of us at the very least have been a little smarter about keeping it to themselves. And on our little street, in our little neighborhood in the south of the valley, we have people of all types being kind and sociable. We realize this may not be everyone’s experience, but it is ours and we thought it important to add it to the discussion.
My advice? Try to meet people where they are, and you would be surprised at how far they will come toward you once they realize you are not so different, at least on a deeper level. And to those who are judgmental about outsider or insiders, and make peoples lives a bit more lonely, I think we can do better.
I’m not saying Margie wasn’t a good neighbor, and I am sorry her experience was challenging, and I hope she finds what she needs elsewhere. I suppose I am just trumpeting my different experience so we don’t paint people on all sides with such a wide brush.