A man spoke tonight about darkness. He spoke of ancient creatures that chew on trees. He spoke of crystalline-fragile ecosystems, and the waters that move and change.
He spoke of people who damage these waters and change the crystalline ecosystems. He spoke of being a rancher’s son, a transient’s best friend, and of being a janitor. He spoke of the dark waters and deep black skies that calm a troubled mind and that soothe a frantic soul.
He spoke in a front of a crowded room, full of people who disagreed with him. He spoke as the sole voice of dissent for a burgeoning civic project to light our city’s bridges.
I cried when he spoke. And the tears took me by surprise.
It wasn’t the bridge lighting project that sparked my emotion. Nor was it simply the man’s poetic words that catalyzed salty tears.
Rather, it was his brave act of speaking out that prompted my emotional response. It was the fact that he launched a different and heartfelt perspective into a sea of sameness. It was the fact that I am fortunate enough to live in a city, a state, a nation that lets him speak out…and even encouraged it. It was the fact that a roomful of dissenters respectfully allowed him to speak freely, and asked for his opinion even when they knew it was uncomfortably different.
Thank you, Americans, Montanans, Missoulians, friends, for listening to others. Thank you for welcoming stories of darkness, even as you seek the light.
And thank you to the man who spoke tonight, for reminding us that some people crave the solace of dark or troubled waters, and we might never fully understand why.