Saturday, October 23, 2010
I'm 9 years old. My friend, Ricardo and his family live in a small, four-room shack behind the house next to ours. He's a little older than I am, and bigger and stronger. He's handsome, dark-skinned and has oily black curly hair, white-white teeth and dimples when he smiles. His father sometimes plays in a mariachi band and Ricardo brags that his father comes home with a literal barrel-full of money when he plays. I'm in awe. It never occurs to me that I and my family are much, much better off than Ricardo and his.
Both Ricardo's family and mine are Catholic, but somehow he takes it more seriously than I do. Ricardo indignantly barges through the screen door of his house one day as I'm standing on his rickety wood front porch. "The Beatles say they are more popular than Jesus! They are going to pay for that. God will make them into nothing!" I'm shocked at his anger and don't believe him at first. How could anyone say that? But, like many things I disbelieve at first, Ricardo turns out to be right. I distinctly remember Ricardo's curse when The Beatles break up about 4 years later and again when John Lennon (who actually said it) is murdered in New York.
Behind our house there's a two-story building with two garages below and an apartment above, where my Chinese grandparents live. Behind that is a grass-filled yard with a big shade tree. The apartment building creates a narrow dirt path between it and a chain-link fence right next to Ricardo's house. Between my grandparent's apartment building and my house there's a little yard. We play marbles in that little yard under a pomegranate tree. We run and play down the narrow path between yards. We use chalk and play hop-scotch. We play handball against the garage doors and it makes my father mad because the ball leaves marks on the doors. There's a basketball hoop and I narrate my own prowess as I shoot. I get embarrassed when Natalie, the girl from two doors down, sneaks up and watches and listens and laughs at me.
One day, Ricardo and I are playing marbles. We each have tins full of marbles and, of course, have our favorites. Being older than me, Ricardo is also better at marbles, so he has won more of mine than I have of his. Today, he decides to play with his favorite. I toss mine and miraculously hit his on the fly on the first try. I can't believe my luck and, arms high, I jump for joy! But, when I turn to Ricardo his face is dark. He rushes at me and I instinctively turn and run. I fly down the narrow path with him hard on my heels. I make it to the back yard and just to the shade tree when he catches me. He throws me to the ground and is hitting me. I've never been in a fight before in my life. I try to block his blows and struggle to get up. I don't hit back because I'm not mad at him, but I'm trying to get away from him and he won't let me. Somehow we both get up and somehow I end up on his back with my arms around his neck. He backs up and slams me into the trunk of the big shade tree. I'm so afraid, I think he's going to kill me. He's flailing me around on his back and in desperation, I bite his arm. He yells, I fall off his back and run as fast as I can into my house.
Later, it's dark inside my house. It's summer and hot and I don't have a shirt on. My mother comes home from work. She's angry at me. She's found out about the fight and about me biting Ricardo. She's really mad about the biting. In the dark, I realize she has a leather belt. I see her in silhouette as she raises her hand over her head. My arms instinctively go up and I turn away. She's yelling and hitting my bare back with the belt. I cover my head...
This was re-posted on L.L. Barkat's In, On and Around Mondays on 11.08.10.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I'm 7 years old. I live in a suburb of Los Angeles where the Poor Boys are the Mexican gang that rule the streets. I'm just old enough to be aware of them, but I'm young enough that they don't pay any attention to me. One night, I wake up and I can see blue and red police lights dancing through the darkness across the walls and ceiling of my room. I'm too scared to get up. The next day, I find out that someone had been stabbed on our front lawn.
In the summer, my younger brother and I go to the public pool. For a dollar we get a locker and use of the pool. I climb out of the pool, dripping and shivering and run to the spot where we've thrown our towels. The lifeguard yells at me not to run. I lie face down on the wet, warm concrete with my arms to my side and lay my cheek on the concrete. I adjust the giant diaper pin that holds my locker key. I press my whole body down against the warmth of the concrete. The breeze blows over me as I lay there trembling. My eyes are closed and the sun shows bright red through my eyelids. I smell the chlorine of the pool water as it evaporates off the hot pool deck. I hear the water churning as the other children play. The lifeguard's whistle blows, followed by his yells. Kids are laughing. Wet feet run by. I feel the wet warmth under me and the gritty concrete under my cheek. My sinuses ache from water having been up my nose. My right ear suddenly turns warm and tickles and I can suddenly hear better as the water drains out of it. The sun warms my backside and it feels good.
My friend Ricardo comes and asks if I've heard. No. What? Julian is dead. What? His older brother, Sammy, wouldn't join the Poor Boys. He didn't want to be in the gang. So they killed Julian to teach him a lesson. Nah ahhh. It's true! How did they kill him? They ran him over in their car when he was crossing Figueroa. Ohhh. You lie! I jump back in the pool...
This was re-posted on 11.01.10 at LL Barkat's Seedlings in Stone, In On and Around Mondays
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I get up, I get down
I get up, I get down"
I can be so consistently inconsistent. Sometimes, I'm spiritually on and sometimes not. I can be caring and understanding one day and the very next be completely absent. Yes, I know why. But, I am simply not disciplined enough to get to consistency. It's like drinking a Coke. Everything I know tells me that it's bad for me. Like drinking pure sugar. And carbonated at that. The road to diabetes and kidney stones is paved with empty Coke cans. And yet, every once in a while, I drink (a Coke!).
When confronted with my offensiveness, I get defensive. I want to be understood. I think that I'll be understood if I can just explain myself better. I don't want to give up. I want to be heard. I talk too much. I raise my voice. I feel like I can't get a word in edge-wise. I get frustrated and impatient. Of course, this just makes things worse.
Then, I get confused and non-committal. I don't want to appear weak, but I am, in fact, weak. Weakness isn't very attractive. It's repulsive. It looks...weak. Then I get angry with myself for letting myself get to this place. Self-loathing isn't attractive either. I feel like I'm living Close to the Edge. I get up. I get down. I get up. I get down. I get up. I get down.
"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Lately, my awareness has been heightened to an ugly side of us. Like me, you've probably been hearing news recently about suicides by young people who've been bullied or tormented by others who've passed judgment on them based on appearances or stereotyping. I'm currently reading Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which deals extensively with prejudice towards the hunchback, Quasimodo, and the gypsy, Esmeralda. Finally, I just watched the wonderfully made 2010 HBO production about Temple Grandin, an autistic woman played by Claire Danes, who endures intolerance because of her autism and her gender.
I find myself a little overwhelmed by the ugliness portrayed in these circumstances. I feel the need to examine myself to see if the reason I'm repulsed is that I too carry prejudices, stereotypes and a pre-disposition to judge. God help me, I hope I can minimize this natural tendency.
God knows we are a fickle people. Victor Hugo depicts the Parisians as prejudiced against Quasimodo because he is so ugly. They rumor him to cast satanic spells and generally bring bad luck. The same Parisians are quick to judge Esmeralda for her beauty and being a gypsy. Her having a pet goat assures everyone that she must be a witch. Hugo perfectly captures our prejudices.
But, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a fiction. What happened to Temple Grandin throughout her life is a terrible, yet inspiring, reality. As an autistic child, she did not speak until she was four years old. Her mother resisted the recommendations of the medical community to permanently institutionalize her. Despite the ugly discrimination she suffered due to her autism, and with her mother's encouragement, Temple graduated from Franklin Pierce College, with a bachelor's degree in psychology, earned her master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University and her doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. If her autism was not handicap enough, Temple suffered through belittlement as a woman in the man's world of cattle ranching and slaughter.
Finally, we hear the despicable stories of harassment, ostracizing and bullying of young people because of rumors and prejudice. Can we really be this horrible? Certainly, as Believers, we would say "yes!" about the world around us. But, I'm asking the question, even as Believers, can we also be this horrible? Because I believe that becoming Christlike is a process, not an event, I think we do still have the potential to be prejudiced and judgmental; bullying and applying stereotypes based on appearances.
Ken Nair, in his book, Discovering the Mind of a Woman, points out four male prejudices that he has identified among men towards women (and therefore their wives):
1. Women are impossible to understand!
2. Women are the real problem!
3. Women are inferior to men.
4. Men are supposed to be the boss.
Please read the book to get a better feel for what Ken is trying to point out. In the mean time, if any of these four male prejudices strike your heart in the least, we husbands have an opportunity to model tolerance and non-judgment right in our own homes. That's where we can affect those closest to us and the next generation by our own example.
Monday, October 4, 2010
This last week has been one of unusual weather for us in Southern California. Some amazing cloud formations have presented themselves. I was walking at a ranch in Temecula and the sky was just remarkable. I took some pictures and really felt God-inspired along these lines:
Don't let your eyes be downcast.
Look up and see the majesty of The Creator and His Creation.
Yes, you are but a vapor in time.
So are these clouds, yet look at how they reflect the Light of His Glory.
Sharing this week with Laura Boggess
Friday, October 1, 2010
- Faithful (to God and to his wife. Faithful with his body, eyes and thoughts.)
- Honest (in his relationships as well as his business dealings.)
- Wise (excercising discernment and seeing God in everyone and everything.)
- Understanding (cuts through confusion between right and wrong.)
- Truthful (in spirit as well as speech. Straight and True.)
- Loving (in a self-sacrificial way.)
- Humble (thinking more of others than himself.)
- Protective (of his own, his wife's and children's spirits, time and physical needs.)
- Peaceful and Patient (bringing a spiritual and eternal perspective to his own life and those in his care.)
- Good, Kind and Gentle (bringing the natural tendency to be otherwise under self-control.)
- Thoughtful and Caring (letting his wife and children know he's always thinking about them.)
- Self-aware (being able to know when he has offended those close to him.)
- Courageous (overcoming fear of rejection, abuse and physical harm to do the right thing.)
- Reverent (worshipful, respectful and reliant upon God.)
- Guiding (able to pass on knowledge to help wife and children to spiritual maturity)
- Gracious and Merciful (overlooking the faults of others and following God's lead in forgiving them.)
- Organized (formulates plans and makes decisions based on how they further the plan.)
- Giving (having a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.)
- Encouraging (able to exhort to excel and not discourage.)
- Teachable (not arrogant, knows that there is much to learn.)
- Strong (in his determination to develop the character qualities that define him as a spiritual man.)
This post has been shared with LL Barkat's