My easiest commute to work was the day my next door neighbors held their wedding in the backyard of their home, just across the street from mine. I was honored that they wanted my family to attend and that they would choose me as their photographer. You see, my neighbors are gay. I am a Mormon. To some it would appear that our lifestyles and beliefs would make for a strained relationship at best, but this blog post is about something more than religion, politics, and proximity. It’s about the blessings that come when you transcend the labels other put on you to find what really matters.
Seven years ago we moved into our home. We felt drawn to this neighborhood, but didn’t know why. Today I believe that God lead us here with a purpose. Shortly after moving in we were welcomed by several of our neighbors and we knew instantly that we had moved into a great place. We arrived just a month before the neighborhoods annual 4th of July BBQ which we were instantly invited to by the party’s host Cecil Manley and Paul Maixner. Over the coming years these two men would constantly find ways to help us as we struggled to balance being new parents and first time homeowners. They are always happy to dog sit, share their power tools, or help trim the trees in our front yard. But it’s not just us that benefited from their kindness. When a neighbor’s loved one became ill, it was Cecil and Paul that organized meals. They reach out and actively look for opportunities to serve others. In every way these two men have been Christlike examples to all that know them.
When the Marriage Equality Act became law in December of 2012 it meant a shift in the wedding vendor world. At the Seattle Wedding Show I talked to several LGBT couples planning their upcoming weddings, but Cecil and Paul were the first I booked. To be totally honest, I was really nervous! For one, I had little experience posing same-sex couples. A lot of photographic posing is very gender specific and I knew I couldn’t rely on “standard” poses for this one. After unsuccessfully searching Google images for “gay wedding poses” a search category I do NOT recommend, I decided to instead focus on what I knew about my neighbors and friends to guide my photographic choices. What resulted I feel reflects their personalities and captures the emotion of their wedding day.
And emotions did run high throughout the day. Shortly after the ceremony Cecil, Paul, and myself boarded a yacht sized limo and headed to the beach for some portraits. Cecil’s heart was full as he told me about his childhood during the 1950′s. “I never thought this day was possible.” He said. His words were made more poignant by the fact that we were only a few days away from the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. In their lifetimes, Cecil and Paul have been subjected to the breadth and depth of discrimination and hatred a person could experience in America. Yet through it all they have learned to return hatred with peace, extend friendship without reservation, and bless the lives of all they meet; myself included. In that moment I couldn’t help but be moved to tears.
You see, knowing Cecil and Paul has made me a better Christian. From them I have come to better understand Christ’s teaching,”love thy neighbor.” Their beliefs in God and mine may differ in doctrine, but we both believe that all of us are God’s children and worthy of His love. And it is because of this simple truth that we have become more than neighbors. I wish my friends all of the blessings and happiness God has in store for them. I am grateful for their dedication to each other, and their example to my family. I feel blessed every time I see their smiling faces.
The the Book of Mormon it reads, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God.” Moroni 7:48.
It is my prayer that we will all work within our own circles of influence to share the love of God without hesitation, reservation, or judgement.