I was depressed.

I wanted to sing.

Singing cheers me up when all else is lost. I was in the middle of a divorce, and I was on vacation in Florida.

With my ex husband.

I was walking down the street in the vacation town, and I saw a sign that read: karaoke. The sign above the marquis was lit up in pastel neon colors, and it made me feel hopeful.

When the evening came, I ventured inside: I did not realize this was a gay bar. What attracted me was the welcome atmosphere and the sense of fun. I was not a Christian at the time, so it wasn't out of the ordinary to order a drink of rum and coke.

I wanted to loosen up so I could sing a song of heartbreak and woe. I took my turn at the mic. The song I selected was 'Crazy' by Patsy Cline. In the midst of my turmoil, the song provided an emotional release I desperately needed.

The crowd knew.

They seemed to understand.

The rest of the night was filled with me singing one sad song after another. And yet, I somehow felt surrounded by family. By people who understood alienation, grief, and loss.

No one seemed to judge me.

The bartender took his turn singing songs the regulars all knew and the people exchanged knowing looks.

Another person chose a song to sing that wasn't on the official list of songs. It was about chasing everything and missing the one important thing that mattered: the love of their life.

This same person sang this same song night after night. I know this, because I came back night after night. In between the sad songs and the knowing songs were the songs about celebration and having fun.

The range of emotion and open communication shared in a bar with strangers was not like that of an ordinary bar setting. There was a thread of shared alienation and hardship and an unwillingness to alienate others.

I felt accepted and could easily tell that most of the people there on any given night were not visitors. Much like I was becoming. Although I was really just a visitor myself.

When the fast songs came on and everybody danced and reveled in the enjoyment of living, it was than a random dance floor anthem. It was a release. These were people of deep feeling, just as I was then.

I wore my heart on my sleeve, because it was too heavy to conceal. I shared laughs and hoorahs with people who were attracted to those of the same sex. No one was mean to me or suggested that I hogged up the singing slots with sad songs of heartbreak.

No one was upset that I was using this as a venue to vent all my troubles. It seemed expected and like a place that welcomed that very thing. And that was the overall tome of my experience: I felt welcomed. Which is why I came back night after night like a soldier returning to old friends.

When it was time to go home, I did not regard this as my foray into forbidden territory or like I had done something scandalous. I had been attracted by the element of fun and the opportunity to sing, but I found something so unexpected: friends instead of strangers.

The pastel neon sign still beckoned me even as it was time to go, and I knew I would miss the community that presented a space be kind and simply to be human. I knew the reason people returned again and again.

It was the same reason I did.

To be accepted.

To not have to pretend.

Some people think the message of Jesus and of grace is hiding what we really are.

It isn't.

God knows who and what we really are. 

We need grace because of who we are. 


All of us.


Stay Gutsy,


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May 25, 2017 @01:51 am
Hi there - I'm your neighbour from "Sitting Among Friends" - when I read your story I couldn't help but be challenged by the acceptance, welcome, fun, safe space that was offered to you. Do Christians offer that to hurting people? Do I? Challenging read.

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Rosa A. Hopkins

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