I am a dandelion

August 9, 2020

Petro Partykevich

My grandfather Petro came to the United States in 1958 from Poland. As an officer in the Russian Imperial Army, he fought against the German forces until 1917. That year, during the revolutions in the Russian Empire, a Ukrainian independence movement began which culminated in the declaration of an independent Ukraine in 1918.  My grandfather immediately joined the Ukrainian armed forces which fought against the Bolshevik Red Army. At the end of that war, many officers, soldiers, and their families end up in Poland where in displaced persons camps, they formed communities, churches, theatrical groups, and schools.[1] When my father and his sister were able to bring his parents from Poland to the United States, where they had settled after World War II, the family was finally united.

My grandfather, a staunch Ukrainian patriot and faithful Orthodox Christian, was happy that although in “exile”, he was able to be with his family, speak his own language freely, as well as worship God without governmental interference. In America, he liked many things, the beautiful parks where he could walk his dog, brick houses, and an abundance of products in the stores. He did think that a few things about Americans were somewhat odd. One of them I remember vividly.  He did not understand why we in the States spent so much time, effort, and money on wanting to have pristine green lawns, and above all, he did not understand why we saw dandelions as weeds. My grandfather noticed that people were willing to spend a significant amount of time and energy, some armed with a special tool, digging up and throwing away the dandelions. He saw the bright yellow wildflower as something beautiful that gave the monotonous lawns some vibrancy, color, and even character. For a short time, while living in exile in Poland, my grandfather became a small-time art dealer. For him, a lawn with sporadically growing dandelion “weeds” was a work of art, indeed part of God’s creation.

There is a another wonderful story about “a man who found himself with a large and recurring crop of dandelions. Although he tried every method he knew to get rid of them, they continued to plague him. Finally, in desperation he wrote the …Agriculture Department of the State University, enumerating all the things he had tried and concluding with the question: ‘What shall I do now?’ After a somewhat prolonged time…the reply finally came: “We suggest you learn to love them.”[2]

There are many Orthodox parishes that view themselves as pristine green lawns, with no room for dandelions. The dandelions might be those of a different ethnic group than most of the parishioners, or those who do not give enough money or time to the parish, or those who advocate for  a calendar or language of service change, and a host of other “non-conformists”. Certainly, the dandelions in the Orthodox church are also its gay, lesbian, and or transsexual individuals. The vast majority of bishops in the Church have gone on record stating that we (LGBT) need to be plucked out from the Church. Our only option, as the website from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops states, is to “embrace the ascetical life,” not even allowing for the fact that most people, are not called by God to a life of asceticism. And yet as the Pew Research Center discovered, a majority of Orthodox Christians believe that society should accept homosexuals.[3] These people see LGBT individuals in the Church as the beautiful dandelions, dandelions that can adorn the lawn and do not need to be plucked out. We, the dandelions, are to be found among the hierarchs, the clergy, or serving the Church in other capacities such as choir directors, parish board presidents, parish leaders, donors, and above all worshipers of Christ.

As dandelions, we know what it is like not to be welcomed and know how important love and acceptance are for all people, especially in the Church of Christ. And so, gay people particularly, can bring the good news of compassion, understanding, love, and forgiveness to the Church community. All we ask is that you see us as you see yourselves, as beautiful creations of God, who come in all colors, sizes, complexities, and sexual orientations.

[1] As one can imagine, the history of this period (1917-1922) is quite complicated and involves various battles, territorial changes, governmental upheavals, and migrations. In attempting to simplify this history for the purpose of this reflection, I apologize to those who know the history well and see problems with my oversimplifications.

[2] Retold by Anthony DeMello in “The Song of the Bird”.

[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/18/most-u-s-christian-groups-grow-more-accepting-of-homosexuality/

 

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