#DBCBookBlogs: Beyond Us

Every once in a while I will read a book that has so much heart and soul dripping from the words that I can’t help but to tear up while reading it. The 78th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line is one of those books. The best part is that it’s a picture book and can inspire empathy in our children through the author’s words and the illustrator’s images. Meet Beyond Us by Aaron Polansky with illustrations from Rin Rezendes.

BeyondUs

This true story tells of a young lady who asks for $50 from her father so she can go shopping with her friends (promising to return everything she purchases). Aaron shares with us the battles of wanting to fit in and treating others with kindness. The daughter then thinks of several students in her school who needed kindness and chooses to spend the money in a way that shows acceptance and love toward others. You’ll need to grab a copy of the book to see what it is that she does and how she models kindness and acceptance of others.

The words are amazing, and the illustrations are breath-taking! Rin is a student and he has placed many subtle messages for us in his images! Check out more in this article from Sippican Week, a newspaper in southern Massachusetts!

Do you see the tip of the hat to the LGBTQ community here? There’s stuff like this everywhere in this book!  (I also LOVE that quote!)

In the foreword, Aaron brings so much passion and truth in two short pages! He says,

“…be brave and love who you are, love what you do, and help others do the same.”

“We all have the ability to change the world for the better.”

“Ask without judging. Check in – not just with students…”

“In a profession like education with no shortage of acronyms, I consider ‘RUOK’ to be the most important four letters for educators to remember.”

The timing of this book could not be more perfect. I want to share a moment with you, but I need you to promise to finish the entire blog before judging. Okay?

Okay.

§§§

I grew up in a very spiritual, religious, conservative home. In our home, homosexuality was not acceptable. It was an abomination. Insert scripture here, judgment there, and finish off with overall negativity and shunning over here.

As I became aware of my own emotions and opinions, I realized that while I didn’t quite “accept” the lifestyle, I didn’t believe it was worth alienating other people. I was of the mindset that if it didn’t impact me directly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. When issues of homosexuality and gender identity came on the news, I’d just turn the channel. I’ve never considered myself to be homophobic, I just didn’t have a personal reason to be involved. And I didn’t understand it.

Then, I transitioned to teaching middle school. I found myself in situations where students were choosing to come out, and of all people, I was the first person they told!  When I looked into the eyes of children I had known for years and saw their anguish and their fears of how I would react, yet trusting me with something so important to them – it tore me apart. While I still don’t understand (and can never truly understand because I’ve never experienced it myself), I now have a personal reason to be involved.

These students are my kids. They are worth love and respect. I accept them. The first student who came out to me told me in a survey response that just gave them the space to share anything on their mind. It only took about 5 seconds for me to decide how I felt about it. I immediately found them in the school and took them to the side. I told them that I’d seen the response to the survey question and gave them a big hug! I told them that I accepted them and if they ever needed anything, they are always welcome in the media center.  ::cue tears::

A few months ago, a student shared with me that she preferred to be called by a masculine name (no longer using her ‘dead name’) and wanted pronouns “he/him/his” used. That night I stopped at a bookstore and bought two copies of The Art of Being Normal and he and I read that book together. I learned so much about the transgender community and continue to learn more every day. Many of my students are members of the LGBTQ community and they need to know they are accepted and loved. One way I can show that is by learning about social norms within the community and doing what I can to eliminate my own ignorance.

It’s not about me and my opinions; it’s not even about them. It’s helping others to understand that we are “us”. I am a straight Christian teacher, and I support the LGBTQ community. I believe that we are called to love one another, period. God does not call us to love one another unless they are different from you.

Love. One. Another.

My implementation for this book is simple. I will continue to advocate for students in the LGBTQ community in my small town in rural North Carolina. This fight is not just their fight anymore. It’s ours, and I stand with them. I hope you will do the same.

Beyond Us is a powerful example of love, acceptance, and what the world could possibly look like if we see the value in every person. Check out Aaron‘s latest blog post here. He outlines some incredible discussion starters and ideas to incorporate from the book! Also check out his first picture book (& DBC, Inc’s first picture book), Dolphins in Trees! Below is a sneak peek with Aaron and Rin. I love their interaction here! It’s clear how important they are to one another.

I do not share this post to invite criticism and hate, so if you’re bringing that, take it back with you. Don’t come at me with that. The world is full of hate, especially on social media lately. Sometimes my feed reflects people that are being plain cruel to others, and I follow educators!!! I ask that you simply love, show compassion, empathy, and acceptance. Our world needs more of that. And to start showing more compassion, empathy, and acceptance, grab a couple of copies of Beyond Us and share with your friends! This true story truly does have implications for all of us! Well-done, Aaron, Rin, and the DBC, Inc crew!

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