These neighbors hung up 40 rainbow flags when a gay couple's house was vandalized.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." — Margaret Mead

After a restful vacation, Cari and Lauri Ryding returned to a disturbing sight at their home in South Natick, Massachusetts — their porch had been egged, and their rainbow pride flag was gone.

"We were both disillusioned and confused.  We didn't want to believe that it was an attack on us," Cari wrote in an email.

The couple had gotten their pride flag several weeks earlier from Rainbow Peace Flag Project — an organization that distributes rainbow flags with the word "PEACE" on them to the Natick and MetroWest areas for free in the name of peace.


Cari and Lauri's front door today. Photo by Cari and Lauri Ryding.

The flag was meant to be a symbol of love and solidarity in the wake of the tragic Pulse shooting in Orlando in June but had inspired an act of vandalism — presumably from someone with homophobic views.

Cari has lived on the same street in South Natick for 23 years. Even when she separated from her husband and later married Lauri, she always felt she had unwavering support from her neighbors, which made the incident all the more difficult to comprehend.

Their neighbors, however, refused to let that act of vandalism be the end of the story.

They decided to show Cari and Lauri that they would always stand behind them. Their neighbors immediately contacted the Rainbow Peace Flag organization and ordered numerous flags.

One by one, the rainbow flags began popping up all over the neighborhood — until 40 houses were showcasing them proudly.

Photo by Cari and Lauri Ryding.

Photo by Cari and Lauri Ryding.

Photo by Cari and Lauri Ryding.

Photo by Cari and Lauri Ryding.

"We were not surprised that the neighbors responded, but we were surprised by how many did. People that we didn't know well got into action," wrote Cari.

According to Cari, local kids delivered the flags to all their neighbors on their bikes, stopping by Cari and Lauri's last. The couple gave them a tearful "thank you."

Photo by Cari and Lauri Ryding.

This colorful act of solidarity proves hate is no match for love in small communities like this. It's also a shining example of what the rainbow flag is meant to do.

"Displaying pride out in the open can be risky.  It can lead to heartbreaking rejection. The Rainbow Peace Flag Project is a way to invite and empower neighbors to become allies," Ian Mevorach, co-founder of the Rainbow Peace Flag Project, wrote in an email.

Any fear Cari and Lauri might've felt as a result of this hateful act of vandalism was quelled by the ever-growing support they've received.

Several religious organizations are standing behind them, and more and more people in the Natick area and beyond are ordering rainbow flags to show they're part of the unified front. The response has filled the couple with an overwhelming hope for a better future for the LGBTQ community.

Photo by Cari and Lauri Ryding.

And to think it all started when a few small-town people refused to let their neighbors be knocked down.

As Cari put it succinctly, "The actions of a few people can change things, and inspire the world."

More

Comedy legend Carol Burnett once said, "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head." She wasn't joking.

Going through childbirth is widely acknowledged as one of the most grueling things a human can endure. Having birthed three babies myself, I can attest that Burnett's description is fairly accurate—if that seemingly impossible lip-stretching feat lasted for hours and involved a much more sensitive part of your body.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via SNL / YouTube

Christopher Walken is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He's been nominated for an Academy Award twice for best supporting actor, winning once for 1978's "The Deer Hunter" and receiving a nomination for 2002's "Catch Me if You Can."

He's played memorable roles in "Annie Hall," "Pulp Fiction," "Wedding Crashers," "Batman Returns," and countless other films. He's also starred in Shakespeare on the stage and began his career as a dancer.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular