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A tribute to Matthew Shepard on the Anniversary of his brutal death at the hands of hatred

In memory of Matthew Shepard who died at the hands of hatred.

From my notebook: Lester Laminack
January 22, 2010
"This morning at 6:11am I flew into a breathtaking sunrise leaving Casper, WY and snow covered mountains and working ranches with cowboys who still ride horses. Yet, I thought only of one small boy.

Yesterday I was visiting author in Crest Hill Elementary. I saw over 350 children in assemblies throughout the day. But at one of the breaks I was told Crest Hill is the school Matthew Shepard attended as a child.

From that point on I couldn't stop myself from thinking of him walking through those hallways, exploring the world through the books in that library, laughing with friends and growing into the beautiful young man whose name and face have become symbols to remind us that hatred is fear's first cousin and that bigotry has a permanent residence in every part of this nation.

I thought of Matthew sitting "crisscross applesauce," hands in his lap, listening to his kindergarten teacher read a story before stretching his small body across a mat for nap time.

I thought of him learning to read in first grade, a delicious grin spreading across his face as he began to realize the power to unlock those stories was within him.

I thought of him running on the playground in the third grade. I imagined him looking into the clouds, scanning the mountain tops and dashing about with outstretched arms soaring among eagles without leaving the ground.

I thought of him searching the shelves for material on a famous Wyoming pioneer to write a report for fourth grade social studies class.

I thought of him...
before he'd been to Laramie
before he'd met the hatred hurled at LGBT youth
before, perhaps even he was aware of himself

I thought of the small boy who played with legos and video games,
who rode his bike and let his imagination fly as his spirit soared on the wheels of that pedaled stallion.

I though of him
before he was "Matthew Shepard"
that boy from Wyoming

What if no one knew him that way?
What if this country had evolved to respect humanity and human dignity for all who breathe?

What if he had never met hatred and fear?
What if he had never climbed into that truck with two men who offered to drive him home?
What if he had never been pistol whipped and beaten and tortured and tied to fence like a scarecrow?
What if?

How would we know him then?
What gifts might he have given the universe?

What now? What now?

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Now is always the right time to do the right thing."

It is NOW.

It will ALWAYS be NOW.

Pause.

Take a moment and think of someone you know who may need your expression of kindness. Think of someone who may need nothing more than your validation of recognizing his or his membership in the human family.

It is NOW.
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