because i am stronger than that

i shouldn’t watch youtube videos at work.

“i’m not going anywhere.”

as i watched this teenager wipe tears from his eyes, i am having to get up and close my office door.

bless his sweet, broken, and bruised heart.

my heart and soul simultaneously weep and cheer for this precious human being who has somehow been made to feel he is worthless. as i reflect on this story, i cry because

…this was my own experience, i just didn’t have a voice to talk about it. from an early age, i never understood why i was adopted, or why my adopted father belittled me, regarded me with so much disdain, and called me sissy, or why i was always the punching bag on the playground, or why kids at school and coaches called me gay, or why my churches’ preacher preyed on me and was allowed to get away with it. the list of insults hurled toward me grew throughout my life.

…of this child’s sheer bravery to say outloud what i did not (and could not) say outloud myself until i was 38 years old and admit to the world that he is strong and that he chooses to survive!

…i have somehow co-raised four courageous sons who have scars and wounds of their own but who live their lives with confidence, strength, and grace. these young men have never, ever found themselves on the side of bullies; instead, i have at one time or another, seen and heard about each of them taking up for kids just like this young man, and now as they are older, other young adults who find themselves outside what society and religion say is ok.

as i grow older and encounter others’ stories like this, i continue to gain insight into my own past:

…remembering what it was like to feel alone and scared…
…reflecting on the smile of the few adults and close friends who always stuck by me during those difficult years…
…realizing that entire time—despite some of the bad choices i made along the way—surviving was exactly what i was doing—and what i have done—my whole life.

like this young man and countless others, i am a survivor, like Jonah: simply because i have a million reasons to be Here.

13 thoughts on “because i am stronger than that

  1. Maybe cus I’m from a generation closer to the struggle, but suicide was never an option–you stayed strong, didn’t break. And to boot, we had no role models, no images, no representation–no one to say “it gets better.” There was an acceptance of your lot in life and you dealt with it the best way possible…it wasn’t until later you discovered that it ultimately is a blip in time and can shape you to be more than you thought you could be, if you let it. To opt for suicide is to basically say “yeah, you guys were right.”

    • suicide was always something that was spoken of in hushed tones; i certainly never remember hearing about a teenager choosing it.

      we know that there are millions of adults who make that choice–and yes, it’s certainly not the most rational choice. so why would we ever think that young people should be even more equipped than adults to avoid this last-ditch decision. let’s also not forget about mental illnesses which, when not dealt with, affect peoples’ decisions.

      apparently the teen suicide rate has risen sharply.


      perhaps they’re not getting what some in our generation did to prevent that choice from even being thought of as an option.

      or perhaps it’s just harder now.

      but, just like harvey milk plead, it’s time for those who have survived to come out and tell our stories.

      And not just the gays. i suspect most of us are survivors in some regard. youth today–particularly those facing persecution–need to hear from living, breathing people that it can get better and that life holds so much promise.

      i would love to hear from people like you put a positive spin on your message why suicide should never be an option.

    • hardly the best…but i’m glad it’s finding some resonance out there … and as for the book….stay tuned 🙂

      • thanks.for responding; followed ur blog for a while…ur life story is amazing and raising ur sons so well….did u know ur real parents…is that ur real sister?

      • wow that’s really cool. it always amazes me the breadth of the words we throw out there into the internets

        my birth mother found me when i was 12 but we went separate paths after a couple years, i feeling too pulled away from my adopted family. “stupid me,” think now, because she passed in 2007, but then my amazing baby brother might not have ever existed. i reconciled with her in 2004 and came to meet him and love him instantly, and also gained a realtime relationship with two amazing aunts.

        the children of my birth father (there are 5 of us that we know of so far) found me 2 years ago this month. they are simply incredible, strong human beings. when i am with these “real” siblings and extended family, i instantly feel like i, finally, belong.

        thanks for taking an interest! i’ll let you know when the book is ready

  2. Watching the video you posted brought tears to my eyes also. How can any caring person cause someone else to feel the pain and hurt that this kid is going through?

    I grew up feeling somewhat isolated in that I didn’t like doing what everyone else was doing. I was a very shy kid, and kept to myself a lot, teased some because maybe I was so quiet, but never to the point that I can recall feeling what he must be going through.

    After having raised three kids of my own, seeing another child expressing his hurt and suffering like this is frustrating, you want to reach out and comfort, and you can’t. At least for him he has found his inner fortitude to endure knowing he can get through this, and his life can get better. What about the many others that just can’t find the will to keep enduring?

    Thanks for posting Todd, by doing this you increase awareness. Hopefully one of your readers will see a kid suffering like this and step in and help. I know I will, you can be DAMN sure I will.

    Thanks for being who you are buddy.

    • thanks, t. for sharing your perspective and heart. 🙂 we have a responsibility to these children; that’s partially what my journey is all about.

  3. Well said! Whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger; but, I’ll be thrilled for the day when kids like Jonah (or young Todd) grow through positive reinforcement, instead of bullying or abuse.

  4. Love this kids courage. The hate people have hurts so badly. Reading the horrible things you have had to live through disgust me. I am not sure I will ever understand the hate people carry inside and how they think it’s okay. It’s scares me for my kids. BUT, I hope I can raise them to stand strong like this sweet boy Jonah. My love to you dear friend.

    • his courage….my story and so many more powerful ones….the fastidious love of good people….all things that will help us…your kids…navigate the hate in this world. love conquers it all. much love in return….

  5. Thanks for posting this and for your very eloquent words. I saw this vid in my Twitter timeline today, and within an hour it was ALL OVER THE PLACE. I’m not sure how it went viral so fast, but good for this young man who made a heartfelt and courageous PSA about his plight. I too was moved to tears and reminded of my youth when I had similar problems and thoughts. I hope even more people see this vid and realize how important it is to stamp out bullying and hatred. I’ll be checking out your blog on a regular basis now. Good job 🙂

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