“So I went South. Because I was afraid to go South.’ Baldwin, forever the blues man, ran toward the trouble.”
~ Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, p. 48
On August 13th my son John ran toward the trouble. He was the supermarket manager on duty when a 17-year-old Native American boy pulled out a knife, grabbed a young woman, and held her hostage, right in the middle of the Gatorade. My 38-year- old son - wise beyond his years, trained, experienced, and skilled in the art of bartending and bouncing, tour managing and crisis surviving - knew exactly what to do.
John told the 17-year-old, who had applied for a job at the same supermarket days earlier but did not get it, that he understood how upset the boy might be, because he’s been there. What John didn’t say was that he lost his six-figure L.A. job when the novel coronavirus essentially killed the music and entertainment industry. He and his wife picked up and moved back home, to live near her family in Oklahoma, just six months ago. They went not South but southeast, to the end of the Trail of Tears.
When John offered to take the place of that young woman, the boy decided to let her go. Suddenly, city police arrived, arrested him, and held him, until the tribal police came and took him away. (Is this what reimagining policing looks like?)
Years ago John was dubbed “classroom lawyer” by his high school principal. He would win every argument, including the ones with his teachers. The day after he ran toward the trouble, he posted these words on Facebook:
I am a passionate person who gets heated and uses colorful language when I feel strongly about something. But I’m not always right, nor am I always justified in some of the things I say. And I know that can hurt people. Friends. Family. People I love.....
And I haven't given enough thought to the privilege I have in my words, how people take what I say. I need to be better about listening. This goes for my personal life, my work life, my "social" life....whatever that is at this point. Social media life, I guess....
My point here is this. LOVE PEOPLE JUST AS HARD AS YOU ARGUE/DEBATE WITH THEM. Some people ONLY need to just be heard. They have no one in their life listening. We all need to be better. We don't have to agree. People just need to be heard.
I remember John asking me when he was about the age of this young boy if he could go to seminary and be a priest - not in a church, but on the streets. I remember thinking: that’s a great idea, but it’ll never happen. On Thursday, it seems John was commissioned, at the very least, as a streetwise, supermarket preacher, teacher, and pastor. We’ll see what God is up to next.