My family thinks I’m garbage…

When I think of my childhood and the bullies that myself or my friends encountered, there are two phrases that come to mind:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.


I’m rubber and you’re glue…whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.

It was a contest of sorts to get the second statement out fast enough so that you were confident that the words would bounce off of you and stick to them. Then the snickers would commence as you congratulated yourself for outsmarting the bully. But did you?

Oh how I wish it were that easy. How I wish that words from long ago didn’t somehow still sting that little girl in me.

I attended a Pride festival in my county this past Saturday with a table for Free Mom Hugs Maryland. We were very excited this year because we were actually able to give out hugs. We attended last year, but due to Covid we refrained from hugging. Instead we gave out little “hug monsters” which were made out of yarn. So many people told me that they still had theirs from last year when they came to our table. They also were very excited that we were giving out hugs this year.

It was a beautiful day and we had lots of traffic at our table. The festival is four hours long, but it’s a bit longer for the vendors as we need to get there early to set-up and then stay later to break down our tables. There was about 5 minutes left until the official end and I was putting things away. As I was rolling up my banner, a girl came up to me and asked if I was still giving hugs. This is not unusual. I think sometimes people are hesitant and it takes them some time to get up the nerve to come over. For others, I think it’s that they don’t want an “audience” when they get a hug.

I said that I absolutely was still giving out hugs. I’ve mentioned before when talking about Free Mom Hugs that sometimes you feel a transaction happen when you give a hug. There are times that I will say something to the person, and other times it’s a quick hug that doesn’t seem to need words. This particular time as I embraced this young girl I told her she was loved. She said, “Thank you. My family thinks I’m garbage.”

I have to tell you that this has haunted me these last couple of days. When I talk to people that are in this situation, most of the time the issue is religion. I would have liked to have told this girl that her family will eventually come around, but I know that’s not always the case. I know too many people whose families have not let go of their belief that they need to shun their family member because they are LGBTQ+.

Today is National Coming Out Day. Someone you love may come out to you. It may be your child. Please don’t be a bully to your child. Words hurt, I would venture to say, sometimes more than sticks and stones. And there is no amount of rubber that will make your hurtful words bounce from your child’s memory and heart. It may be a shock to hear the words. You have time to figure that out. What is most important in the moment is that you let your child or loved one know that you love them. If your religion tells you that you can’t love them, maybe you need to take a hard look at that belief.

Before the girl left, she went to the board pictured here. She carefully selected two post-it notes that had the messages that she needed to hear. I can guarantee you that she will carry those around with her for a long time. It’s the affirmation that she longs for from her family.

Church…you need to do better. If people need to find love in a post-it note, then we have failed. A child being told they are garbage…surely God must weep.

If someone is brave and comes out to you, love them. Because love matters…


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