Sunday, June 19, 2016


Last week I wrote what is probably the most controversial thing I've ever published on Stranger. Don't worry. This isn't a political post, and today I'm not writing about the substance of that other political post. And I ask that you help me not make it a political one in the comments. There are some other places for that discussion, and I would like for it not to be here.

The post I wrote was in response to my feelings about the horrific tragedy in Orlando last weekend. Adam and I had connected to wifi at the end of a wonderful day in Lithuania, nearing the end of our trip. We were bombarded with texts and news updates about the heartbreaking details that had just started coming out in the States.

We both sat, quietly, thumbing through the news filling our phones' screens. With each new detail, I experienced what so many of you experienced. The knot in my stomach grew tighter. My heart felt heavier. I just felt helpless.

I wrote that thing. I published it, knowing that I was expressing thoughts that would be contrary to the way so many of you feel. Many of you responded with comments and emails, mostly civil and certainly passionate. My writing bred some contention. And while I never want to be the kind of person who doesn't advocate for his beliefs because they might be unpopular or because they might receive backlash, I also don't want to be the kind of person who breeds contention. I think that's a line I'll try to figure out, however imperfectly, for the rest of my life.

Considering the above dichotomy, I spent the next day, bombarded with all sorts of responses, wondering whether posting the writing was a mistake. I've mentioned to you before that Stranger isn't really a thing I've ever wanted or expected to grow just for the sake of growing. For that reason, I don't tend to post click-bate writings or really anything that I'm not interested in just because I think it might be popular. Stranger's purpose, as listed in its 2007 inaugural post, has always been to exist as a space where I host my thoughts and stories. And it's so fun for me that those thoughts and stories are entertaining or interesting to you. But the attention would be meaningless if it resulted from something I wasn't proud of.

I mention all of that to say that as I wondered whether I made a mistake in posting what I did, I kept contemplating the purpose of Stranger, hoping that I wasn't undermining it by breeding the contention that resulted.

Ultimately I determined that I was proud of what I wrote, happy that it spurred some meaningful conversation that has helped me think about things more clearly, and that it wasn't a mistake because the post came from my heart. And if my personal blog isn't a place for me to share what comes from my heart, then I don't know what this is all for.

Adam and I wandered the city we were in that day, our last day on the trip, much quieter than we had been in the days before. Occasionally one of us would bring up the shooting, but we would quickly dismiss the conversation, deciding that we just weren't in the mood to talk about it.

This happened multiple times throughout the day.

Finally, we sat down for dinner. Adam brought the shooting up again and mentioned that when things like this happen and news of tragedy fills our homes, one of the most discouraging aspects is the feeling of helplessness. Helplessness concerning all of those poor families whose lives have been shattered. Helplessness because the tragedy has already happened and can't be undone no matter how sick we feel about it. Just, helplessness.

I agreed with Adam, hearing myself say "I just don't know what any of us are supposed to do." And as the words came out, the tears started flowing. The full day of bottling up that knotted-stomach just burst out, unexpectedly. I felt like a small child, confused, sad, sick, and with tears that wouldn't stop. I put my sunglasses on, inside the restaurant, and looked out the window for some time, unsuccessfully attempting to stifle those helpless tears.

For some reason frequently when national or international tragedy happens and I'm feeling heartbreak for the people who are suffering and I'm left with that helpless feeling, I think about an Onion article that was published shortly after 9/11. It's about a woman who was heartbroken over the tragedy, and who didn't know what else to do, so she made an cake that looked like an American flag, because at least that felt like something. It's sweet, and simple, and somehow so perfectly captures that specific helpless feeling.

I started thinking about how grateful I am for all of the wonderful people in my life who provide such an inspiring example to me of doing what they can in crisis, lending a meaningful hand where needed, and sometimes just baking the proverbial cake, because at least that feels like something.

Over the next few days, many of my friends shared their thoughts and love on social media, talking about their heartache for those who have experienced such great loss.

Among them, our dear Jolyn Metro wrote a thoughtful piece about an epiphany she recently had about love, and how expansive it can be if we only allow it.

Wanting her kindness, her selfless compassion, and her proverbial cake to be shared with you, I asked Jolyn to bring you those thoughts this week on Strangerville Shorts.

Please enjoy, and accept our sincere thank you and hopefully-ever-expanding love from downtown Strangerville.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I responded to that blog post with my direct thoughts. But I really want to make sure you know that I respect your views, and your right to voice them. And most of all, that even if I disagree with you, and call you out harshly in the comments, I believe that you MUST post those kinds of blogs and feel good about it. THAT is what this country is about. Please don't ever view any of the comments, however they cut you, as a statement or evidence that you shouldn't blog about certain topics, or in the style that is you. Bleed, cry, and laugh on these pages. That's what they're for. Stay real. Connect with us. Make us think. Make us talk it out. We need that. :)

  2. Thank you and Jolyn for this heartfelt post and message. It really touched me and has made me think about how I can be kinder and open my own heart.

  3. If no one talks about the hard topics everyone will just go around thinking the opposing view is (insert demeaning adjectives here(on a side note, thank you Mad Libs for teaching me what an adjective is๐Ÿ™Œ)) and never consider the valid points that EACH side has.

    At some point SOMEONE has to open their mouth and share their point of view. Do we hope it's done with respect to the holder of an opposing view? Of course. Will passion, and anger, and frustration, and hopelessness at times make words come out with a less than constructive tone? Of course. But, from there we can sift through those tricky emotions and get to a place of understanding even if there is little chance of agreement.

    The point is, we'll never even get there if everyone keeps silent because they know not everyone will agree with them.

  4. Personally, I prefer to hear your true thoughts, rather than something "politically correct" or watered down by evasions. If we don't happen to agree with you, that's okay, because sometimes a different perspective helps us to open more to an idea, or a possibility. What other way can we grow or learn, except to read and hear of things outside our own experience or belief? Stay true to yourself. And thank you.

  5. I listened to Jolyn's piece on Strangerville as I walked the dog last night. As I listened to the beauty of what she was saying I was thinking of the people who will, as they often do, respond negatively and state that Jolyn is being naive and idealistic.

    In some ways I agree. But I don't see this as bad.

    Part of the reason that we're where we are at in this country is because so many of us have succumbed to the jadedness around us. We've become cynical and disbelieving in the small miracles we see everyday. Instead of seeing people as inherently good - we see them as inherently bad. We've become paranoid that everyone is out to get us or do us wrong.

    What my take-away from this piece was is that we can all do that. It's a choice we have. But we also have to choice to unzip our hearts. As Jolyn noted - it's not a matter of simply loving people, but a responsibility to fight for what is right and to help people remember what makes this world good.

    Hate breeds hate. I consider myself a Christian but I also believe in karma. I don't think this is contrary to my beliefs - Indeed, Luke 6:38 notes "Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back." If we embrace hate and judgement, that is what we will get back. It's a vicious cycle that will and has spiraled out of control. Just look at who our front-running presidential candidates are.

    I also don't believe that one person doesn't make a difference. Eli - I responded in the comments and emailed you about your previous post. I noted in the email that we don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on the issue - and that's true for a myriad of political and religious aspects of our individual belief systems (as far as I can tell from your blog posts). But I respect the manner in which you discuss these issues and hope and pray you continue to do so.

    You make a difference.

  6. Jolyn's writing is beautiful and so valuable. Sometimes it helps to just take a step back and think about how we can be more compassionate, even and especially while advocating for something we believe in. Thank you so much for this.

  7. i'll be honest, i come here for your funny stuff, for an escape. Obviously you can post anything you want on here, but your funny stuff is why you have a following beyond your friends and associates.

    1. To an extent, I agree with you. I found Stranger because of the humor, and that's definitely what I look forward to when I see a new post. However, Eli is an excellent writer, and I can't help but love the beautiful, poignant, or thought-provoking posts that occasionally fall amidst the humor and the jokes.

      Keep being you, Eli. That's why we keep coming back.

    2. I came for the funny, but stayed for the heartfelt.

    3. I think people are here all for different reasons. I enjoy it all. I came because of a more serious post you shared, but I love the funny stuff. The thing is this is your site and we are all just here to enjoy whatever you write. You be you.

  8. Thank you for this.

  9. Jimmy Fallon's thoughts on the tragedy summed it up wonderfully in my opinion. "Our country is built on the idea that we don't all agree." I don't think the comments section will let me post the link to the video, but I recommend looking it up. Also, Brene Brown talks about the Shame epidemic in our country which has eliminated the space for political discourse. Political conversations now resonate "I'm right, you're wrong, shut-up". I don't know what the answer is, but we have a lot of work to do.

  10. I am [un]lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of people who love their opinions, and sometimes I get lost in the swell of it. And with life recently, it's been hard to piece anything together other than: "Oh..." (+ helplessness). Helplessness and complete powerlessness against those older and "wiser" than me.

    But I thank you for your writing. I think it's more helpful, to have someone openly admit to the feeling of helplessness. It feels less like I'm alone in my walk and more like we're all working through this together - even if it's just now, until we find and take our separate paths.

    I appreciate you and your kindness in your writings. Sincerely.