Thursday, May 07, 2009

I Surrender All
May 7, 2009
“Every other day you hear something happening on the news about people getting shot,” says my grandmother. She used to say that when I was in college and I told her it wasn’t true. She had a tendency to exaggerate, but this week it has been mostly true. It’s only Thursday and every other day somebody has been shot.

Monday night, Tamon Evans-Choate, 18, was shot on his way to the studio to work on his cd. He wasn’t in a gang, and it was almost 7:30 pm. A gunman approached, fired shots, and then hopped into an SUV. Other people who might have been involved ran. After he was shot he was smiling, but then he stopped and started reciting the 23rd psalm. Within the hour, he was pronounced dead.

Today, Thursday morning, just down the street from the office, Soheil Turner, 15, was shot in the head around 7:30 am while at a school bus stop and has possibly died. Another teenager or young adult seems to have targeted him and ran away. News reports say that he had a female basketball coach that was supposed to walk him to the bus stop this morning, but couldn’t. Word on the street is that somebody was waiting for him.

I do not know Tamon or Soheil, but I know that potential is lost. Gang members or not, life is a God-given gift but society judges with partiality. What I notice is that Tamon didn’t ask for help, but he went back to his spiritual foundation. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” It doesn’t say what church he went to or what denomination he was a part of, but he knows God when it is important. Like the person that could not walk Soheil to the bus stop (maybe because they knew something was up), who might forever feel guilt for not being able to be everywhere youth want or need us to be, we have limited power in some realms but absolute power in others. This one of for those of us who get overwhelmed and frustrated.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.” Tamon knows where the power is. Sometimes we forget what our power looks like. We have absolute power:
1. To call the names of children every day in prayer
2. To teach the ones we have access to the foundations of God’s love
3. To be there when we can without assuming mini-god responsibilities
4. To accept that God empowers us to do His work but does not need us to subscribe to the ambitious goal to do everything
5. To be confident in God’s sovereignty
6. To receive God’s comfort and grace for ourselves and others

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

I’m not apathetic. I’m heartbroken, so I’m surrendering….to God. I’m sorry that a young man has lost his life, but I’m so happy that he called out for God instead of me. God saves better than I can. Yes, we should try to fill in all of the gaps for our youth, but if we give them Christ we will have given them everything they need.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Only a few can really appreciate this

Is it correct?

On the move...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dormant seeds bear fruit!

So I was a middle school teacher for 3 years. There was a girl in my class who was a half-pint and she acted hardcore. She didn't like affection, rejected compliments, and just relished being sarcastic. She was a little tornado that could turn your class into a coup. I knew that she liked me because she never verbally attacked me or muttered under her breath at me or about me. That equals, "She aight."

I had her for two years and since I knew she didn't like affection, (Mind you, most kids don't...except from other middle schoolers.) I used to harass her back a little just for fun. It increased my respect quotient. I would randomly ask her for a hug. She'd stare me down. Then I would stand in the hall on duty when the kids arrived and when I saw her coming to her locker, I would stand and open my arms and say, "Courtney, give me a hug!" She would grit on me and keep walking. (I had her for two years and I did this for months. Eventually she was smiling as she walked away.) "You don't have to hug me, but I know you're smiling. I can hear it."


"You love me. I'm your favorite teacher."

"Teachers are evil."

Courtney also didn't like to take pictures, deliberately not smiling and rolling those brown eyes. But Courtney was an anomaly. She had a little cutesy dog named Mr. Cuddles. Yes, I'm serious. I talked about Mr. Cuddles and she would tell me she was going to bring him to school to get me. "No, I'll get you and your little dog too!" I told her I'd turn him into a lab experiment. One day, she started calling me Mama Jones. I don't remember why. Then she had other kids calling me Mama Jones. I told her if I was her mama, I'd beat her. She laughed. On occasion I would sneak up on her and hug her or she would show me sympathy when everybody else gave me a hug and I would hug her and she would leave her arms hanging limply at her sides and growl. "Is this gonna get me an A?"

Monday around 2:30 I was at the Forest Hills T and as I was walking, texting people, I saw this half-pint that looked familiar. Courtney has not grown an inch. I walked through the double doors, and she saw me. What is she going to do? Ignore me probably. Courtney walked up to me and hugged me. "Hey Ms. Jones."
"Hi Courtney, don't you have somewhere to be?" She's still holding on. I'm waiting for lightning to strike or Ashtun Kutcher and the Punk'd staff to pop out.
"School's out."
"Is it going well? What grade?" She lets go.
"Yeah. 10th. Did you have an early day?"
"No, I don't work at YA anymore?"
"What? Nobody told me."
"I went back to school. You didn't Facebook me."
"Oh. I don't do Facebook."
"Just MySpace. Where are you going now?"
"Yeah. I'm going to work."
"Where do you work?"
"KFC on American Legion."
"Really? I'm coming. You better give me a hot drumstick."
"Okay." Laugh.
"Good to see you. Stay out of trouble."
"Okay." Courtney gives me another hug, unprompted.

Wow. This child and her friends made me earn my salary in so many ways for two years that I think the school district still owes me money. As a teacher, you need those kids to make you teach. I love them, I fight with them, I'm happy when summer comes, and I worry about them. Every year in June I feel like a pistol-whipped mission accomplished invisible magician, and I hope I fixed a little of what may have been broken and pray that I didn't break anything else in the process. Two years of nothing and two hugs in four minutes.

Let me correct that...On graduation day, Courtney gave all of us hugs and took a picture because "I'm never gonna see ya'll again."

If you can't tell by now, this made my week. It was only Monday. I call it fruit, and God does it taste good!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Make Way, Woman Coming Through

John McCain has chosen Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his VP running mate. There is an uproar about it, and I'm just excited.

Everybody is talking about her experience, family, and the fact that she isn't like Hillary, but the fact is that she is a woman. No, we don't want just any woman as a leader, but I think she had to accept that offer.

Women have been fighting for rights and leadership positions for years. Hillary Clinton was positioned to be the first female president. That would have been historic. Now we have a chance to have a woman as VP. She's Republican, and she has all of these dynamic qualities that would make her appealing to the some of the masses. She has been governor of Alaska for a few years and served as mayor. She's got five kids, a kid in military, and a new special needs baby.

I don't care what she does or does not have, as a woman, if your phone rings and somebody asks you to run to be the first _______, and offers you support and resources to do it, I think you have to take it. Often the game is being played by men, and when the boys consider you enough to invite you to the team, you got to go play. Sometimes you have to play whatever position they let you, but remember, you're now the only girl on the field. If you figure it out and don't get blamed for losing the game, you can stay on the field, maybe change positions, or suggest another girl for the team. Boom, doorway opened.

Yes, she's got five kids and might be dragging a 4-month-old around the country. Yes, she's new to the block of US politics. Yes, she's done interesting things and maybe had a little scandal. She might not have any foreign policy experience. She might not have anything in common with Hillary Clinton except anatomy, but some women will just throw her support and some others who just don't want a brother in the White House. (Then you couldn't necessarily call it The White House.) But, if somebody called me and asked me, you better believe I would take it and know there were sacrifices to the family, and that I'd get bumped around as wet behind the ears, but I would figure it out as it happened. Pay a nanny to travel if I had to, do coursework secretly, whatever it took, I would do it.

You know why? Because the reason I give for not accepting it, lack of experience or confidence in experience, family obligations, other commitments, etc., are exactly the reasons the boys on the team will not call another woman the next time. They won't risk the risk on depending on a woman and her not stepping up or giving up whatever she is doing to if they need her. They will question her priorities. Or they'll say, "She won't do it. She's got kids."

Some of this is about Republicans and Democrats. Some of this is about women's space in politics or breaking glass ceilings. I am not going to vote for Sarah Palin or John McCain, but I thank them for keeping my spot on the team open. (Next time is coming.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What does Obama have in common with DMX?

I have refrained from commenting on the Obama campaign though I have had many thoughts...but tonight I make a fist with my right hand and pound my chest. On the anniversary of King speech from 45 years ago, today is a good day.

No other time have we heard Obama draw a line in the sand except when it came to them messing with his wife. But tonight he drew the line (with multiple crescendos in the speech) in the sand like he was at a debate. (Argument one, Argument two, respond prophylactically to attack, argument, argument, and close it up tight) I see this now... I saw this before ... I recognize this ... I remember this ... I believe this ... I will debate anything (but I ain't getting my suit dirty so don't try it) ... and then in a very Columbia and Harvard-esque manner - John McCain, the people asked for somebody to step up and offered to step up with me, so (in the words of DMX for us hood) "MEET ME OUTSIDE."

Then to answer the question of my religion...Muslim or Christian? In the words of scripture...
"Hold firmly..."(That was Hebrews 10:23)

And walk away! Where my kids? Where my wife? Where my VP? You want America back? Joe, let's do this!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guns in Schools

Last week I heard on the radio that two states are considering allowing teachers to carry, hold, possess, use guns in schools. Something about improving the safety of the kids. I was a teacher and still consider myself a teacher. I come from a family of teachers, and I wonder how this even came up. Oxymoronic for multiple reasons...
  1. I remember some days when I wanted to shake a child (middle school...lovingly, in as much of a hug as possible ;) ). I also remember how crazy the day is for teachers who don't sit down all day, and continuously misplace their water bottles. Unless the teacher wears a holster for the gun, you run the risk of guns being misplaced or misprioritized. If the teacher has to worry about keeping up with his or her piece, then something else might not be prioritized. Like teaching.
  2. Secondly, if the gun is supposed to protect the kids, that is telling kids that guns are safety measures and conflicts with the anti-violence and peer mediation training that most schools have in place. If the teacher needs a gun, then that undermines the confidence the kids have in the adults' ability to protect them. It could start a trickle down effect of kids needing to go get guns so they feel safe. And kids can get guns. Teachers will have licenses. Kids won't.
  3. One of the things that teachers are supposed to do is to protect children to the best of their ability. I'm not saying they should be Secret Service and risk their lives for them, but...asking a teacher to shoot a student to protect others is going to be hard. Teachers are already expected to break up fights that put them at physical risk. Now you want them to carry a gun and shoot or be shot at when there is gun conflict. What kind of liability is that when you shoot the wrong kid? (We already sometimes blame the wrong kid for throwing paper in the class, and apology and a homework pass assuage that offense.) What protection is there?
  4. I stood at the altar Sunday morning and noticed a little boy who wanted prayer but was afraid to come to the altar. During the offering, I mentioned it to grandma, and she said he just didn't want to come forward. So, I went to him and asked him in his seat if he needed to pray about something. He sighed in relief, "Yeah." I took him out in the hallway away from noise and asked him what he wanted to pray about. He said,"About going to a safe school." We've had some issues in Boston schools, but it never occurred to me that kids would be afraid to go back to school because of safety at school. He's seven. How's he going to feel when he walks in the first day and his 2nd Grade teacher is packing?
I know guns don't shoot people, people shoot people. True...with guns. It's not that I don't think people could have guns, but my gut tells me schools need pencils, paper, crayons, science labs, calculators, computers, and textbooks first.

I talked to my aunt and my second cousin James got married. She said something always happens when the people in my family get married so that it isn't a straight transition. They get married, but something always happens. This time it started late. I told her if they got to the ceremony and everybody was there, it's just a matter of the vows. She said, "I know. I just smiled. He kept asking, 'Are you alright, grandma?' I said yes, and then he looked at my face." He (the groom) was happy so that's all that matters.

Here is the quote of the day from my cousin Michael (groom's uncle and amateur digital camera photographer):
"Well, we all down here and we got a preacher, and a groom. That girl go come on out of there eventually."

His sister, commenting on the pictures taken by Michael:
"Oh, look. We have the floor. That boy can't do nothing right."

Note to self: Control freaks are a good thing. They keep weddings on time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Till the Cops Come Knocking

You've heard this Maxwell's a cliche...But many of us never expect the cops to actually come knocking or have had this experience. Unless it really was at a great party. Well, Monday my dad called me and told me that to call me back because it was important. Whenever my dad says its important I think somebody died or missed a cruise ship and is stranded on an island, and I call back ready for bad news.

According to Daddy, there was no notice, but the sheriff's deputies showed up at the house on Sunday 'round noon with a summons for me. (I rolodex all recent incriminating activity in VA
...none.) I was supposed to appear for jury duty the prior Tuesday and did not. He chuckles and says they'll get you for jury duty in my hometown before they will for murder. Maybe to feel sense of accomplishment?

Let's clarify. I am no longer a resident of VA. I haven't paid taxes there since the 1900s. I am registered to vote in MA because of Deval Patrick's campaign and have served jury duty in MA
within the last six months. I have a license from some other state, but technically I am a student. And most recently a fugitive from the Commonwealth of VA. How do we fix this? (I'd like to be able to cross state lines to visit family and get a hoagie from Pino's downtown. I avoided incriminating pictures on the cruise because of this teaching and ministry career. This could nix all my good behavior for the denomination. ;)

Well, Daddy says, "Call this number when you get a chance and ask for Jackie, so-and-so's wife.
Tell her you're my daughter and she'll take care of everything. If you can't get her, ask for Mrs. Connell. Jackie is going to lunch around 1." He says I know these people, but I only know of one of them. I call and Jackie is on vacation. Mrs. Connell is at lunch, and I don't have time to keep calling back for them, so I begin explaining the situation. I get V. Earl Stanley, the Clerk of the Court (for like 56 years by now), and he tells me it was my dad who didn't show up for jury duty. I told him that BLJSr should be at the house if he needed to find him. (joke, I'd never dime my dad out) to write a letter to him stating I am a nonresident with my new address. A letter? Not even an email? Good ole' Brunswick County.

Hmmm. I've had about 8 addresses since I left high school. He only getting one. I don't need to go home until August. I love my dad. He's so nonchalant. My brother told me that I better get it straight or he'll be buying cigarettes. (I don't smoke.) I wonder if they had the Wanted posters made yet. What picture will they use? I still look my high school senior pic unfortunately.

Oh, well. Dear Clerk of Court,

Please don't send the cops knocking. I don't live in Alberta anymore. I moved 12 years ago, and now live in Boston.


Mr. Jones' daughter (there's only one)