WATERVILLE — It gets better.
That was the message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths at Sunday morning’s service at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Silver Street.
From hymns to a Dr. Seuss story to the responsive reading to the benediction, the message was about acceptance and embracing one another.
The 75-strong congregation sang Louis Untermeyer’s hymn “May Nothing Evil Cross This Door,” which included the entreaty, “Though these sheltering walls are thin, may they be strong to keep hate out and hold love in.”
The hymn “Come, Sing a Song with Me” contained the lines, “Come, walk in the rain with me that I might know your mind. And I’ll bring you hope when hope is hard to find.”
In the Dr. Seuss classic “What Was I Scared Of?” the narrator is terrified of a pair of empty pale green pants until he learns the pants also had been frightened of him. Then the boy and the pants become friends. “I was just as strange to them as they were strange to me,” the boy says.
Sunday’s selected responsive reading was “We Need One Another” by George E. Odell. It included the line, “All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.”
The presentation stressed that youths who are bullied need friends.
Bruce O’Donnell, a member of the church welcoming committee, showed two video clips from the It Gets Better Project, which Dan Savage formed in 2010 after a number of young people committed suicide after being bullied in school.
Savage created a way for adults to tell the youths in question that life does indeed get better. To date, about 25,000 videos have been made with that message.Members of the Waterville Inclusive Community Project who are striving to ensure that life is good and safe for area lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths talked about the coalition at Sunday’s service.
Kristen Gilbert said the project formed when several different group efforts came together.
The former vice principal at Waterville Junior High School and current principal at Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield said she was spurred to act after a male student came into her office in Waterville and said he didn’t know where to turn at school after being harassed about his sexuality. Gilbert said the boy told her that all he could think about was killing himself.
“I knew we had to stop being scared to address the issue,” Gilbert said.
Waterville educators and students who wished to do so participated in Safe Zone and Student Ally training, respectively. At school, the staff and students identify themselves as wanting to help youth who have been bullied and harassed because of their sexual orientation.
The Unitarian Universalist church of Waterville is a partner and ally of the Waterville Inclusive Community Project and has opened a drop-in center for junior high and high school students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning.
At the center, youth are invited to socialize, enjoy refreshments and receive support from adults and peers.
Other partners in the Waterville Inclusive Community Project are Colby College’s The Bridge group, Waterville Public Library, Waterville junior and senior high schools, Alfond Youth Center, South End Teen Center, Kennebec Valley Community Action Group, Greater Waterville Communities for Children & Youth, Hardy Girls, Healthy Women and Parents, and Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Waterville.
For more information about the drop-in center, email email@example.com.
Those interested in joining the effort to make Waterville a safe and welcoming place for the affected young people may contact Darla Linville at Lawrence High School at firstname.lastname@example.org, Gilbert at email@example.com or Mark Fairman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Staples — 861-9252