When Jessica Green was on an evening walk with her young daughters a few weeks ago, her 7-year-old approached a teen drawing with chalk in her driveway. Green watched them chat from afar, and as she approached, pulling her 2-year-old in a wagon, she saw the teen had drawn an enormous rainbow, along with the words, "Let's get one thing straight: I am not."
The teen, Anna Christmas, 16, identifies as panromantic — one who feels their partner's gender has little affect on their relationship — and asexual — one who is not sexually attracted to either gender. Anna says she knew in middle school that she fit into the LGBTQ spectrum, confiding in her mom about her orientation in sixth grade.
"I later re-came out some time freshman year as ace and panromantic," Anna told TODAY Parents. "My mom has been nothing but supportive and my brother and dad have no quarrels with my identity or the community. I'm so happy I can be honest with myself and help talk to my friends when they're questioning themselves."
On the night Green saw Anna drawing in her driveway, however, Anna was coming out to a new group: Her Olathe, Kansas, neighborhood.
"I've never been too nervous about outing myself to the neighborhood, just because people's hurtful words don't affect me," said Anna. "But I made sure my mom was OK with outing our household as such. I was curious to see what peoples' responses would be, if there even were any."
Anna's mom, Kristin Brumm, was fine with the next steps in Anna's journey. Still, the mom of two was nervous about seeing her daughter potentially receive criticism for the announcement.
"We do live in a conservative neighborhood, and I worried that it might draw negative attention," said Brumm. "However, I will never say no to her choice to express herself in such an authentic way. If she's good with it, I'm good with it."
As one of the first neighbors to happen upon Anna's drawing, Green says she was touched and wanted to show support to the teen.
"I assumed she was coming out to her family ... I took a picture of the driveway on our way back home and sent it to my husband and best friends, saying I was proud and excited for this girl, but also worried about her getting a positive and supportive response," said Green.
After chatting with friends about ways to support the teen, Green asked her husband to pick flowers up on his way home from work, and made a card for Anna with the phrase "Hip, hip, you're gay" written in marker. When it was dark outside, she dropped the flowers and card off in Anna's driveway: right in the middle of the rainbow heart she had drawn.
Brumm says when she saw something lying in the driveway the next morning, her first thought was that someone had vandalized her daughter's artwork.
"When I got closer and saw it was a bouquet of flowers, it stopped me in my tracks," said Brumm. "It was such an unexpected and beautiful gesture — a true act of grace. It brought tears to my eyes."
Brumm posted about the act of kindness in the Pantsuit Nation Facebook community, where Green is coincidentally also a member.
"I followed the post all day, watching the like count grow into the tens of thousands and reading all the comments as they poured in," said Green. "At one point, Kristin replied to a comment and said she hoped she would find out who the mystery neighbor was. I decided to send her a message, saying I had intended my random act of kindness to remain anonymous, but her comment made me realize a known ally is better than a secret ally."
"I was so excited to find out her family already knew, and that the chalking was her announcement to the neighborhood," Green continued. "Not only was she already out and supported by her family, but we were the intended audience and gave her the positive feedback she had hoped for."
Anna says she hadn't expected such a positive response in her conservative town, something that made her feel "overjoyed and honored."
"It really hit home that allies can be anywhere, and I really liked the pun (on the card,)" she said. "I'm lucky all my family and friends are supportive — not everyone is so lucky."
Brumm says she shared the photos and wrote about the experience on Facebook because she hoped the story would inspire others.
"Our newsfeeds are so full of conflict and negativity right now, and we need some hope and beauty," said Brumm. "I want others who are LGBTQ to know while there is hatred and ugliness in the world, there is also love, and love is by far the most powerful force. When love and hate go head-to-head, love will always win."
Green, who has since met Brumm in person, agrees.
"I hope this encourages others to support the people in their communities," she said. "There are always going to be people with bad attitudes, but for 'love wins' to be a reality, you've got to actively be part of sharing that love."