Gary Anderson: Leaning into the Divine
Gary Anderson began his journey as a big, gay kid from Floodwood. After struggling to find his place at UMD, Gary moved to West Palm Beach, where he found friends, connected with the Metropolitan Community Church, and developed business and management skills. In the 1980s, he moved to Manhattan, where he worked in retail management.
Business was good and new friends in the gay community made Gary feel welcomed. But his sense of justice was simmering as he watched friends die from HIV. The pain and grief from these losses pushed Gary to take control of his life with AA. He realized how lucky he was to still be on the planet. Through AA, Gary recognized that he had to turn his will and life over to the care of God if he hoped to survive as a healthy and whole person. With help from friends and community, Gary has been sober for twenty-six years.
Another turning point came on the morning of 9/11/01. Gary lived and worked a few blocks from the World Trade Center. That morning he was stunned as he watched the Twin Towers burn and collapse. Working and living so close to Ground Zero took an emotional toll. He wondered why he had been spared again, when so many had been lost.
During that period of loss and grief, Gary felt called to return to Duluth and become a teacher of yoga. The practice of yoga let him “lean into the divine.” Teaching was a way of living an integrated life and giving back to his community.
In December 2008, Gary lost a brother. This again made him deeply aware of the gift of life. In 2009, Gary chose to stand up for justice for all families, working with Minnesota United and Outfront Minnesota to defeat the proposal to ban homosexual marriage in Minnesota. Gary has continued to draw on his gifts and leadership skills in his work on the Minnesota Safe and Secure Schools Act, protecting students from bullying.
The words of Nelson Mandela have been a touchstone for Gary: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Building on the leadership skills he has developed, Gary continues to find ways to stand up for justice. He knows he is not alone on his journey as he works for people, prosperity and the planet. This pilgrim continues to offer guidance, leadership, and the strength that comes from leaning into the divine and letting his own light shine.
Interviewed by Bill Mittlefehldt