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In July I start a blog series titled, Stories from the Bus
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One of my favorite places has more than 100 museums which are free to visit. It reminds me of what we have accomplished as a nation and some things we need to do better. It is one of the most powerful cities on the planet but it is still open to visitors.
It can majestic, beautiful and inspiring. It can be scary, unfriendly and confusing. Washington DC is lots of things to lots of people.
According to Fodor, don’t rent a car or grab a taxi. The travel site suggests you use public transit, like the Metro. I am a fan of the Metro and use it whenever I am in town. But don’t get so attached to the transit system that you forget to look at a map.
One time my friends left an hour before me to get to the museum by train. My ten-minute walk across the Mall got me there when they exited the train station. It is a great city to experience on foot.
When you go make sure you plan a visit to the White House. This is something you have to do in advance, but it is worth it. There are many rules and high security, but to walk through history is the result. One year we went during Christmas which they allowed us to take our phones and take photos. It was an amazing experience.
There are lots of places to visit in this city and you will not get to most in one visit. Yet for me, the historical points keep me coming back. A visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl or to walk through the campus of Howard University inspires me.
For me, DC is like a good book with chapter after chapter. It never ends. There is always something more interesting to see.
If you know where you at you can judge the distance to where you want to go. Spend some time assessing where you are. Think about the good things
Always remember. Honor it. It made you.
Honestly, there are some days I don’t get me. But when I visit home it becomes clear. Crystal.
My hometown is Fort Worth, Texas where the west begins, but still stuck in the old south. It had great chicken fried steak and sweet tea. There are good schools that pass out fine educations. I went to school with some of the best and brightest.
In high school, I got to interview Alan Bean, Astronaut from the Apollo 12 mission for the school newspaper because he was a graduate from the same school. I remember this moment because he made all of the other media wait and gave me the first few minutes of his time. It made a lasting impression.
For many years the city was gerrymandered so that Republicans could maintain control of government positions. I lived in an African American neighborhood south of downtown Fort Worth, and my congressional representative was a physician who lived in South Lake, one of the richest neighborhoods in the state. There were no town halls with him but I did learn that I lived in a food desert, which is an urban area where it is difficult to buy affordable or fresh food. This neglect made a lasting impression.
It is still a city plagued with racist ideas because the current leadership does not appreciate what marginalized voices bring to the table. The majority still believe that electing a sheriff that kicks out immigrants is the way to fix our problems. The majority believes electing officials who cover up abusive police officers is the way to handle problems. It is making a national impression.
Knowing that I come from this type of environment makes me cautious because some things I might think are normal, are probably racist. Some of the things I have learned to live with, I probably should not have.
So look at where you come from because it will definitely affect where you are going.
to whatever God called you to. Be all in even if you don’t believe Him for it.
This month I am reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. I am struck by her determination to do things. I love the story about how she fought with her great aunt over piano lessons. Be so fired up for your cause that you are at the recital sitting on the piano bench in front of the audience before you realize you don’t know where middle C is.
As the BSF teaching leader reminded us last week, remember it is not about the achievement, it is about the journey. Be true to the journey.
The other book I read this month was Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom. He was another so determined in his cause that the journey was fascinating. He took the initiative to learn to read and write even though it was illegal. He didn’t want to miss anything.
That is the way we need to be. Be true to your journey.
In order to go anywhere, your mind and body have to be ready to go. I believe this is why most people don’t travel far from their home. We are not willing to leave behind the familiar to seek out the unfamiliar. For some of us, there is too much danger in the unknown.
In Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote how he remembered his childhood as a small one stick fighting with his friends in their village. It was one of the happiest times of his life. The only clothing they wore was a blanket across their shoulders. When he moved to a larger village, he had to dress differently and learn new customs. He missed his village, but the new places brought on new adventures and new opportunities.
Like Mandela as a child, those moments of learning create conflict for us. I know I hate being made to feel stupid for not knowing something. But I realize not all families have the same values or customs which makes you have to have a conversation with others about how things should function. We are too frightened to ask someone why they do things a certain way.
Everyone has gaps in their knowledge. We do not know everything about everyone. We all need to learn something from someone else. If we are fortunate, we are surrounded by people who can give us that information. Other times we have to do what we can with what we got. And this is where the adventure usually comes in.
I am a product of integration, which means I went to white schools most of my life. My parents did not go to white schools. So there were times when we would have a conversation about things they knew nothing about. It is difficult to advise a child when you don’t know what they are talking about. Yet my sisters and I learned to adapt. Many times we just handled it ourselves.
Example, my parents had no concept or idea of sending me to college once I graduated high school. But I decided I wanted to go and started investigating it. Many of the kids around me were going to college. It seemed like the logical thing to do. (I had no concept of going and getting a job which was probably their idea of what happens after you graduate high school.) There were times they looked at me like I was crazy, but I just thought they were dumb parents. I had no clue I was defying all of the odds against me.
Because I did not have a source of folk to ask questions, I forged ahead. My ignorance was bliss, and it worked for me. I also had no idea of college cost because I chose one of the most expensive universities in the area. And the truth is my parents were probably happy I was leaving their house. It was good to get rid of an obnoxious teenager.
The truth is the journey starts in your head and heart. If it is not there, then your feet are moving for no purpose. If there is a fire inside of you, then it can get you through anything. If there is no intention behind what you do, then you are like snow blowing. You are moving here and there not sure where you will land.
My experiences during that time have taught me something about myself and my journey. Sometimes there are going to be gaps. It keeps you humble. You have to admit you don’t know something. You have to be willing to learn new things. Opportunity comes when you combine the two.
2019 will be a fascinating journey for me. It has started with a bang. I have spent the first part of January reading books that take me deep into the jungles of the African continent. I read the story of one of the last people brought to the United States on a slave ship. He spoke of what his life was like before being captured. He spoke of his family and their customs, the rituals to become a man and get married.
More important, he spoke of the process of being captured to be a slave and what it was like watching everyone he loved being murdered. Like the author of the book, for many years I thought that the Europeans had seized the Africans from their native homes. But in Barracoon by Zora Neal Hurston, the old African man told a different story.
He spoke of other African tribes who ruthlessly killed entire villages just to capture the young and strong people to sell to the Europeans. These killers left their regular way of life, which was farming, to become slavers. Motivated by greed, they created soldiers that could terrorize and take out a whole village. These soldiers were paid by the number of heads they brought back. The skulls were collected as a prize by their king.
It made me think. As these greedy people sold off all of their strength for material wealth, they were not prepared to fight the colonization that would overtake and suppress them. It reminds me that the greedy people today won’t get away with their evil deeds. They are just getting prepared to be undone by something more evil than themselves.
Another book took me into a different part of the continent. I loved reading how Nelson Mandela’s father was the family historian. He could recount the family’s history for hundreds of years, yet he could read or write. Our history was repeated by word of mouth through the generations.
It reminded me of my own family who would sit and tell stories of the way it used to be. Even today I question older relatives to the point of annoyance because I want to know more. I want to know what it was like and what they did. But I am finding that some of the secrets older people tried to keep, are coming to light.
But this part of the journey makes me appreciate a history told orally and through art, like masks and other sculpture. It tells us what is beautiful. What is powerful. What is important. The thing I appreciate about African Art is that it finds beauty in the work. It is not an exact replica of someone or something. It just is.
We need to do the same. We need to tell our children the stories orally of our family. We need to create art that represents what legacy we leave behind. Many of the previous generations of my family were poor and undereducated. They did not think they were leaving much behind, but the truth is they left a lot.
I love the story Nelson tells of the first pair of pants he wore. They were not a brand new pair fresh from the tailor. They were an old pair of his father’s pants. His father cut them off so they would fit, and used a rope around the waist to hold them up. Nelson said it was one of the proudest moments of his life.
Think about what legacy you are leaving your family. What kind of objects are you making to represent it? Do your children know your family’s story? Do you? Remember when you carve out your part of your family history, it does not have to look like someone else’s. Like the African mask, it only represents what you want it to.
to make a moment. How you decide to spend this moment in time, will determine how you remember it. For me, it is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas reminds me that God thought I was so important He came to earth in the form of a baby. The Creator came down to be with the created. He loves an undeserving humanity.
Holidays give us the opportunity to spend time with that humanity, which in most cases look like our family. I know for some this sounds hard, but it will be some of the best time you ever spend. It will give you insight into yourself and your family. In our immediate family, the littles are all teenagers now. Opening presents aren’t near as fun as when they were younger and more excited. We realize time is growing short with them as they start to leave for college and start their own lives.
My sister started playing games with them so that it would be a chance to connect with them. At first, it was a competition with prizes. These kids are too competitive. We discovered after a rough game of musical chairs, physical contact needed to be limited. This year there were no prizes, but the trash talk was still as powerful as an old school game of spades because the competition was part of their DNA.
We laughed and played for hours. (And of course, I videoed some of the best moments) Our kids will have memories of a time when we were all together focused on the same thing and remembering it brought joy and laughter. They may not remember the presents or the food. They will remember the fun.
My crazy sister decided to try it with the extended family. (I thought she was nuts) I was thoroughly surprised when the older members of the family did it. We taught the games, they, of course, changed them some to adapt to them. It was a blast. Again, the joy and the laughter is what we are going to remember. (And my favorite memory will be when my aunt excused herself for a moment, my sister traded her to the other team. But because she is OUR aunt, she played for whatever team felt like. Sometimes she played for my sister’s team. Sometimes she played for the other team. It was great.)
Here is where the opportunity comes in. You can do what you always do when you get together with family or you can break old habits and experience new things together. Playing games with the young and the old was such a crazy experience. I would have never thought of it myself, but I was willing to listen to others.
Go into 2019 with great memories of your family and friends. Spend time with each other and enjoy the world around you.
It is still my favorite time of the year. I love what it stands for and what it does for other people. I love the season where people shop for each other and try to come up with gifts that are better than the last ones. It is a season filled with music and lights and lots of parties.
I am always reminded of the greatest gift given, Jesus. The current sermon series at my church reminds us of the awestruck power of this whole thing. A powerful God so in love with his creation, he came to save them. He humbled himself and became like us. I don’t think we will ever understand the greatness of this gift.
And one of the great things I heard the other day that has stuck to my heart: we are on the sunset of this ride so it is time we pour into the younger generation. I believe it is important for 2019 to take a good look at where you are and what you have to offer the younger generation.
God has given us great gifts. We need to share them and help the folks coming along behind us. In 2019 let’s resolve to make someone else’s life better because we poured into them.
I wish you the Merriest of Christmas’.