Some of you might remember my nephew Stuart. Ive written about him a time or two or six. Well, he got married three Sundays ago. The wedding was not just a joyous and joyful occasion. It was moving and uplifting too. It was a great reminder of how much has changed for the better in this country over the last 50 years, and how much people can change for the better. In these times of turmoil, intolerance and hate, I was reminded that hope is not a wasted emotion. With commitment, work and a lot of patience, it can move mountains.
For those of us looking on, personal change sometimes seems to come slowest. So, it was with Stuart. Engaging, funny and smart, he had us adults writhing in frustration as he frittered through college until he dropped out after losing his academic scholarship and spent his time rhyming verse with the goal of becoming a rap star. Yes, you read that right.
Some of you have followed Stuarts road to maturity through my columns. Remember when I told you he showed up at a check-cashing place with grills on his teeth trying to cash a birthday check my sister had sent him? Grills or grillz are the removable jewelry a lot of hip hop artists and their followers wear. During this summers Olympics, gold-medal winning swimmer Ryan Lochte wore a grill with stones in the design of an American flag.
You might also remember that I referred to Stuart earlier this year when I wrote about discrimination against gays. I noted my disappointment that Stuart in 2004, finally at legal age to vote, voted in my home-state of Georgia for an amendment recognizing as marriage only the union of man and woman.
Stuarts unfortunate vote of eight years ago makes even more poignant what happened at his wedding earlier this month. He and his wife Meredith were married by a lesbian Lutheran minister.
That was just one of the heart-warming and heart-tugging parts of this wedding.
Stuarts mom Joyce died when he was 16. Shed had a heart transplant in the mid-1990s but about five years later the heart gave out. Yet on Stuarts wedding day, she was very much present in a poem she had written specifically for him.
As poignant was this: Stuart and Meredith didnt just join lives when they married, they joined cultures. Their wedding was a celebration of that.
In a nod to Stuarts African American heritage, a gospel group sang at intervals during the ceremony and a wrist-wrapping ceremony, traditional in some African cultures, was included. Merediths father is Jewish and her stepfather Asian. The ceremony included the Jewish tradition of stomping on a glass at the weddings end, and a shout from guests of mazel tov in congratulation. The reception included the traditional lifting and carrying of the bride and groom in chairs and a boisterous rendition of the Hebrew song Hava Nagila as guests joined hands in dance. As the evenings festivities ended, we all lit Chinese lanterns that drifted skyward in moving, visual cacophony.
Our now big-tent family is not so unusual today. Census figures show 8.4 percent of all marriages in the United States are interracial, and about 15 percent of all new marriages are so. Interracial marriages are not new to my family.
Yet the presiding minister was right to take note of the significance of Stuart and Merediths joining, and the diversity of family gathered to rejoice in it. As she noted, 45 years ago the two of them could not be married in Georgia, where the wedding took place. And those gathered from different backgrounds and ethnicities likely would not have welcomed each other with warm embrace.
But times change, and so do people.
Stuart is back in school yayyyy! and studying, gulp, organizational management. He told Tim, his father, how much Tims high expectations for him had prodded him to live up to his potential. He is clearly loved and respected by Merediths family. We love and respect Meredith too.
Patience and perseverance are often the hardest concepts to believe in, and to practice especially when people seem intractable and changes are needed. But change does come often when you least expect it, bringing a lot of joy with it.