It’s surprising the things you learn by meeting and talking with new people. They may share your particular values, have similar passions – or they may be completely different. On July 28th, my wife, Lauren, and I were given the opportunity to attend the 2018 LOVELOUD Festival at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The mission of this festival was to “ignite the vital conversation about what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept and support our LGBTQ+ friends and family.”
Now, I’m a country boy, who grew up on a small farm in the heartland of middle Tennessee. I wasn’t raised in a community that would easily embrace that mission statement. If someone would have told me that I would have been attending the LOVELOUD Festival 13 years ago, I would have scoffed and dismissed them; but a lot has changed since 2005.
Traveling beyond my community and culture, meeting and talking with new people around the globe, and seeing how different individuals and various cultures live their lives opened my mind and heart to understanding and accepting that so many people live very differently from me. LOVELOUD was another step in my own journey to understanding more about the various individuals who share this world with me.
We arrived at Rice-Eccles Stadium fairly early on Saturday, and received our press passes for the event. After which, we found our way to the press room and met our first new friend, Adam Dupuis, the Managing Editor for Instinct magazine. We talked with Adam throughout the day, and he was so sincerely kind and friendly, checking on and asking how my wife, who’s 21 weeks pregnant, was feeling and if she was doing alright. At one point, when the attendees were asked to tell the person next to them that they cared for them, Adam leaned over and said how he genuinely cared for my wife and me. It was something wonderful and caused me to really consider, “could a person I just met really care about me?”
During the press conference, we heard from a number of event leaders and organizers, including Imagine Dragons’ lead singer, Dan Reynolds. While listening to the passionate comments and answers from the panelists, I was struck by their non-polarizing approach while discussing the subjects of the event. They all agreed that the event was one of love, and that it was not about singling out opposing views and anyone with opposing views, but was about engaging in meaningful dialogue about suicide prevention, our youth, and the LGBTQ+ community.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Jeffrey Marsh and Blair Imani. Both of these people live different lifestyles, and are quite different from me in many ways, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to engage and speak with both of them. Blair had a wonderful conversation with Lauren and I on the varying perspectives of individuals around the world regarding hardship and struggles, and how by being considerate of those perspectives, we can improve how we interact and engage with others. She was well-spoken and wonderfully polite. Jeffrey was absolutely the most pleasant person I think I’ve ever met. So much kindness, gentleness, and optimism embodied by a single person was astonishing.
This entire event was laced with celebrities, music, and festivities; but the core of this festival was the message and the passion in which it was delivered. LOVELOUD established a mission to ignite the conversation, and I truly believe that they succeeded in increasing the dialogue and bringing more people into that conversation. Regardless of our backgrounds, cultures, or lifestyles, we are all people, and as long as we breathe, we have an opportunity to meet and talk with new people, learn more about the communities and cultures of others, and build a better understanding of those around us.
And, it really is surprising what you will learn when you take that step.