Heartland Pride 2014

Story By Jazmyn Buck, OA Hugger, Appreciator of Shiny Things

I didn't know what to expect when I showed up at Pride this year. I was eager to volunteer and hadn't been in a few years. I wasn't prepared for how large it was and how many people showed up. Showing our support to the community is something I treasure the most. My task was simple and pleasurable. I was to answer questions and reach out to the community via hugs. As I'm sure everyone has experienced, people have a skewed perception on atheists. We wanted to show the faces behind the word and behind the fear-mongering

Most people were happy to receive my hugs. I even got to hug people twice as they made their way past our booth again. I wormed a few hugs out of people who weren't normally huggers. There were a few people who weren't about to get hugged, no matter what organization I was with. I gave a few high-fives and fist bumps in lieu of hugs. I hugged adults, children, and teens and everyone in between.

What shocked me the most was not the large crowd or the positive reaction we received. I had a few religious people refuse to hug me or had to make a point of announcing what they believe in as we hugged. I even had a fellow atheist look at me and say "Well, I'm already an a

theist..." like my hug had the power to convert. It was a damn shame that Pride was about celebrating who you are, yet there were still people who frowned and stayed away from us. Or put out their religious disclaimer before even hugging me. Most of the people there have faced discrimination in some way or form, yet they can turn around and do the same to another person. Who can turn down a hug?

Of course, those people were only a minority. The day was full of curiosity and questions. Some people had never even spoken to an out Atheist before. It was a great experience for every single person. As a new member, it made me more aware of how we have to be involved in the community to exterminate the negative perception people seem to have. The church across from us were wonderful and open, even giving us their leftover water bottles before they left. I also feel that a lot of atheists in the area are now aware that we exist.

At the end of the day, my arms were sore from hugging. My cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing. Despite the heat, brief rain, and refused hugs, it was a fantastic event. It's inspirational for me to be more involved in our community to show them who we are as our own little community and how we are a part of theirs.


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