I had the honor of being invited to attend the 2015 Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) Heroes Award Luncheon on Sunday, April 12 at Hotel Monaco, to celebrate a select group of individuals for their commitment to equality, acceptance, and community. Because I’m more of a ‘people person’ rather than an ‘issues person’, so I was excited to write about this event from a more personal perspective.

While guests sipped mimosas and nibbled on pastries, I had the opportunity to chat with many of them about what “pride” meant to them on a personal level. What I learned is that the struggle for acceptance, love, and grace is a universal one, and one that we all share as humans.

DVLF Brunch_Photo

“Pride is being able to be myself,” explained Ron Lucente, DVLF Board President. “It’s being able to go out in public and not be judged– or worry about being judged.” As someone who struggled the majority of my high school and college years to figure out who I am, what makes me ME– and being ok with all of that– I totally related. Haven’t we all– at one time or another– struggled to accept ourselves exactly as we are? And I bet most of us have tried to ‘tone down’ or even change certain things about ourselves to fit in a little bit better? I stand guilty as charged!

I spoke with men and women from diverse backgrounds– each with their own personal story and struggle– but with a common desire to feel as though they did not need to constantly apologize for who they were.

Many conversations I had revolved around a commitment to community and giving back. Bryan Buttler of Philadelphia Magazine’s G Philly told me, “Pride is community. It’s about building an environment in which it’s ok to be yourself.”

“Pride is giving back,” one gentleman (whose name I did not catch but who was rocking an exceptional pink and white polka dot pocket square). “Philanthropy has to start with my generation. The legacy of this community can’t be the White Party– it has to be more than that.”

Executive Director of DVLF Samantha Guisti’s face lights up when she talks about the opportunity to directly impact those needs in the community that are often overlooked. “Forty-eight percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ who’ve been kicked out of their homes because of their lifestyle.” She is proud to be a voice for positive change.

Someone asked me recently how they should love someone that was different from them– someone that they didn’t understand. My response was simple. “Just like you love everyone else. Everyone has a story, unique experiences that have shaped them, and a different path that they’ve walked. If you don’t understand, ask. If you assume anything, assume kindness, grace and love.” So let’s all raise a mimosa and make this world a little less judgmental, shall we? Cheers!