I almost didn’t go. I almost didn’t attend an amazing event in Kansas City, MO on January 21st at Washington Square Park. I knew that there was a lot of excitement about a women’s march in Washington D.C. Several of my clergy sisters were going. It was my husband, Scott, who informed me that there was an event in K.C. My first response was, “I can’t because I’m a pastor.” Like many United Methodist churches in this part of the world, I have parishioners who do not share the same political views. This year, more than any time I can remember, many people did not say who they supported for president. I never say anything from the pulpit supporting any one party or candidate. So, my first reaction was that I absolutely could not attend an event that many might view as “anti-Trump”. I happen to be married to a remarkable man who has always been comfortable in his political skin. He sent me an article written by a United Methodist pastor titled “Is it Okay for United Methodists to Go on a March?” A positive argument was presented, quoting our Social Principles: “The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust.”
United Methodists (especially the women), were leaders in the abolition, suffrage, and temperance movements. United Methodists take very seriously the words of Jesus “to help the least of these.” I looked at the list of speakers and saw that many of them would address issues near and dear to my heart. Therefore, I allowed myself to attend what turned out to be an amazing event. I was not very well prepared. I hadn’t bothered to make a sign. I wore the only thing I had that was pink – a Green Bay Packer hoodie. Scott and I and a dear friend left early to get a good parking place. We took the trolley and stopped first at Cosentino’s because I needed bread for Communion the next morning.
As we boarded the next trolley car, it was clear that everyone on board was attending the rally. The mood was upbeat. Unlike me, many people were quite creative in their signs and outfits. Some were funny. Some moved me deeply. People attended for all sorts of reasons. Some, clearly, to protest Trump. Others were there as sign of solidarity for the vulnerable. I was particularly moved by Rabbi Doug Alpert who announced that if Muslims are asked to register, he would be known as Muslim Rabbi Alpert. The crowd loved it. I should mention that those planning the event were expecting 500 people. 10,000 showed up!
One of the reasons I attended was to support the rights of those with disabilities. When my youngest daughter was a few days old, I noticed that she did not turn her head when there was a loud noise. I took her to numerous doctors, but they all told me I was an over-anxious mom. Finally, Children’s Mercy Hospital told us that she had a significant hearing loss. A few years later, she was legally deaf. One time, I had to pick her up at the principal’s office. Some kids had made fun of her by moving their lips without saying anything. She started a fight and she was the only one who was reprimanded. That evening, I help her strategize how to deal with bullies. Another time, I told a teacher that my daughter could not pass an oral spelling test. The teacher said, “I am not going to change how I teach for one child.” She failed spelling.
I am so grateful for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. My daughter later received assistance from sign language interpreters and note takers. She now helps others at Children’s Mercy as a registered nurse. Trump’s pick for Education Secretary troubled me deeply when she failed to assure the hearing committee that all schools would abide by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. DeVos did not know the difference between proficiency and growth, a topic that all educators understand. She would not even agree that guns do not belong in school. Many of us who have campaigned for the rights of others in the past have come to realize that we can never take those gains for granted. There are always those who want decisions left to the local level, which means, more often than not, that those with disabilities are told that there is a lack of resources. I never want to go back to the days when a teacher can say, “I won’t change how I teach for one child.” I have been trying to call my Senator, but can’t get through. Maybe that means others are concerned, also.
The rally was uplifting and inspiring as we realized just how many people care about the rights of others. It was not about undoing the election. It was a message to the world that everyone matters. I was touched by the number of men who had come to support the women in their lives. One of my favorite moments was at the end when we were in line for the trolley. A security officer was dancing and praising us for being there for our moms and our daughters. I don’t know if there will be more of these events, but I join other clergy who have pledged to defend and protect the vulnerable in the name of Jesus.