Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I visited the Westboro Baptist church and found God (across the street)

I think just about everyone on the planet is aware of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist church. Don't know who they are? I'll wait while you consult Google. I'd hate to sully my keyboard by typing out a description. Suffice it to say, they are not LGBT friendly (or anything-friendly, for that matter).

Anyhoo...I was in Topeka today for a meeting and I decided to drive by their compound. Not because I had any desire to drive by their compound, but because a few months back a little house across the street from their compound started making headlines.

Last year a young man with a big heart and even bigger dreams happened to look up the location on Google Earth. When he zoomed in, he noticed that the house across the street had a 'For Sale' sign out front.

So he bought it.






And he painted it.






I know, right?! You're a little bit in love with him now, too.

So I hopped out of my car and took some pictures of the house. They even invite you up onto the lawn for photos.






It all felt so warm and inviting! Well, until I looked across the street.





The Equality House, as it has been dubbed, is owned by Aaron Jackson. He came out and introduced himself while I was there, and was even kind enough to pose for a picture. (The Phelps never came out to say hello. They must have been out grocery shopping or crushing souls, who knows.)

Aaron has founded his own nonprofit called Planting Peace. He explained to me that Planting Peace was started to support other causes, such as providing medical supplies for children in Haiti, building orphanages and saving the rain forests.

I was intrigued by this and a bit curious that a single organization would support such a wide range of causes. When I got home, I did a bit more research on the organization. What I discovered blew me away.

When Aaron was in his early 20's, he traveled to Haiti and was moved by the poverty and sickness he saw. So like any young American kid from a wealthy Florida beachfront town, he decided to walk away from his cushy life and move to Haiti to found a school and an orphanage. As you do. He began raising money for a deworming campaign (intestinal worms are one of the leading causes of malnutrition in many third-world countries and can lead to death).

He caught the attention of CNN and was named a CNN hero in 2007.





To date his grassroots organization has dewormed ten million people worldwide, opened six orphanages in Haiti and India, planted over a million trees, and purchased and set aside endangered rain forest land in Peru.

Now, he's taking on equality.


Go Aaron! You're beautiful.


So, yeah, while the rest of us are faffing about on Facebook, Aaron has pretty much single-handedly saved the world.

A few days ago a local 5-year-old girl named Jayden decided to set up a lemonade stand in front of the Equality House to raise money for Planting Peace.



Go Jayden! You're beautiful.


Her goal was to raise $500. As of today, she has raised over $20,000.

I don't think the Phelps were too happy about it.



You'll have to squint - they don't deserve a large photo like Jayden


Every time I read a story about the spiteful antics of the Westboro crew, I am amazed. And yet, when I read about some of the brilliant and creative ways people have combated that hate with a message of love, I am even more amazed.

Love always trumps hate, always.

Hats off to Aaron and Jayden and all the beautiful people who get up each day and quietly go about the business of spreading love.

Earthbound angels. Gold among the dross.

* * *

If you'd like to support Jayden's campaign, you can do so here.

If you'd like to learn more about Planting Peace and support any of their many worthwhile causes, you can do so here.






74 comments:

  1. I had no idea about this - thank you so much for sharing. I am off to investigate more about both Aaron and Jayden.
    Have the BEST day !
    Me

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    Replies
    1. Yay! Enjoy - they will both bring smiles to your face.

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  2. love this house. Love Aaron's work. Thank you for introducing me to Jayden.

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  3. Far out!!

    See, that's the thing about humanity -- the worst always brings out the best.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, so true, and the best is always better than the worst! xo

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  4. Love this so much! Thank you for sharing it. xxx

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  5. Thank you Kristin, a wonderful feel-good story, we need more of these as well as people like Aaron and Jayden. I put it to you though that 'tolerance' is what the broadminded, giving and creative folk have for the haters. We need a better word for love, acceptance and treating people the way you'd like to be treated.

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    1. Thanks Sharon - and I'm all for more descriptive words in our language! Bring it on!

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    2. Let the Word speak for us---two rules---the golden rule and the most important rule "Love your neighbor as you love yourself".

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  6. What an amazing story - as said above - thanks for sharing. I am going to share this on my facebook page - Cheers, Wendy

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  7. You know what? I've been getting so tired of this world, all its problems and hate. So bored of everyday people who seem to care about petty bullshit. I get frustrated about what I can do about things.

    So, thank you. I needed to read this. It gives me hope and inspiration.

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    Replies
    1. Awesome. This sort of thing really does provide an infusion of hope. Imagine that feeling multiplied by thousands who drive by or read the news stories. Food for thought.

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  8. This brought tears to my eyes. Such love and hate living side by side. Have you seen the Rainbow Crossings Facebook Movement? It's another way people are spreading the word about equality:

    https://www.facebook.com/DIYrainbow?fref=ts

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kaz, no I haven't yet seen that. I'll check it out. Thanks for sharing. xx

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    2. Raising awareness more than funds but it all counts :)

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    3. Aw, just visited. What a lovely movement! I saw the crossings (in Melbourne?) in the news a while back. Nice to see others running with that idea.

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  9. Beautiful! Love always trump hate! It does, indeed! Thanks for sharing x

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  10. I read about Jayden a couple of days ago and the pure spirit of nothing but love from such a young girl bought tears to my eyes. I am so happy when people are able to band together through a place of protection of others rights against the Phelps. It's a pretty awesome thing to witness.

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    1. I love that the story made it all the way to Australia. Awesome. x

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  11. So inspiring. What a lovely story you tell, Kristin. Warms my heart to be reminded of the goodness of human hearts. Love will conquer hate, every time. x

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    Replies
    1. It twill, it twill, it twill. Thanks, beautiful. x

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  12. I love hearing about people that help change the world! Awesomesauce.

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  13. This is just brilliant. Go Aaron and Jayden and all the other people just like them. I'm amazed at hot much energy Westboro put in to being mean and angry about everything. They must be exhausted.

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    1. Yes, all that energy and they haven't converted a single soul.

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    2. Unfortunately, that is not entirely true.
      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/05/banished-lauren-drain-on-growing-up-in-the-westboro-baptist-church.html
      This makes it even more important to counter their hate with love and acceptance. Hopefully, with Planting Peace across the street, anyone considering converting (or any children forced to join the church because of their parents) will have one last 2nd thought and do the right thing.

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    3. Well, that was a sobering read. I feel like I need to wash out the inside of my head now. But still, they've converted maybe less than ten people? And I'm going to guess they were all pretty much abusive personalities to begin with. So this probably appealed to their need to have power and control. Blech. So glad the poor girl got away. Maybe she'll end up being another force for love in the world.

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  14. absolutely brilliant! It's stories like this that remind that the world really is a beautiful place - it just contains some downright evil individuals.

    I know which place Jesus would be hanging out in ;)

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    Replies
    1. It truly can be a beautiful place. You just have to look closely sometimes.

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  15. That house is just beautiful! Thanks for sharing, it's good to know that amongst all the crap and hatred the WBC spews out, love and beauty can still shine through. :)

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  16. I'm amazed and humbled by Aaron and Jayden. What beautiful people! The WBC should take lessons from them.

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    1. They should, but we won't hold our collective breath. x

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  17. I am so glad you decided to drive to that wonderful little house.
    There are not enough good news stories in this world.
    When you met Aaron it was one beautiful person meeting another beautiful person.Now the love is spreading.
    Thank you for reminding us it only takes one to make a difference.xx

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  18. Ah when will that silly group realize that hate will never win out over goodness and love?! Thanks for this post, a little goodness in the world was much needed today.
    Jenn

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    1. Never. But meh, we'll just have to go on spreading love anyway. x

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  19. Thanks for sharing such a heart-warming story. It made my day!

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  20. I'm glad you focused more on Aaron & Jayden than the WBC's tacky reaction to them this week.

    So I will add that the sign about tongue cooling was not even the half of it. Last weekend when more and more people stopped by for lemonade (including bikers from a local army base) members of the WBC came out and started heckling patrons by cussing at them and calling them "*ag lovers". This was only after trying unsuccessfully to have the cops shut them down. All in the presence of an innocent 5 yr old girl.

    The equality house has been there since late winter and they pick a little girl's lemonade stand as a target for harassment after all this time? What complete cowards!

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    1. Yes, I think we can assume that people who have no qualms about picketing funerals are not going to be concerned with offending anyone, children included. Glad she also had so many examples of big-hearted gestures.

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  21. I'm pretty sure God doesn't use snide signboards to talk to people. If you need to use a signboard full of hate you ain't listening and neither is God. You listen to God with your heart and respond the same way.

    But what do I know?

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    Replies
    1. Hmmm...I think you may be on to something, Steve. x

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  22. Great Post, Thanks for sharing.
    His story is such an inspiration. Can Love be shown in a better way than what they are doing? Awesome !!!

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    1. Yes, completely agree! What a shining example.

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  23. Oh Kristen - this post has made my day!

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  24. Just wow!! Thank you for bringing this to my attention - what an amazing story xx

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Catherine! Nice to have good news for a change, isn't it?!

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  25. That's the thing isn't it - love always trumps hate...

    No matter how many haters there are in the world, there are thousand more lovers... we outnumber them.

    Whenever you are confronted with hate, just remember that... we outnumber them. It's a simple case of mathematics.

    :)

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  26. Made my day. Love it. I shall think about this beautiful man over and over. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Brilliant illustration of the good one man can do -- not just to distribute medicine or house the needy -- but to warm the hearts of people around the world. A beautiful example of human potential.

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  27. Itsbeentoo long since I've visited you an just like that you've made me cry again. Good tears this time. x

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    1. Naw...now you're going to make me cry. :)

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  28. Aren't they lovely? Thanks for telling us about them.

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  29. LOVE this! This is just the greatest thing- LOVE! How can anyone be truly happy without a little love and peace? You can't! This is seriously awesome, thank you for sharing this!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Whiskey - it made my day (month/year) too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Love your handle. :)

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  30. The funny thing about WBC? They are a church in name only. Most churches host a food pantry. They don't want to feed anyone or "save" anyone, they want people to take a swing at them so they can sue them later. It's a wonder why they get any notice at all. If they were completely ignored they would go away. And wouldn't that be nice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, and with a 501c3 status, they don't have to pay taxes, either. Convenient, that.

      I think I'm going to register my blog as a 501c3. I'll preach love and tolerance and host virtual food drives.

      Delete
  31. You see one person, meets another, and they can slowly change the world.

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  32. I had no idea at all about any of this. What an amazing guys and an amazing little girl. I hope that church rots in its own hatred. I am shocked and apalled by it - seriously! xx

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    1. Sorry to bring the WBC to your attention! Boo haters, yay peace makers.

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  33. I had read about this property when Aaron wrote an article when it first came up for sale. Awesome to see he went ahead with the painting. Truely apalling to see the church signs :(

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    1. Yes, so nice to know that people now smile, as opposed to grimace, when they drive by this intersections.

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