CALLING OUT THE SAINTS

CALLING OUT THE ONES TO BE SET APART (HOLY) AND READY TO DO GOD’S WILL

* Scripture Reading: Romans 12: 1 -2

* Book of Rules [R.L. Sharpe’s poem, adapted to Reggae hit song by the Heptones]

We are calling out common people like you and me to be builders for eternity. Each of us is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mask and a book of rules … [song refrain] 

  • Each is given a bag of tools ...The Bag of tools is given to build up the church. Ephesians 4: 11, 12 . He gave some to be … Pastors … to equip the saints . The tools for the work of ministry are worship, prayer, study, evangelism, fellowship and outreach … God also gave us tools for spiritual warfare to defend our MINISTRY work. Ephesians 6: 14 – 18, Put on the whole armor of God …
  • A shapeless mask ... Each generation must, out of relative obscurity (uncertainty) search for its vision, find it, and fulfill it, or betray it … God works in the confusion and nothingness of our life … Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary [lyrics]
  • A book of rules …. Wesleyan Quadilateral … the rules are in scriptures, tradition, reason and personal experience …These four elements taken together bring the individual Christian to spiritual maturity and fulfillment … to the full measure of Christ.

* Calling out the saints 

We are calling common people like you and me to do uncommon things.

  • Come out of Hiding ..Some are hiding in the dark, but we must beware of the strange things that grow in dark … Come as you are, struggling with your issues, bound up and tied down, downpressed and depressed, shackled by a heavy load … Shackled by a heavy burden [song lyrics]
  • Don’t delay, just do it. …Now is the acceptable time … Don’t wait … Whenever God calls for you, run to the altar to receive your blessing. God is an ever present help in times of trouble.
  • Remove the block ..Systems of denial, defense mechanisms … False Pride: What would the neighbor’s think … Minimization: I only do it on weekends … Anger: Besides, it is none of your business … Rationalization / Blame: If my wife or husband treated me better, I wouldn’t be in this mess…. Compliance: Okay, I have a problem, but I guess this is just the way I am … [secretly says] I’ll do what you say but I’m not changing]

CONCLUSION: CALLING OUT ALL SAINTS

* 1 John 3: 1 – 2 

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God …

* Revelation 7: 9-1 

I looked, and behold, a great multitude … Salvation belongs to our God.

* WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN [song lyrics

PREVENTING MINISTRY FAILURE [OUTLINE]

* INTRODUCTION
WHY PREVENTING MINISTRY FAILURE IS SO IMPORTANT

* FOUNDATION STONE 1
INTIMACY
: CONNECTING TO THE HEART OF SUCCESSFUL PASTORING

* FOUNDATION STONE 2 
CALLING
: THE POWER FOR EFFECTIVENESS IN MINISTRY

* FOUNDATION STONE 3
STRESS MANAGEMENT
: AVOIDING INEFFECTIVENESS AND BURNOUT

* FOUNDATION STONE 4
BOUNDARIES
: PROTECTING WHAT MATTERS MOST

* FOUNDATION STONE 5
RE-CREATION
: THE FUEL TO RE-ENERGIZE MINISTRY

* FOUNDATION STONE 6
PEOPLE SKILLS
: MANAGING OUR MOST VALUABLE RESOURCE

* FOUNDATION STONE 7
LEADERSHIP SKILLS
: SETTING MINISTERS APART FROM THE REST

WOMAN DOCTOR OR JUST DOCTOR?

There was a serious car accident with father and son in one vehicle. Dad was pronounced dead by the paramedics, son was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
The surgeon looked down at the boy, in shock, and shouted – that’s my son.
Who is the surgeon?

During a graduate class at Florida Atlantic University the professor posed this puzzle. It got me going for a moment. Dad was dead yet the surgeon said, “My son.” It did not immediately come to mind that the surgeon was the injured child’s mother.

In that period of time, one would reasonably expect everyone to use the distinguishing term, woman surgeon. Such were the paradigms back in the day. Certain occupations were gender assigned and exceptions required a designation, even the polar opposite classification  male nurse. 

I found an extreme example for us to explore for a moment. Still standing in a South Florida town is this sign bearing a physician’s name on her office building: Mrs.  _______, M.D. This doctor was also a wife, and she saw fit to showcase her Mrs. domestic title. I have never seen a corresponding Mr. _______, M.D. 

Should we continue to qualify occupations by male or female this or that? Are the clarifying tags essential? My opinion, to eliminate them only masks the lack of diversity in those fields where women are blatantly under employed. Persistent  prejudice is evident in historically male dominated professions. Simply eliminating gender adjectives, which describe exceptions to the usual, will not erase the discrimination. 

Taking a tack to prove this point, look at how all African descended people bear the burden of racial addendums in every sphere of social operations. Black judge, black singer, black politician, and on it goes, subtly shouting that white is the norm, therefore European descents do not have to carry an extra word for identification. In America every ethnicity is hyphenated except White. Admittedly, some European descendents, like Irish and Italian were not included with White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) “True Americans” but today, because ethnocencism is distinctly color prejudice, the descendents of these countries are no longer Irish Americans or the like. Today American and White are synonymous. Of course media personalities and politicians who really think before speaking will remember that American citizens include diverse populations. But even though color blindness seems preferable, it only covers up color discrimination. 

In truth, we detest political correctness – on both sides? Can we just speak plain? Probably not, as this would lead to meaningful debate: either confrontation or conversation. Each provokes change – and we hate change. Therefore, pretending keeps our social persona on the surface like a tight lip smile. 

What is underneath and behind our masked comments and countenances? One summer I read about a thousand pages of Alice Walker’s Temple of My Familiar. State your viewpoint please if you see otherwise, but this mystical history found  the origins of male domination in the strong human attitude to covet what you lack – Reproductive Envy. Not able to conceive life, the men sought to control the ones who could, and he did. This seems an odd history – but this  is not HIS story, but HER story.

Men wrote the anthropology. As a man I don’t dare to intuit the missing artifacts, which might prove that gender was always separate but equal. This is beyond the scope of this post, and beyond my capacity to make an intelligent assumption. 

However, it is time for pause. I’ll follow up and come back to this. When?  The next time my mouth utters Female Doctor,  or even Male Nurse, because there is more to the expression. 

THE PEOPLE’S MAYOR

​Lena Rahming. An icon.The people’s Mayor of Boynton Beach. May she rest in peace

Mrs. Lena Rahming-Williams, a renowned community activist and child care advocate in Boynton Beach, died on Feb. 16. 

Affectionately and respectfully referred to as “Ms. Lena,” the Bahamas native was best known for pioneering the Head Start program in Palm Beach County and working for nearly 50 years to provide educational resources to low-income children and families from all ethnicities and cultures, according to friend, Terry Newton. 

“This woman was an icon with Palm Beach County Head Start,” he said. “She was there from the inception and she was involved in child care before.”

In addition to being the director of the Boynton Beach Child Care Center for more than a dozen years, Mrs. Rahming-Williams was a tenacious community activist who was considered the people’s ambassador in Boynton Beach, according to her family. 

“She was a heavyweight. She definitely was a powerhouse,” her niece, Vernita Gates said. “When Lena spoke, everybody had to listen.”

For 25 years, she was the chairwoman of the city of Boynton Beach’s Black Awareness Program. She also headed the Caring Center’s Food Pantry for 30 years. 

Politicians aspiring to office in Palm Beach County knew the wisdom of seeking “Ms. Lena’s” endorsement. She hosted a campaign appearance by former President Bill Clinton on behalf of candidate Barack Obama, during the 2008 election campaign. 

“If there was a need for funding in certain areas she got on the ball,” Gates said. “If she really liked that politician she really got out there with the bullhorn.”

She is survived by her husband of 25 years, Edward Williams; two adult sons, Dwight and Glenn Rahming; and several grandchildren

This is a personal reflection, and from this view point, my focus is her community allegiances, which revealed the woman. Allow me, therefore, to use this lens and snapshot Miss Lena.

Arguably, her number one interest was the City of Boynton Beach,  about 10 miles south of West Palm Beach, Florida. She bragged about over 40 years employment there, working mostly with pre-school children and their families. This was a source of influence – among fellow employees, patrons of the day care facility, and peers in the city – that earned the title of “Peoples Mayor.” She knew Boynton and Boynton knew her – this was her town.

She spread her popularity through the grass roots communities in South Florida, many Bahamian descended. A significant black population of this region share a proud ancestry from the islands, strongly identifying with grand parents who migrated from the sprawling  archipelago, less than 100 miles across the way. Lena spoke in Bahamian colloquialisms, even among VIP friends, not putting on, but maintaining a peculiar linguistic connection with her ethnic group. Instead, the politicians put on that people friendly tone with her, referring to her as Miss Lena, imitating the local people’s respectful salutation. She epitomized Bahamian pride, reminding everyone that she came from a sovereign country and back home her family was influential. 

As moderator of her memorial service, introducing the “As I knew her” portion of the program,  I joked that people had been impressed by her in a variety of ways, and would define her in diverse ways, like the blind man attempting to describe the proverbial elephant. But God forbid we extend that metaphor to the Republican political party’s mascot.  No way! She was a die hard Democrat. Proudly portrayed at her school was a picture of Lena hugging Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primaries before the 2008 Presidential Election. Several officials of the party spoke highly of Lena Rahming during her homegoing service.

She was my friend, this Bahamian born resident of Boynton Beach, a fellow community activist. My older sister was her school mate back in the Bahamas, which covenanted her attitude toward me, a term of endearment, a loyalty to our shared past.

They called that night about the heart attack. Shocking news! She did not seem dead. However, the nephew paced, inside and outside the hospital. Other family silently sat and gazed. I hugged, muttered sympathies, then joined in the muted and meaningless talk. We mimicked the deathly silence.

The last time I saw her alive was at someone else’s memorial. She rode in my car. Lena never drove. It was after a bad accident, and instead of jumping back into the drivers seat as soon as possible, sage advice from friends, this lady decided to become the perennial passenger. Remarkable – a community activist catching rides to and from work, and all over South Florida. That night, our final encounter, we paid respects to a friend who lost her husband. After that it was good night and Lena Rahming walked from my car, opened her front door, waved at me, indicating all was safe at home, and I drove away. 

The City of Boynton Beach memorialized her by changing the name of the Day Care Center. However, this is only symbolic. Miss Lena had been an iconic presence in the City, one that its citizens would long remember, because in their varied  conversations her absence is ever present. Just mention that name, and you will get a story – still fresh even after almost seven years.

GENERATION GAP

The Living Years

Every generation blames the one before. And all of their frustrations come beating on your door. I know that I’m a prisoner to all my Father held so dear. I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears. I just wish I could have told him in the living years.

In my grief, because Daddy had died, this song provided curious relief for our family.  These poetic and profound lyrics, though not popular at the time,  graced the funeral program, and somehow fitted the occasion. 

Another insertion was our family tree, an appendix to the obituary, which juxtaposed genealogy chart and a song about generation gaps. One marked the old landmarks, the other marked new impressions.  The tree summarized years of discussions with Daddy about those who had died before, hours and days listening and questioning.  The song sentimentalized the experience of death when it becomes present and comes home. It became a symbolic melody for us children, caught in the middle, grieving loss and pondering life. Mother been gone over twenty years before,  Father now gone the way of his ancestors, sobered us to the reality. We – now adult orphans, no joke – could only wonder about the path left behind, and the road ahead.

Opening the quarrels

My best memory of being caught up in this dispute between past and present, was a conversation between daddy and his youngest son, grown at that time.  This brother of mine had expressed irritation and outrage that his father worked on menial  carpentry jobs in the homes of white folks, but worse, he also addressed them as “Sir” and “Mister,”  reminiscent of the older segregation and slavery days. This out of order rebuke, son redressing father, caused the oldman to unexpectedly erupt.

You never held a job in your life, and don’t know a thing about making a living. Shut  your damn mouth!

I had no side to take in this altercation, even though, like the other siblings, we all had issues with our father. I knew too little to judge. However, this outburst was really  symptomatic of a deeper wound. It was a  matter that started or ended with a father’s disappointment in his son’s lifestyle, and living arrangements.

With maturity came more lessons about differences in generational value systems. One of those 1970’s Black sitcom aired an episode that climaxed with father and son trading frustrations and attacks, back and forth. The dad worked at airports, shining shoes for travellers; yes, back then airline passengers dressed to travel and shoes had to shine, if you can remember or imagine that time. The son character grew up during the militant 1960’s, the decade of Black Pride. Like my brother, this son was outraged at his father’s boot blacking occupation, ashamed that he made a living kneeling and polishing at the feet of white men. That kind of servitude belonged to yesterday; now it was time to stand up and be a man – I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees. 

The older man exploded. Do you know how far the money in this tip jar has stretched – paid rent, bought grocery, purchased clothes, financed children’s education. Yes son, this old shoe shining shuffling Negro stood up like a man when it came to taking care of his family – which, by the way includes you. Your daddy bent his back, spread his lips and showed his teeth so you could go to the fancy college, and read those crazy books about Africa and communism. What do you know about those foreign people, son. Boy, you got it all wrong …

But fathers we cannot shut it down with your parental declaration to shut us up. Last thing first, we probably know more of Africa than you forgot because the plantation beat that ancestral memory out of our grandparents. You sent us away to learn the white man’s way, but we ran into other people on the path. We learned from them that our world is bigger than we imagined, thus our generation has become inspired to explore its opportunities and possibilities.  Come on Dad, talk to me so you can see, what’s going on.

The other thing, we don’t owe anything to the ones that brought us into this world. I know the older generation loves to preach that bringing us here entitles them to take us out of here. However, children did not sign up for the birth canal, they were born out of the desires of men and women cleaving and clinging to one another. Babies are born out of parental choice, in the truest sense of the term. Infants are the answer to prayers that we cried out during the midnight hours; they are God’s gift through us. That means the parents are assigned to their offspring to nurture God’s creation. You must understand, we take care of the kids, but they don’t belong to us, and they don’t owe us anything.

There is a scene in the movie Guess who’s Coming to Dinner, with another Father-Son confrontation. The Sydney Poitier character, a young black man engaged to a white woman, during the early years of racial integration, he argues his choice to mix marriage with a white woman. His father is horrified. In this instance, the younger man gets the final word. In essence this was his stance  Dad, you see me as a Negro man, but I see myself simply as a man. Now please take care of my mother, and I will take care of my wife and children with all the uncertainties of the future.

Opinionated elders of every era have consistently sounded the alarm about the future, because of the depraved state evident in “their present generation of children.” It seems that since long ago, the youth were going to hell in a handbasket. Please pay attention to the publication dates of the below citations.

“Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day. Increasing urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli … the haste to know and do all ... before its time, the mad rush for sudden wealth and the reckless fashions set by its gilded youth.” – Granville Stanley Hall,  The Psychology of Adolescence. 1904

“A fearful mutitude of untutored savages … the morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly.”
– A rant to the English House of Commons by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, February 28, 1843 

The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced … at the English Court on Friday last … It is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies … to see that it is far indeed removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English.” – Times of London 1816

The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge.” – Rev. Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family. 1790

“I find by sad experience how the Towns and Streets are filled with lewd wicked Children … they have played about the Streets … have been heard to curse and swear and call one another Nick-names, and … what bawdy and filthy Communications proceeds from the mouths of such.” – Robert Russel, A Little Book for Children and Youth, 1695. 

Mutual Respect 

About five years ago, a Pastor advised that the problem  with youth in church is one of respect – the older folk don’t respect the young folk. Wow! 

Look again at the citations above and see how children were demonized and scapegoated in every generation, which evidences the blatant dis-respect to which my clergy friend alluded. 

About twenty five years ago, my Sunday school students were candid. We are just here, they don’t care about what we think or how we feel, they just want us here. This sense of being invisible in a crowd has a deep psychological impact. Akin to this is a personal example: still it is my experience that when I am the lone black person among a group of whites I fear being singled out, noticed for something negative, like perverted perceptions of my complexion. I think got it, children. This is subtle rejection, seen but not heard, recognized but not respected. We must say it loud and clear to those who will hear – See me, I am right here! 

Children and adolescents coming of age, must uniquely  define themselves. The mantle of leadership is upon you. Therefore, be wise like Elisha, the younger prophet, who asked of Elijah, the older sage, a double portion of his anointing. Indeed, this is a just ration for you will be appointed to perform greater works. It is not true that you are leaders of tomorrow; in truth you are leaders of today. Step up while you are in the peak years of physical and intellectual capability. 

The final words of this conversation comes from Kahil Gibran, author of The Prophet. It also opens new dialogue.  Speak to us of children, asks a metaphorical mother, with babe at her bosom. The travelling mystic answered: 

Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


ARE THE CHILDREN WELL? 

A traditional greeting among  the Maasai people of Africa queries, “how are the children?” … The expected response:  “the children are well?” 

Here I am greeting you all – children and adults: How are my children? Please check in, are you all well? Let me know. This is my say so on the matter. 

Give Parents a Choice so Children can have a Chance

During the 1990’s, as Chairman of a Palm Beach County Charter School’s Board, I was privileged to attend several symposiums focused on the educational choice movement. During this period a lady speaker at one of these occasions, explained this Maasai salutation, introducing it as metaphor for the state of childhood development in communities across America. Never had I heard about the greeting.

The decade of the nineties, ended the 20th century, but launched a new generation of children – Millenials! And these symposiums proposed how we might educate them, not with old school methodology, but through educational options – Vouchers, Charter Schools, Alternative Institutions, and the like.

Stay with me, please. We certainly agree that when the children are well, they are well educated. The disagreement is born when different systems of learning are launched and legislated.  Choice became a controversial word. Adherents of traditional public schools opposed the initiative, wary that it was public funding for private schools, and suspecting a subtle return to segregation in education because the advance advocates were mostly white. Proponents said that they should not have to pay twice if they chose to send their child somewhere else; why pay a portion of property taxes for the school district, plus pay private school tuition.

The term FTE  dollars was touted about a lot. This was the Full Time Equivalent funding allocated annually per student for education. Advocates of Choice insisted the money follow each child to whatever school his or her parent decided to enroll  them. As money is always, this was the source of controversy.

Former School Superintendent for Milwaukee, Dr. Howard Fuller, started a movement, Black Alliance for Educational Options  (BAEO), which hosted an annual conference at Marquette University, Milwaukee. This became Mecca for our Charter’s administration and teaching staff. I got most of my education about these issues during these trips.  The group’s slogan – Give Parents a Choice so Children can have a Chanceepitomized a unique dimension of Educational Choice, a Civil Rights perspective. This group hitched the aspirations of poor Black children to the proposals of richer white interest groups. Fuller and followers did not take the popular position of African American leadership in education that opposed Charter schools, instead they joined and built alliances.

Unusual Alliances

Those political alliances led to some strange fellowships. Republican politicians were the leading advocates of this reform. Thus we, in Palm Beach, looked to the right. “As long as we get this wagon going, it doesn’t matter whether a donkey or an elephant did the pulling,” were essentially the words of our schools Principal.

The elephant had more pull, and was reigned and ready. Texas was already on the move because Governor George W. Bush was committed to Charters – and he would become President. We hoped too that his brother Jeb, as Governor of  Florida, would endorse and finance our enterprise in Palm Beach County . I was actively recruited by the Black  Republicans who were committed to portraying new faces for their party. The chair of our advisory board, was the County Chair for Republican party. On the Black hand side, we were Civil Rights Activists and Grass Roots organizers playing Ebony and Ivory, romancing with those who to most People of Color were the sworn adversaries of black progress. Sleeping with the enemy.  I smile at this today, fondly remembering the invitation and complimentary $100 tickets to a Republican Fundraiser, to mingle among the prestigious crust of Palm Beach Island. Guess who’s coming to Dinner.

To me it was not contradictory. Democrats promise to open the door, but will not always let you sit at the table. Republicans say knock at the door, and they will open it for you, but neither are you guaranteed a place at the table.  We are, to face reality, The Help for both partisan groups, entering by the rear to serve, but not to dine and make decisions with power broker guests.  I like what Shirley Chisolm, former presidential candidate and Congresswoman, advised black leaders, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Resourcefulness and volunteerism proved to be our folding seat, because we never got the invite to sit, not even in the kitchen. No surprise. As a people, our ancestors could have told us so. Instead, they had to be creative and persistent. So should we. Follow along, please.

Escaping Poverty 

Our forerunners always knew that education opened the way to a better life, to find employment and wages was the means of escape from poverty. From enslaved Africans learning to read the bible, to contemporary urban children gaining access to computers and new technologies. Black parents continue to desire for their children a chance to be well. And, further, they need a curriculum that best enables them to be well educated.

It means shifting paradigms. Many might not recognize the name, Kwame  Nkrumah, leader of the African Independence Movement in Ghana. Here is his take on education.

“INDEED, EDUCATION CONSISTS NOT ONLY IN THE SUM OF WHAT A MAN KNOWS, OR THE SKILL WITH WHICH HE CAN PUT THIS TO HIS OWN ADVANTAGE …

EDUCATION MUST ALSO BE MEASURED IN TERMS OF THE SOUNDNESS OF HIS JUDGMENT OF PEOPLE AND THINGS, AND IN HIS POWER TO UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE THE NEEDS OF HIS FELLOW MEN, AND TO BE OF SERVICE TO THEM.”

Education as Personal Enlightenment is a suitable pardigm, but to societies emerging  from the darkness and poverty of colonial underdevelopment, it is insufficient.

This is my frame of reference.  It is post WW II, Bahamas. Here are two parents, both with only the bare necessities of learning in reading, writing and arithmetic. They made earnings in the carpentry and seamstress trade, patched together a living for 10 children, and scrapped extra to send the older siblings to high school and college – high achievement back then. My older sisters became certified teachers. The younger siblings, me included, got help from them. Their meager earnings were stretched. They also managed to raise our standard of living. The first automobile in the family was financed by my sister, and was proudly parked in front of the house that Daddy built from foundation. Their wages purchased modern conveniences and new furniture for our “big house.”

Metaphorically, we were building a generational ladder to climb out of impoverished conditions, as each age group matured and matriculated, they added higher rungs. As Nkrumah wrote, education is empowerment to serve and transform families and communities.

Look where God has brought us – from a mighty long way

Can my millenial, post-modern children comprehend what has progressed in just one hundred years? As the world welcomed, with awe, the twenty first century it was my entitled expectation for all of the sons and daughters to attend college. Nothing less. When the 1900’s arrived, think for a minute, what were the desires of our ancestors?

Grandpa George and Grandma Gold, on Mama’s side, lived in a Bahamian Out Island, Acklins,  remote from the capital city of Nassau; fishing and farming were their livelihood. Similarly, my paternal grandparents, Napoleon and Lena survived in the Berry Islands. My father Audley was apprenticed to the carpentry trade in a tourist resort, ran by a philanthropic millionaire woman during the Great Depression  and WW II years. Bahamians remember and bless her for the employment opportunities during those lean times. He met Mama, Abby, after she also migrated to that resort to find work. They dreamed big enough to move into the capital city and to purchase land for a home. The post war years bought construction and tourism to Nassau – good times in those days, despite the limited opportunities due to colonial segregation.

We grew up wearing starched shirts and skirts, school uniforms, singing “God save the Queen.” But, after grass roots reform, we also experienced the lowering of Britain’s flag and the raising of an independent Bahamas flag. Schools were desegrated in my teenage years, the 1960’s. In the 1980’s, as bold as my parents were in moving from the Out Islands to Nassau, I moved my young family to South Florida. Today, these children are Americans. They atttended college, and have left home, meaning South Florida, for other parts of the USA.

Vocation and education have been the impetus that moved my family, in each generation, from Out Islands of Bahamas to cities of the USA.  The children of each era advanced beyond parents in education, employment and enterprise. In my imagination, had someone greeted Grandma Gold in 1914, the year of my mother’s birth,  “How are the children?” She would have replied, “The children are well.” Why? She had already pledged to make a better world for her offspring. In 1937, the year my eldest sister came into the world, Mama would give to the same question, the same answer, for the same reason. Likewise, after my breach birth in 1952, her near death delivery was proof of her goodwill to the children’s future. Because, of their example, I would provide a similar response in 1981, my first child’s birth year. Therefore, in this new millennium, my prayer is that we can echo the sentiments of the customary Maasai greetings.

Let’s conclude. How are our children well – even if they are not really well off. The years working with the Charter School convinced me that education is destined to become the chief resource for overcoming oppression and exploitation, especially toward improving the allotments available to people of color. People can lock knowledge and understanding in their minds, and no one can steal it. However, the training of these children require relevant practices, specific to their conditions. The educational choice movement seemed to be a good option and strategy to achieve those ends. Who knows for sure?

I must leave you with a cautionary note about technology. Remember it is a tool, and we are proving that it can foster both ignorance and education. Those of us who remember newspapers like the Enquirer know that Fake News Is not new. There is no substitute for serious scholarship.  Social media is breeding global friendships, but we still barely know our next door neighbor. The old school still has lessons for emerging generations, as much as older folk need to find bravery to enter a new world. Learning can be revolutionized if we stay connected to both our past – and to our peers.

Frantz Fanon, known best as author of Wretched of the Earth, primarily a psychological profile of colonized personalities – both perpetrators  and victims – issues this challenge. “Each generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”

I am certain of our mission, though some may disagree on methodologies, which is to teach the children well. Let’s agree to keep the visionary and compassionate spirit of the East African Maasai, and be always inquiring of the welfare of the next generation.

 CLOSER THAN YOU THINK

Two young girls I know well lost a grandmother and two grand aunts, in Haiti, during the 2010 earthquake. Think about that. How  many people you know that lost someone in that disaster? For me it was not just a passing international  headline news story… no, this one was close to home.

Heard an interview featuring a male breast cancer survivor. Reality check –  men also suffer from this “female” malady. How many? The man preferred to use numbers rather than percentages – people are not percents. Right! In reality, neither are people numbers; they have names – and families.  Public compassion quickly transforms to personal pain when the victims represent familiar faces. This man’s mother and grandmother suffered breast cancer, it was in the family; therefore, he stayed on his sisters to ensure they got the preventative tests. But, he inherited the disease. This made me think – my mother had breast cancer, which spread to the rest of her body and caused death.  This story is now personal, close to home. I’m a potential victim.

The news of Haiti’s earthquake shocked the world, and revived the spirit of charity among politicians, celebrities, and whoever had  extra dollars for relief efforts. We must do something, said a church leader in Miami, where I served as Pastor. We responded and did what churches  do best  – dinner sale. It helped us to know we helped. Worthy of celebration is this redeeming quality of the human spirit – to respond with sympathy to public crises, for whatever motives.

The earthquake struck in the most populated area of the country. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimated that as many as 3 million people had been affected by the quake. In mid February 2010, the Haitian government reported the death toll to have reached 230,000. Haiti’s population was 9.6 million.

Back then, as I contemplated the headlines, a revelation hit like electricity – and the bulb got bright. My entire life has been experienced on the periphery of the Haitian community.  A late uncle, Mama’s brother, was born to a Haitian mother in Haiti, the result of Granpa George’s extra-marital adventures. Not a time for history, but some of you realize that despite the ethnic tribal rivalries between Bahamians and Haitians, their commonalities trump any actual or imagined differences. Interestingly, the two girls introduced to you in the beginning, share a Bahamian mother and a Haitian father. We all got to know each other in church, a diverse group of island immigrants in South Florida, and to become like family. Emotions flowed and charged within me.  This man, a friend of mine,  lost his mother, and two aunts, during the colossal calamity that shook Haiti – and the world.

Suddenly, it was not the hundreds of thousands who died, or the millions injured and displaced, but my heart went out to three deceased women I never met, and to their relatives who are friends. I realize how this seems, but don’t judge my honesty, okay. Of course, I care about the bleeding crowd but I also care about needing friends. This level of transparency is like confession for me, a self-defined community activist who had unknowingly put the anonymous crowds before family and friends. As a minister, having always ignored the non-biblical axiom, charity begins at home, this is still hauntingly true. Lights are flashing all around –AHAH moment!

But I need to stick with the story line. My neighbors were from Haiti. The guys who landscape my yard were from Haiti. Many people I knew were from the place where horrors were depicted daily on all the TV networks. Yet, the real perspective of what happened came into focus when conversations began with familiar Haitian acquaintances.

What followed is difficult to explain. I’ll try. To my surprise just about everyone, though they all had lost someone or was somehow negatively impacted, downplayed their personal tragedies. It made for awkward conversation. What was left to say? Somehow, the tragedy remained public even though the grief showed in their eyes. We had not been close enough for them to open up the windows of the soul and share the deep sorrow. So close yet so far.

How disconcerting it is when CNN and ABC defines what should be our deep concerns, and how should we care for others. The real dilemma seeps into a personal disappointment because what we today call community and friendships are charades we only act out, guessing but missing the real deal … We are close  together, but closed off from each other. Can we cry together again? Not anymore – our fences have been too well mended. Therefore, we are better off talking about those “poor people” and sending dollars to the Red Cross and “Go fund me” accounts, during the intermissions of daily routines.

Therefore, let me be for real, to the bereaved girls and their father, I expressed half-hearted rather than heart-felt condolences. Ironically, it would have been much different if it was an isolated loss – if the Grammy had died from cancer –  my reaction could have been more authentic. We would have given cards and covered dishes, and money, directly to the family. Go figure!

This seems so contradictory. Here are we in a close-knit religious community, but closed off from each other, not able to embrace the magnitude of this deadly and sudden disruption. We got too close for comfort. What an irony. Pay attention please!

Here’s something interesting. For far too many people these catastrophic events become opportunities for windfall profits. Let’s face it. Whenever the public opens their wallets to give, private opportunists open their hands to receive. Overnight non-profit groups sprung up in the underground world of shady cyber operators, soliciting cash through sympathy.  Even the well respected charity groups using this skeptical concept of “Administrative expenses,” retain a percentage of the public’s goodwill dollars. Further, the resources always end up to middle men, not through them. Corrupt leadership reaps the benefit, and blames “the bottleneck”” for the limited relief to the wider populace.  In other words, it is often the greedy, not the needy, that gain help.

Are you still paying attention? Charitable giving is in part Commercial Enterprise. Yes, it is motivated by altruism, but it is corrupted by selfish greed. It reminds me that Christmas, for the most part, is Retail Marketing at it’s best. But at some point, historically, it was inspired by religion. Therefore, just as we buy gifts and send cards to people we barely know, so do we send checks to aid relief efforts in places we cannot even locate on a map. Why? We are not mean-spirited, and we mean well. We are human beings, which means we are essentially humanitarian.

However, this falls short, despite good intentions. Someone, a minister, wrote that real love gives nothing – or gives everything. Sharing our gifts and resources have purpose – to functionally restore the receiver. Maybe we should withhold that dollar from  addicted street beggars, who will buy alcohol, and, instead, allow them to hit rock bottom, and look upward toward rehabilitation.  On the other hand, should you not go into your savings to secure housing for a struggling homeless family? Give everything possible, commit time and effort to help them get back on their feet again. This is real Charity as cited in the scriptures. A point worth noting:  the older bible versions of the “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13 , says  “Charity is kind …” The newer versions substitute,   “Love is kind …” May I suggest that Charity is love in action.

When I get up close and personal, the eyes of the beggar, and the victims of earthquakes reflect the same horrifying need that we see in our own children when sick or terribly hurt. Instinctively, our hearts want to reach out to those strangers with the same concern we have for immediate family  – but we turn away. We give away the coin change in the ashtray, then we get away, we run away from the haunting reflection of human pain. It is far too close for comfort. That, in my opinion, is why decent people are compelled to send cash to the Red Cross, who will deduct administrative costs, and  will pass out vouchers and  bottled water to the dispossessed mass. Meanwhile each individual soul in the bleeding crowd cries silenty for a needed friend, a kind soul who will help to put back together the fragments. But finding no one that close, who cares that much, they like my neighbors, bow their faces, hide their eyes, say something that means nothing, and walk away to escape behind well mended fences.