The Gift, Chapters 9 - 11 | The New Engagement
Chapters 7-9 of The Gift, story art

The Gift, Chapters 9 - 11

By Mark Elzey

Chapters

The following chapters are excerpted from the autobiographical book, "The Gift." We will be sharing new chapters in each issue.

Chapter Nine

It’s always something.

Gilda Radner ~ American comedian

 

I’ve been told on several occasions during my life that I was just plain weird. I always respond by thanking those who insulted me. They immediately tell me it wasn’t meant as a compliment. I, of course, answer by telling them I took it as a compliment and, of course, being polite as I always try to be, thanked them once again.

It bothered me a lot when people would tell me how weird I was. They meant to hurt my feelings and it worked. More than any single thing in my entire life, I tried to shake the reputation of being weird. I couldn’t figure out what it is about my personality that made people come to that conclusion. I suppose it’s a tag I’ll be stuck with for as long as I am around. 

By the time I turned six years old I had spent roughly four of those years in a hospital with bulbar polio. Two of those years were in an isolation polio ward in an iron lung. The after effect of the bulbar polio was a disfigured face. During my high school years, I was in and out of the hospital having one reconstructive surgery after another. As if that weren’t enough, kids and adults alike have bullied, teased, and threatened me. Once as a child I was even thrown out of a tree house. That may be why I might have a reputation of being a tad peculiar? Maybe spending those years in the hospital as an infant and taking a daily dose of crap from stupid people had something to do with it. To this day every time I venture out in public there is at least one person who feels the need to take a second or third peek at my face.

 Throughout my life I’ve never been able to shake why some people saw me as weird. I finally came to the conclusion that it comes with the territory and it’s going to be with me regardless of what I do. I believe people will find in others just what they are looking for.

The fact is at this point in my life I’m thankful I contracted bulbar polio. It has given me an inimitable perspective on people and life that others will never understand. It is truly a Gift.

I admit I’m a nonconformist and a proud weirdo. I try with every fiber of my being to treat others with respect and decency. I work hard to conquer difficult objectives that I may never achieve. I try anyway because it is hard. Rest assured I’ll never give up, and I would rather die a thousand terrible deaths than be known as a whiner or worse, a quitter.   

I finally embraced being a weirdo. At this point in my life I don’t give a damn how other people take me. In my opinion, we spend too much time trying to conform. I learned early on no matter how hard I tried I would never be part of the “so-called” in-crowd. Maybe I would have a different opinion if my face were normal. Who knows? I know this for sure. Because of my facial disfigurement I’ve experienced things few people can begin to understand. Because of happenstance the opinions I have and choices I’ve made are different. The fact is I consider my so-called weirdness one of my best attributes.

 

Chapter Ten

 

Good things come to those who wait. Good things come to those who

work their asses off and never ever, ever, ever give up!

Unknown

 

My parents came of age during the great depression. Their view of life was different than my generation. Their working lives began during the brutal economics of the Great Depression. Together they endured the depression and World War Two. They purchased their first home in San Fernando, California. My brothers and I acquired their work ethic. All three of us developed reputations as hard working young men determined to make something of our lives.

My father was from Milan, Illinois and had a wonderful Lincoln charm about him. He always made a point by telling a story or using a witticism. One of my fondest memories of him was listening to him talk. I've always tried to mimic his use of the language by telling stories or describing situations using metaphors. He was the sweetest, most humble man I ever knew. He was my hero and I hope to be half the man in my life he was in his. On many occasions and in his own way he warned me I could be in for some hard times. He told me that work, as it is in life, isn't easy or fair. At times, it can be difficult but not to forget that my job was to put beans on the table. No matter how difficult work and life can be, sometimes you’ll just have to stand there and take it, like a jackass in a hailstorm. He was right. I kept my nose to the grindstone and did the best job I could, most of the time, for thirty years. I had a great career with this company. I survived and to the surprise of a lot of people, including myself, I did rather well. It wasn't easy. It never is for anyone no matter what. I decided early on I would never give up and never quit. I would rather be dead than to give in to those who didn't want me around. I learned a lot while working at this company. The most important thing was the overwhelming majority of people wanted to see me be successful. Over time I learned to pick my battles. No matter how frustrated I got, there were battles that were not worth the effort no matter the outcome. Call it politics, paranoia, or whatever you wish, but I survived.

I can't say for sure, but it had to be at least a year that I tried to get a job at the only significant employer who was hiring in 1972. All I can say with absolute certainty is this; I filled out a lot of applications in the year before the company hired me. Not only did I need a job, but I needed a job that paid well, had a career path, profit sharing, as well as good benefits. The company hired me in December of 1972. 

The company wouldn’t have hired me were it not for my brother’s intervention and help. There are many who believe I wouldn’t have received any of my promotions were it not for his help. They are right. I’m not belittling myself; I’m just sharing how it was. You can draw any conclusions you wish but, were it not for my brother’s help the company would have never hired or promoted me. This is more a reflection of the time than how the company operated. I suspect most companies were the same.

Getting a job is one thing. Keeping the job and doing well at it is a whole different ballgame. I worked hard to be successful at my assignment. I made it a point to be the absolute best at doing whatever the company assigned me to do.

The first five years on the job were difficult. I interviewed for several opportunities to advance. During my first interview, I discovered it might not be as easy as I expected. I was young and naïve about the politics of moving up in the corporate world. I had made some key contacts and also had some head on collisions with major roadblocks. Some made it clear that because of my face I wasn’t welcome.

This is how I remember my first interview. It isn’t exactly how it went, but you’ll get the idea.

“Hello, my name is Mike,” said the man standing behind his desk with his hand extended and a shocked expression on his face. “Please take a seat.”

“Thank you,” I responded. “My name is Mark.”

“So Mark, I’m a little surprised. What’s going on with your face?” His finger making a circular motion around his own face, “Nobody said anything to me about your face.”

“I had polio,” I answered. “Is there an issue?”

“You had polio in your face?” He grinned.

Before my ass hit the chair I knew I had no chance of getting this job. “No I had bulbar polio a different type of polio than FDR.”

“Okay, I see,” he responded. “Do you have any mental issues because of the way your face looks?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I answered wondering to myself how this jerk got to where he was.

We talked about different aspects of my face throughout the interview. How I got along with other people. If I had issues with people taking me seriously and all kinds of other meaningless crap he used to pass the time. We finished with the pretense of an interview in less than ten minutes.

The interview didn’t deter me. I kept doing what I had to do when an opportunity came my way. When I took the initiative to apply for a better job I always failed. Not one time over a thirty-year period was I successful without my brother’s intervention. On one level, it bothered me. Yet when I did get the opportunity to advance, because of my brother’s involvement, I took the job without a second thought. As I said getting a job and keeping a job are two different things.

Here’s why I did what I did. When I went into sales there were people who weren’t bashful about telling me the only reason I got the job was because of my brother. It's a fact I never denied. I was doing a job no person with a disfigured face did before. People noticed, some noticed a lot and were fuming at the thought of someone who looked like me would be in such a job. The thought of someone facially disfigured representing our company in sales was repugnant. In all fairness, there were many more people who thought my entry into sales was great. There were many more people who admired me enough to call me and encourage me. A friend of mine named Franco called me to tell me how happy he was that I’m representing our company. It made me feel terrific after we hung up! I knew exactly what I was doing from my first day on the job. I took an enormous amount of bullshit from a never-ending supply of bigots and it was worth putting up with every bit of their crap. Here’s why:

One afternoon my wife and I were sitting at a sidewalk café in St. Charles, Missouri. When I noticed a man and his wife staring at me and whispering to each other.

My first thought was, ‘Another damn gawker.’

The man approached, “Are you Mark Elzey?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “Do I know you?”

“I don’t think so. I heard you talk about the components you sell one evening.”

He went on to tell me he worked for one of our distributors and heard me speak one evening after work. I thanked him for the compliment.

“I want you to know how much I admire you. My older sister has Bell’s Palsy and hasn’t been out in public in almost a year. People’s reaction to her face was devastating to her emotionally to such an extent she hasn’t left the house.”

We talked about his sister’s Bell’s Palsy and my polio for a few minutes. We invited him and his wife to join us for coffee but they had to meet other friends.

“Do you have any idea of the people you have inspired?” he asked me. “I told my sister about you and because of you she worked up the nerve to start going out in public again.”

What this man told me on that sidewalk in St. Charles, Missouri was one of the best things anyone ever said to me. The fact is I wouldn’t have had the job without my brother’s help. It’s also true the man who complimented me on the sidewalk of St. Charles didn’t care how I got the job. He cared deeply about his sister and I inspired him to talk to her. As far as I was concerned it was a dream come true afternoon. If the woman with Bell’s Palsy was the only person I ever inspired, it was worth all the crap I put up with over the years. I knew for a fact that at least I made a difference in a person’s life. 

I started my career on January 3rd, 1973. Three days later, on January 6th, 1973 my wife and I began our married life without a dime between us. The two biggest challenges in my life, my marriage and my career, began within three days of each other. My new job was a real opportunity for me to develop a solid career that could take us all the way to retirement. The company provided good wages, great health benefits, a 401K, and upward mobility. When I got the opportunity to work for a company that paid well and gave an opportunity for a career I was the luckiest guy in the world.

I knew from day one I would do whatever I had to do to be successful, no matter what. It was a simple equation: failure wasn't going to happen no matter what. The most important thing in my life was marrying Jeannie. She was amazing and I wanted to do everything I could to make sure our marriage lasted a lifetime.

 

Franco

I had been with the company for less than two weeks. I’d just walked into the men's restroom when a man who was walking out began to fall. It was a chance encounter where I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Seeing he was going to fall, I grabbed him preventing him from hitting the floor. In helping him back to his feet, I saw that his disfigured hips and legs made it difficult for him to walk. His name was Franco and this chance encounter was the beginning of a thirty-year friendship. I can’t explain why, but for some reason I got the impression he was the supervisor for the janitorial crew. A few days later while sitting on a bench having a cigarette Franco sat down next to me. He started talking and without missing a beat he reached into my shirt pocket and took a cigarette. We started talking, saying nothing in particular. Just some idle talk. In the back of my mind, I wondered if this Franco guy was going to ask me if I wanted to be a janitor. A few weeks later Franco and I were by chance once again talking in the hall not far from the stockroom where I worked. While Franco and I were talking my boss Ray walked by and said hello as he passed. In that brief encounter, I noticed Ray had a puzzled expression on his face. A few hours later Ray came into the stock room and asked me how I knew Franco. After telling him how we met, Ray smiled and asked me if I had any idea who he was. My response was that he was the supervisor of the janitors. Ray laughed so hard he was in tears. I didn't understand what was so funny. Ray told me Franco was the second highest-ranking person in our division. He went on to explain that Franco reported to the President and General Manager of the entire company.

Over the next year, Franco and I would stop and talk when we happened to see each other around the factory. During one of our conversations, he came out and asked me what had happened to my face. I told him an abridged version and asked him what happened to him. As a young man, he had been in a logging accident that had crushed his hips and legs from the waist down, I'm sure his story was abbreviated as well.

I can't say we were friends but in the times when we spoke he always seemed to weave a string of wisdom throughout our conversation. He encouraged me to hang in there and not to worry too much about the small stuff.

Fast-forward twenty years and I was waiting to take an elevator at our corporate headquarters in the Midwest. When the elevator doors opened there stood Franco. We talked for a while and the next day we met for lunch. He was a kind man who was my first of many mentors throughout my career even though he never said as much. Franco was a true inspiration to me when I started my career.

I started my career as an inventory control clerk. I got demoted on five different occasions because of economic hard times. I ended my career as a Vice President Director of Midwest Sales. I enjoyed an incredible career with this company.

Over the years, I met the kindest people you could imagine. Worldwide there were over twenty thousand people working at the same company. You'll find just the kind of person you're looking for and some of them will find you. There were people who had major issues with my facial difference and went to unusual lengths to keep away from me. I didn’t let these people define my experience at this company. I chose to illuminate people who not only had a positive impact on my career, but also on my personal life. Some by teaching me how to handle difficult people and others by their grace and demeanor.

Here are a few vignettes of some of the people who I had the privilege of working with. These people inspired me throughout my career and my life. I've been fortunate. A former supervisor said, "It's amazing how lucky you get when you work your ass off!"

 

Ray

I couldn't have asked for a better start than to have a supervisor like my first boss, Ray. He was an unassuming man from Pennsylvania, who took me under his wing and got my career off in a good direction. Once again, I have to say that getting an opportunity is one thing but making it work for you is a different ball game. My goal was to be the best worker at whatever I was doing. There was no way in hell someone would say I was lazy or unappreciative of the opportunity. They could say I was young, I had a big mouth; in fact, they could say a lot of things, but they couldn't say I was lazy. I worked double hard and made it a point to do my job and to do it right.

Ray was the essence of cool. I don't believe I ever saw him even come close to losing his temper. He's one of those guys who had a calming effect on everyone who was around him. I always wanted to be like him, but I'm just not wired that way. One day he walked over to the stock room where I was working and started talking to me. I figured he was going to chew me out about a conflict I was having with another employee, but I couldn't tell if he was angry or not. He kept telling me how I was so hard working and smart, which left me bewildered, to say the least. He took a breath, looked me straight in the eye and told me I needed to grow up and solve the issue with the other employee. He said that we’re at work. He told me that everyone was just trying to "make a buck" and it was hard enough without having to put up with an immature smart-ass kid. Before he left he made it a point to tell me once again how good I was.

I worked for Ray for the first two years. We remained friends for many years. When I think of decent hard-working people, Ray was the benchmark for that position.

 

Margaret

During economic hard times in the early seventies my career, through no fault of my own, was spiraling downward. Thousands of people were laid off over a two-year period. Leaving the moral of the place desperate. After five demotions, I ended up working in a production area with fifty plus women. My supervisor was a black woman named Margaret, who was a no-nonsense person who took her job seriously.

From 7:30 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon I sat next to the sweetest old woman in her early sixties named Lillian. Margaret noticed rejects coming from our area. She began investigating to find the root cause of the failing devices. She soon discovered it was Lillian who was causing the failures. Margaret asked to see how Lillian was doing her job. To everyone's shock Lillian got upset. "It's bad enough reporting to a Goddamn nigger but to have her always looking over my shoulder is too damn much. In my day, they would have lynched your black ass!" After that she stormed off to the bathroom. After her little tantrum, you could have heard a pin drop. No one could believe Lillian said such a horrible thing to Margaret. Everyone expected Margaret to lose her cool with the old lady. What we got was astonishing. Margaret didn't flinch, not the least bit. She was trying to resolve the problem and wasn't bothered by the rude remarks of a racist old lady. Everyone was shocked except Margaret, who had completely dismissed Lillian's comments. How did she do that? After a few minutes Lillian came back. Margaret showed her what was happening. Problem solved. Everyone went back to work.

The same afternoon while on break I spoke to Margaret because I thought she’d like to know not everyone was like Lillian. She looked at me and said, "I come here to work. While I'm here and getting paid to be here, all my energy goes into my work. What that old woman says or does, means nothing to me.”

I learned a lot from that brief conversation. It was remarkable that even after the brazen remark by Lillian, Margaret ignored it and went on about her business. It happened over thirty-five years ago and I still remember it to this day.

 

Pat

I had been aware of Pat since my first day on the job, but had never talked to her or for that matter, even acknowledged her. She was a lesbian and I wanted nothing to do with her. Not only that, she looked like the type of person who if provoked could beat the crap out of me. Her partner was a woman named Mary. They were the first openly gay couple I’d ever met. There were a few people in my hometown who were supposedly homosexuals, but they were only rumors.

At this juncture, I had worked for about five years, and I was working in an area that included several special assignments. I arrived to work one morning to find my boss and his boss drinking coffee at my desk. Usually, that's not a good sign, but this time they seemed to be in good spirits. They informed me I was going to work on a special project. It would take six to nine months to complete and would be a plus for my career, a feather in my hat, so to speak. They proceeded to explain the details of how I would do this task. Since I had no choice in the matter, I accepted the assignment. To be honest it was an opportunity to show people how capable I was. The opportunity was exciting.  No one in the department was available; my supervisors said they would find someone to help.

Later I went to a remote area to get a first-hand view of the amount of work. There was an enormous amount of work that needed to get done. In spite of my boss’s directions, I had no idea how I was going to do what they expected. In the moment, when I was going into a full-fledged panic attack the door opened, and there was Pat. My first thought was, why is she here? Needless to say, I wasn't happy, but once again I didn't have much of a choice.

Pat turned out to be one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. She worked hard, and she was selfless in her efforts to get the job done right and on time. We would have lunch together, and soon we'd share stories about our lives. I learned her parents and siblings hadn't had anything to do with her for many years. She said she always, even as a child knew she was gay. Everything fell apart when Pat summoned the courage to tell her devoutly religious family. Her parents gave her an ultimatum to attend the gay conversion therapy through their church, or else. All her family's religious fervor accomplished was to alienate her from a family and a church that meant everything. She was trying to do the right thing by being honest about her sexual orientation. Her parents, siblings, and church officials judged her as unacceptable. She lost everything important to her for being honest and forthright.  It was the most devastating thing that ever happened in her life. She moved on because she couldn't and moreover wouldn't live a lie. What courage!

She had the courage and honesty to be open about her sexuality in the late fifties; she paid an enormous personal price. I learned this assignment was her only hope of staying at the company. It seems every supervisor had come up with a supposedly solid reason to cut her from the department. She was on her last leg. Her partner Mary sustained her. Both women were kind and gentle people, who had similar stories. Pat taught me grace comes in many forms and a person’s character will carry them through tough times. I lost touch with Pat and Mary over the years, but I will always value what I learned from my friend Pat.

 

Gary

It was the spring of 1984 when I first met Gary, a purchasing manager for a company in Missouri. When you have a facial difference, you get a sense for those people who feel uneasy with your appearance. The first time I met him I definitely got the impression that he had a problem with me. It was also the first time as a salesman a customer had such an obvious negative reaction about my facial disfigurement. I felt it so much that my boss and I talked about it during the drive back to the office. I offered to let another sales person handle the account if it proved to be a problem. My supervisor thought it would be better to wait and see.

After calling on the account for several months I hadn’t made any progress. Gary and I were different people, from different parts of the country with vast differences of opinion about the world. I was concerned I could not bridge the gap between us.

On one visit to the company a couple of months later I noticed something was different. I couldn’t put my finger on it but, something was going on that I didn’t understand. Toward the end of this strange sales call he asked if I was a fisherman. I told him I hadn't fished in years only because I didn't have the time. I lied. I hated fishing. I’ve never liked fishing, and I will never like fishing. He asked me if I would like to come down for the weekend and go fishing with him. I accepted. Two weeks later, there I was with Gary drift fishing on Lake Taneycomo and having a great time… really!

We had tied his boat to an overhanging branch of a Poplar tree and were eating sandwiches when out of the blue he apologized. I had no idea what he was talking about. He told me he had not felt good about how he treated me when we first met. I have to admit the moment was a bit awkward, but I tried my best to get him off the hook. We talked for a while and agreed that neither one of us was the least bit pretty. We spent the rest of the weekend drift fishing. We became good friends and still are to this day.

Work life is difficult for everyone, no matter what. It is especially difficult for those people who happen to be different no matter what the difference may be. Ray was the salt of the Earth kind of man who gave me direction. Margaret taught me what other people think of you makes no difference unless you allow it to. She just kept working and doing what she was getting paid to do. Pat and Gary showed me that real character comes in all shapes and sizes. I'm fortunate these people were in my life and I was able to learn from their example.

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same.

There's a green one and a pink one

And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they're all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

Lyrics from “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds…made famous by Pete Seeger

 

On the day you were born the world was messy a place. In all probability, it will be the same old muddled heap on the day you die. Our world, sorry to say, is full of problems of all shapes and sizes. That’s just the way it is.

Today in the United States most of us live in the suburbs where all the houses are in a nice neat row lined with perfectly groomed yards. Homeowner associations keep a vigilant eye out on our neighborhoods. They make sure everything looks just so, nothing to disrupt our pastoral beauty. It’s important that our neighborhoods have an air of uniformity. After all, we’re striving for a suburban paradise.

My wife and I have also bought into this suburban existence and if the truth was known we like it. We have a Homeowners Association, and we're glad we do. We don't want to live next to someone whose property does not look like ours. We don’t particularity care for all the rules but, everyone has to compromise and so did we when we chose to live in this neighborhood.

We live in a medium-size house with a nice desert landscape, a gated community, new cars, and even wear well-made clothing. The public areas in our communities are perfectly groomed. We watch television and go to the movies where the people are all pretty. Everything has its place. All these things are picture-perfect. There's just one thing: it’s an illusion. The world is a mess and most likely will remain a mess until the end of time. Most of us like order in our world. It makes us feel uncomfortable when someone's yard doesn't look like the other yards on the block. We go to great lengths to make sure the "things" in our lives, are just so, no room for things that are different.

People aren't things; they're sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, daughters, and sons. We can't pick our relatives, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. We are either born with or get a few bumps and bruises along the way. It’s okay to be different.

We humans are always striving for perfection. Consider the case of Floyd Cochran. Floyd was one of the founders of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations. Floyd resigned from the church after the other ranking members volunteered to euthanize his four-year-old son. His son’s cleft palate and lip made him a genetic defect in the eyes of the God they worshiped. If you were thinking this happened a long time ago you’d be wrong. It happened in 1992. Granted this is an extreme example, but in truth people have been using religious dogma to justify racial prejudice, homophobia, and you name it. If you want to hate someone or a group of people just claim it’s in the bible, put a condescending smile on your face, and say, “It’s not me, it’s in the scriptures! It’s the word of God. You have to realize they’re doomed to eternal damnation.” There’s no zealot like a religious zealot who uses his or her beliefs to justify and mask their bigotry. Our history is chock full of incidents where religious groups use their beliefs to justify unfounded actions against others.  

Some people haven’t done too well getting a place at the table and enjoying the bounties of life. We need to let go of our old divisive ideas about people. How can we ever expect to enjoy our lives if we take part in excluding others for an assortment of imaginary differences? Every person on this planet is fighting a tough battle in one form or another. Regardless of our differences everyone has the right to live a full productive life.

We must make it easier for future generations to get an education, to find employment, and to be fully accepted. If we exclude others, how can we expect to have equal access? Buying into those archaic ideas only doom all of us to permanent second-class status. One of the most important things we can do is set an example. It's the little things we do on a daily basis that makes an enormous difference. All it takes is one person who cares. One person can change the outcome of many people's lives. We can offer hope for someone where there was no hope.

Sometimes having faith in yourself and your fellow humans is all that is necessary to make a remarkable difference. We make decisions each day, choices that affect people in a positive or negative way.

Remember how good it felt when someone helped you out? Keep that feeling in mind when you're out and about, pay it forward. Don't forget the people who have come before you and offered hope in their own way. We must try our best to be in the game so the next generation has it a little easier. To those who stay at home rather than face the public, please reconsider. Go out and take your rightful place in society and show a little kindness whenever possible.

This book is for those people who have a facial difference. I shared experiences in my life so others in similar circumstances could perhaps relate. If for no other reason than to let people know they are not alone. Polio paralyzed a facial nerve no bigger than a small piece of butcher’s twine, but the after effects have preoccupied most my life. Sharing the details about my life has been difficult. Some of the memories came from the darkest recesses of my memories. Some of the memories will remain memories too difficult to share.

We are more than our facial difference. Like everyone else in the world, I have good points and more shortcomings than I care to admit. We have the ability to think, to draw conclusions about situations, to love, and to enjoy what it means to be human.

I realize it sounds counterintuitive, but I swear it’s true; you have a unique opportunity in having a facial difference. Don't waste a second of your life being afraid to venture out in public or being resentful. You’ve experienced things in your life that most people can't even relate to. These experiences give you a rare important perspective on life. Don't wallow in self-pity.

There are no user manuals to explain how to live with a facial difference. It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to have a child or someone you love who has a disease or an anomaly that sets them apart. Seeing an individual who was hurting and not knowing what to do must be agonizing. We often offer help that isn’t wanted and leaves everyone frustrated. One of the most difficult things in life is to try to understand what another person is going through. My wife of forty plus years and I have an in depth understanding of each other yet at times we have trouble understanding each other. Trying to understand and help those who are closest to us often fails. Understanding and helping the people we know the best or have known all our lives often eludes us.

We must try to be more inclusive of others who we see as different. Religious people need to stop quoting scriptures out of context. Using the scriptures to justify bigotry makes you nothing but a bigot. Using verses for the sole intent to exclude people from their congregations is wrong. We are, so they say, a nation of Christian values. A fundamental Christian value is inclusion and acceptance of all kinds and types of people. We must change the toxic values of exclusion that only belittles some people in our society who don’t quite fit in. If we cannot change we must then at least admit that we just don’t give a damn. 

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