Here’s hoping we see many more supportive holiday displays.
Lexi Magnussen left the Mormon Church in 2012 because she disagreed with its views on homosexuality.
Then, a few months ago, her new neighbors moved in.
Shortly after, the mom of the neighboring family came over to introduce herself to Lexi and her husband, who were standing on their front lawn.
The woman, like Lexi and her husband, happened to be Mormon, which Lexi says is why she thinks the woman reached out, hoping they’d have something in common.
Their conversation started out pleasant enough, but then took a rather uncomfortable — and homophobic — turn.
“Basically she told us she moved here to get her children away from the gays,” Lexi recalls in a private Facebook message. According to Lexi, the last straw for her neighbor was when a girl rejected her son asking her to the prom because the girl already had a girlfriend. She just couldn’t understand a school that promoted “the gay agenda,” her neighbor told her.
Lexi says she tried to keep her cool and reminded her neighbor that their kids were going to be exposed to LGBTQ people no matter where they went, and she was glad for it.
“[Kids] know not to be horrible to each other based on who they are or how they were born,” Lexi explains.
Needless to say, the conversation ended quickly, and from that day on, Lexi says her new neighbor acted like her family didn’t exist.
The painful situation hung in Lexi’s mind for months, until the presidential election results came in. With Christmas coming up, Lexi decided to act.
Like many people nationwide, she was devastated by the election, not only because she didn’t like the outcome but because of the onslaught of hate crimes targeting marginalized groups that followed. With her conversation with her neighbor in mind, Lexi knew she wanted to do something to publicly show her support for the LGBTQ community.
So she grabbed 10,000 rainbow lights and got to work on her front yard:
“I love Christmas lights [and] realized my front hedges would be the perfect place for a rainbow flag of lights,” Lexi explains of the decorations.
Lexi’s neighbor has yet to comment on her vivid display, she says, but the rest of her neighbors love it, as do the 14,000 other people who’ve liked her post on Facebook. Despite the initial disappointing exchange with her neighbor, however, Lexi says she’s open to furthering the conversation between them.
It doesn’t take a monumental action to make a big difference, especially to the people you see every day — your neighbors.
The Magnussens’ bright response to hate is just one of many people have carried out in recent months. One artist in Arkansas covered up hateful graffiti with a loving message and has made it her mission to keep doing it. A group of Michigan neighbors decked out all their houses with rainbow flags in response to a bigoted letter one neighbor received.
The messages these displays send aren’t so much a rebuke to people — like Lexi’s neighbor — who don’t believe in them as much as they are an affirmation to those who are targeted by hate speech and hate crimes. I see you, I love you, I am here for you, these artistic displays of solidarity say to those who need to hear them.
Making a difference and rejecting bigotry can start with a kind word and the willingness to listen to the problems people in your community are facing. If we can protect each other on a local level, that’s a huge step in the right direction.