Anyone who’s heard of Jim Hormel can’t help but idolize him. Knowing him for almost thirty years I do not in part because that’s the last thing he wants and more importantly Jim’s commitment to honestly and equality insists that we emulate him. As he says in his memoir Fit to Stand “Isn’t the meaning of life to follow the direction of your inner compass, and stay the course until yor dying breath? To leave this world a better place than you entered it?” That has been a touchstone of my life. Why live if I don’t make the world a better place?
Few of us can do it on the scale Jim has with his wealth, but every day nurses, gardeners, teachers and farmers make our world better. Each of us can and should keep that uppermost in our minds. And we can all do it differently as we stay true to ourselves.
It must have come from my father’s insistence on honesty and my mother’s unconditional love that even before I came out I was determined that no one would diminish me. After coming out I was the “gay” member of countless civic and regional groups involved in city planning. In each I made sure everyone knew I was gay and never tolerated being treated differently. When I came out to people I knew in college and graduate school many said I was courageous that I found that curious. I was simply being myself and because I accepted myself I assumed others would as well.
As we start the new year as gay people we must continue to press society to accept us as human beings. Despite our many victories we can’t sit back. I may never have the right words to change people’s minds, but I can live a life that exemplifies honesty and compassion. When people see us they know who were are, and it’s hard to hate a neighbor or someone you’ve worked with or seen at church. With Jim as our model our lives are powerful statements about us and others like us.