What Happened to the Positive Growth in our Community?
Article ID: 12882
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: March 8th. 2009
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Because we tend to forget the positive aspects our community has created for our lives, here's a reminder that because of the Pagan community, some of us have our freedom of religion, peace-of-mind, and even in one case, our children.
We complain that Pagans are always at each other's throats. That one group is against another; one individual is an elitist, etc. We complain that our government doesn't protect our rights enough, that Christians are doing everything they can to oppress us. We focus on the negative aspects of our community far too much. While some focus is needed to correct problems, we often forget to talk about the positive aspects of our Pagan communities. We forget to encourage the growth that has in fact started.
I, for one, have much to be thankful for because of the Pagan community I live around. I live in Southern NH, and because I live here, I'm exposed to many groups of pagans and many Christians are more open minded because of the sheer number of us around. Its hard to avoid and ignore when there's a new-age shop on a main street in one town that does good business, and another off of a main street in a town near by that has steady flow of traffic.
A friend of mine owned a shop for several years in my old town, and she was there not as a “Witch-mart” but as a spiritual oasis for all faiths to come together for understanding and enlightenment. Her shop, though closed now, made a huge impact in a smallish city and improved the quality of life for many because of it. I felt blessed to meet the people I did because of her store and to be able to volunteer to do work there, perform the blessing of the store, to be included in friendly debates between members of all faiths.
Lets also not forget the yearly rites that are held at parks and the Pagan Pride days, while sometimes the turn out are small and some have called them insignificant in impact, they usually build a bridge of understanding to at least a few people who otherwise would have stayed in the dark, and therefore fearful, of a belief system they had no exposure to. And if that didn't make us blessed with more open-minded people, our wacky neighbors (said with humor and affection, not sarcasm) over the border in Salem get attention drawn to the community and have made being a Witch a more accepted religious choice.
Why do I bring all these examples up?
Because of all the hard-working community members I'm constantly surrounded by, I've been blessed by being able to walk down the streets of my city with a pentacle on my chest or finger, or a Goddess-embroidered bag on my shoulder, or talking to my two-year old about the Goddess's gifts of life around us as we walk to a store, and not be continually harassed for my beliefs. My son's pediatrician, much to my surprise, is a Pagan. I always had written him off as a new-age herbalist type doctor, but still a Christian.
It wasn't until we were discussing my divorce and the things the court's lawyer would want to speak to my son's doctor about, including if he thought my son was in any danger from my religion, that his doctor let me in on his secret that he too was a Pagan and would support me in court. Again to my surprise, when I met with the Guardian ad Litem, I found that he was an open-minded individual to Pagans. He actually knew a great deal about our different beliefs and in his report about my side of being a parent, he never expressed one concern that my religion may harm my son... I rather suspect from his vast knowledge and some things he hinted at that he was also Pagan, but I'm not going to assume he is...
My divorce could have easily been an unjust disaster you hear about on our sites about a parent losing their child to a monster co-parent just because the good parent practiced a religion that was considered taboo. But thanks to those two individuals and the open-mindedness they had, my baby boy is with his mommy as he should be. Because our community had reached far enough to touch those two people's lives, our situations didn't turn into a horror story.
And to go back even further how I've been blessed with a community of understanding people. I owe my son's very life to our community. I know that sounds like a strong thing to say, but I do. I had many pre-existing health issues that caused my original (very Christian doctors) to say that they didn't think I couldn't even become pregnant, and if I did, I wouldn't carry past a month. They didn't think my body could handle it after having damage from a previous miscarriage and the health issues.
When I became pregnant a second time and had carried over a month, narrowly avoiding a miscarriage scare, they told me I shouldn't continue the pregnancy, that it was too great a risk to my health... While I won't get into the semantics of pro-life/pro-choice here, I am passionately against abortion.
When I refused to terminate my pregnancy, I met hostility from my doctors and very little help. I decided to find new health providers to help me make my pregnancy successful. And the Goddess works in her own subtle ways. The first two groups of doctors I went to were not taking new patients at the time.
As it turned out, there was a group of midwives very near to my home who were accepting patients. And miraculously, they were very sweet, very supportive women, and the one I saw the most was a Pagan. They, and especially her, helped me through my pregnancy. Was it very difficult for me? That'd be an understatement... I spent many months on bed rest, gained a large amount of weight that I still, two years later, haven't fully lost, and ended up a week past my due date for my son. But in the end, with their guidance and support and ever-constant care, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who is happy and healthy and everything I could ever want.
If I had given up that chance because it was a risk, I would have given up so much more then a semi-formed fetus. I would have given up his hugs, his kisses, his silly ways of saying words he's just learning, his laughs that seem to erupt from the very bottom of his belly. I'd have lost seeing him take his first steps holding my fingers, the feeling of absolute love and trust when he falls asleep in my arms and curls up close to me for warmth and protection.
I'd have given up my chance to be a mother and to know what its like to feel the love of a child, something that is priceless and beyond compare. He's my miracle baby and I owe it to having support from a strong-willed Pagan woman of our community who agreed that even if it was risky, I was given the chance to have my son for a reason.
Is that the way all Pagans can live their lives? I realize it isn't. But it’s a start that’s happening in many communities, and yet is overlooked. I can ride the bus on any given day and see at least a handful of Pagans being able to proudly wear some mark of our religion and not be harassed for it, and not just teenagers looking for attention.
I've seen Natives in their leather outfits, old grandmothers wearing a pentacle or Goddess symbol, mothers like myself with their children discussing upcoming holidays and why we celebrate them as we do. Those things in and of themselves are signs that things are slowly changing.
Our community likes to say we are being oppressed and this country is full of bible-thumping Christians looking to wipe out all other beliefs. And in some areas that may still be very true. But we also need to start looking at the communities where tolerance and communication has been opened, and duplicate that to communities that haven't had that opportunity for growth.
Changes can be made when you look at the smaller picture and realize that they can change one person's world. You can change how one person views our religious beliefs; you can support one person's decision to create a life. To me, that is the Pagan community at large, both how it’s striving to be at this time, and how it will be as a whole in the future.
Location: Nashua, New Hampshire
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