Category Archives: what they are teaching me

I don’t know how to tell you

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I don’t know how to tell you
why I’m so concerned about what is happening.
We are are both believers,
but I’m not sure if we thought we are
believing in the same thing.
We are both committed,
but I’m learning that perhaps we are not
committed to the same thing.

I don’t know how to tell you
that my friends are not celebrating.
We are both present day to day with the same news,
but many of my friends are being cursed, abused, or billed.
And many of my other friends,
those friends who look like we do,
are being celebrated, elevated, and paid.

I am trying my best to go back to what I thought we both believed.
I am trying to go back to questions about
the least of these
the stranger among us
the poor in our midsts
the meek
the humble
the generous
the innocent
the poor.

But it seems that while I thought these were the things
that aligned us on the same team,
you were saying,
sometimes threatening,
that these things don’t matter if the rich among us aren’t
privileged
reimbursed
taxed less
paid more
honored even when the poor are at their feet.

I don’t know how to tell you,
but I think we believed in
very different things this whole time.
I thought we agreed
Jesus was standing up for the least of these.

I don’t know how to tell you that perhaps
you call it politics, but I call it obedience;
you say it’s not logical, but I say we weren’t promised logic.

I don’t know how to tell you,
but I think we’ve forgotten—
you and me both—
that we are not the least of these.

They are. 

The “other” is the least of these. 

The other that everyone has become so afraid of.

I think our forgetfulness is costing all of our lives.

I think our forgetfulness is costing all of our souls.

But I don’t know how to tell you this.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

to be there with children

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I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there with children.
Or even a single child.
When I fly I’m aware of everything I’m touching
everything my bag is touching
I’m aware of the food that costs four times what it’s worth.
I’m unsure of timeframes and unsure of connections and unsure of pickups.
But I’ve always been allowed in.
And I’ve always been allowed on.
They went through my bag one time,
me standing there embarrassed because my clothes were
thrown in and wadded-up and others were watching before we boarded the plane.
But I boarded the plane.
And I made it home to my home,
safe, neighbors I know, a language I know, a church I know.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there now with children.
Or even a single child.
After running literally to save your child from
bombs
explosives
machetes
murder
sex-trafficking.
After running for God knows how long
(And believe me in this, God does know how long).
You follow the rules.
You do the paperwork.
You take the tests.
You pass the screenings.
You file everything you can with everyone they tell you to file it with
and then you wait
in a tent, or a classroom, or in hiding,
more than 24 months
104 weeks
730 days
17,545 hours
1,051,900 minutes
with children.
or even a single child
hoping that you’ve done everything you can to save their lives
or your only child’s life.

When my delays are over 45 minutes,
my insides begin erupting.

And then you hit our shores,
passing our lady of liberty promising you welcome as you’ve been
running,
literally,
for your children’s life
or even for your only child’s life.

But then we tell you,
Christian mother
Christian father
Muslim mother
Muslim father
Human mother
Human father
that we don’t understand you
or your children,
or even your only child,
because you aren’t from here.
So in our loud and uninformed anger
we feel better trapping you
and your children,
or even your only child,
in customs in our airport for an indefinite amount of time,
or in your tent, in your classroom, or in hiding,
until the death you’ve been running from
takes your life and the life of your children,
or even the life of your only child.

Pray for us.

Pray that God would shout at us
as we look around our comfortable rooms
at our children,
or even our only child,
and remind us that children, or a single child,
another human in the image of God,
or as Christ has said,
remind us that it is Jesus Christ himself
who remains trapped in the airport tonight,
or in the tent, or in a classroom, or in hiding.
That we have sentenced Christ to death again
from the comfort of our living rooms,
and under the auspices of protecting our own children,
or even our only child.

Pray for us.
We can’t imagine what it must be like
to be there with children,
or even our only child.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the [a]orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
You shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in…
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in…

 

sitting with friends of friends and friends


The world becomes small like a teak table in the backyard garden or the kitchen table with whiskey and ice remains taunting from the bottom of short, stocky glasses. 

The world too becomes expansive like the universe or the waters pushing friends over time zones, or the silence waging war on words desperately needing to be spoken, heard.

Sitting with friends of friends and friends over odds and ends, over last sips of whiskey and belly laughter, possibilities seem reachable and hopes seem connected and frustrations seem reasonable and injustices seem harrowing. 

But it is now shared. 

Shared among strangers strangely connected by that which we do our best sometimes to believe and our best other times to run like hell from. 

That thin and thick moment, then, the world is so small and so expansive and strangers make confidants, and space feels like home no matter where feet have landed. And life pounds maddeningly worthwhile and heartbreaking all in one sharp, softening, shared moment with friends.

One more tiny drink gets poured for everyone.

djordan

Belfast and Banbury

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silence encourages the tormentor

elie-wiesel.we-must-always-take-sides

“Are you German?” he asked as three friends stood beside him; two stood to his left, one to his right.

“No. Of course I’m not,” I answered, realizing as the words came out of my mouth that being a white American to me meant I was only American; I was not German or English or Jewish or Irish or Scottish or Russian or French or Norwegian.

“No. I’m not,” I answered, realizing how blond-haired and blue-eyed I was when the question was asked, and realizing that I felt guilty because the color of my skin and the hue of my eyes and hair about five seconds after the question was thrown into the hallway as we sat waiting on others, now at the end of the Holocaust museum in Israel.

A profe soon rushed him and his buddies out of the museum hallway and through the exit doors moments afterward, I say now with a more red and more sweaty countenance waiting on the roughly eight dudes behind me in my group who were making their way through the horrifyingly real and terrifyingly factual Holocaust museum in Jerusalem over ten years ago. I rub my hands through my blonde, nappy hair.

We left the space soon after.
We ate dinner in New Jerusalem.
I sent a girl two tables over dessert for her birthday through our server who afterward informed me she was engaged “but appreciated the knafeh.”

I’ve gotten so old.

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Elie Wiesel died today.

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If I was reasonably intelligent and generally wise and not from West Tennessee, it would not have required the “Oprah Book Club” stamp several years ago on his book Night for me to have ever heard his name walking through Target looking for Coke Zero and classy toilet-bowl cleaner.

But I’m not reasonably intelligent and generally wise, and I am from West Tennessee, so here I was.

And here I am.

A white American male who has been told both it’s all my fault and also I must protect what I’ve “earned” at all costs. I’m left confused.

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I walked through the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis a few years ago with friends and coworkers from one of my employers and an organization that values my deepest insecurities and deepest hopes.

I wept.

We wept.

We debriefed later that evening, and I could only wonder, “Would I have been that one random white dude standing in a sea of black men and women demanding justice, respect, and equality.” I told our folks at dinner, black and brown and white and pale, “I hope I would be one who stood up against those plowed by horses, intimidated by canes, and hung by ropes in the days of my parents (not my grandparents).

I later learned, driving through Alabama to visit friends, these hangings were in my own day. They were not carefully removed to parents or grandparents; It was the right now.

But I could only hope that I would have been one of those few white folks in the crowd demanding justice, respect, and equality for the “other” in those days.

Those days which are these days.

Elie Wiesel died today.

And I am hoping in my less trustworthy but more important parts that I will lean into Wiesel’s character and spirit and honor.

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It may take me down, but I must stand up for those who are pushed under. I do have blonde hair and blue eyes. I benefitted from both slavery. But I need to answer “no” to the teenagers in the final hallway at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. And I need to answer “no” to my coworker. And I need to answer “no” to the person who checks me in to vote a few months from now where I’m held at ethical gunpoint and asked if I stand for nothing or if I’ll fall for anything.

Rest in peace, after such incredible chaos, brother Wiesel.

I cannot be neutral.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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an open letter to my students

i-also-remember-this

An Open Letter to My Students on the Eve of the Orlando Shooting.

June 12, 2016

Dear Students,

You likely woke up today as I did: late. You may or may not have turned on the news as is my morning wake-up custom, coffee in hand and multiple snoozes later. Within moments it became clear that there was yet another mass shooting while we were sleeping. This morning’s shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. Over 100 dead and injured.

I remember thinking ‘My soon-to-be godson is to be baptized today. My responsibilities seem yet-again larger now.’

I’m late to the service by a few minutes this morning; I know you’re not surprised. I stood too long at the television in my bedroom, clenching the wooden ledge on top of the dresser left in the room by my great, great-aunts who were the unusual of their era; they were highly educated, remarkably fashionable, and unusually independent women from a time where that was not allowed. No doubt they were recipients of both celebration and judgment. The dresser left in the bedroom of this house they used which I now sleep in has new fingernail marks as of this morning, left accidentally as I should have been dressing for a baptismal service but was instead being washed again in the blood of others.

“I also remember this, and wish I did not,” as Didion once said. I remember that I was not surprised.

Yet another killing, this time the largest mass shooting in our states’ history and the largest terrorist attack on US soil since my freshmen year of college when I sat in a lecture hall of Blanchard at Wheaton and watched the towers fall before my eyes.

I remember this morning thinking that I was surprised that morning as an 18-year-old hopeful, but that I am not surprised now as a 32-year-old hopeful. And it is the hopefulness of my better wiring which has been wanting to talk to all of you all day long today, even though you’ve managed to sneak away from me for the summer. I’ve managed to talk to you in one of our random, side conversations all day long in my head regardless. Then I decided that I hope you might hear it.

Many of you value your faith deeply; I do as well. Because of this, those who believe differently from you are owed your love and honor. The faith you claim has told you so; the faith leaders you are bothered by have challenged this. Follow your faith.

Many of you think
public policy,
issues of social policy and social welfare,
wealth and poverty,
emails to your governors and senators and representatives
(unanswered as most of them go…which you will remember),
childhood development and influence,
family structure and complexity,
group norms and roles,
mob mentalities and social capacities,
and research formulas and findings
aren’t connected in any real way
to your deep desire to help those who are in need.

The crimes of today should remind you that these things are all connected.

The language and now law signed in by Governor Bill Haslam in Tennessee that allow therapists to legally hate and discriminate by refusing counseling to those of the LGBTQ community affected by today’s mass shooting is an issue of policy, welfare, wealth and poverty, legislators who listen and those who ignore (and are paid to do so, which you will remember), legislation and its [silent] funders, biological development and its influences, structure, complexity, norms, roles, mob mentalities and social capacities, research and its findings…

This language and this legislation and these legislators and these voices are the authors of the men and women who will come into your offices and onto your caseloads wounded, orphans of those killed by this morning’s violence, orphans of those who had parents who lived lives of silence or submission to a norm, or stood silently in the back of your sanctuaries on mornings like these as you went to church and thought it was a regular Sunday morning.

I felt the need all day long today, now pushing the clock to make it honest, to let you know that I expect the world of you.

I am pretty sure I have told you this. You will be the best.

I expect a whole other kind of world from you. I expect you to wake up on days like today with the news of the moment and the heart of a saint that is both willing to break the rules and willing to break the norms to dig your fingernails into the wooden ledge on top of the dresser and be late for something planned and appropriate because you decided you had to stand up and speak out for something possibly inappropriate because it puts all of our humanity at risk.

So in class, when I hound you and harass you and rap at you and sing at you and yell at you and take points from you and even when I feed you in an effort to buy you, please know this: I do all these things so that some day, some Sunday morning when someone is waking up and committing to go to church and pledge gratefully to be a godfather for a young man or young woman who has not yet learned to distrust the world…

I do all these things so that you will remember that it will never be okay for us to not be surprised at this kind of hateful news that greeted us this morning.

I’m counting on you.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

 

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flipping out the lights

ordinary-evening-header

It may be as much the ordinariness that renders an evening memorable as it is the actual memorability of it.

An evening, a cocktail, an honest confession buried in a ridiculous joke.

Ice cream, a kiddie pool, a new hip hop album with Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, and somebody’s cousin named Nicole.

The fierceness of time pushed days into months at some science-fiction speed only noticed when finally cleaning the car out to discover planning notes for things long accomplished or given up on and fancy chocolate turned a new shade of cloudy.

A list of items to accomplish between the alarm and the sun’s disappearance turned into a scribbles on the back of a take-out menu from another city, also now suggesting passage through a time-warp dumping me out several months later looking around, wondering what happened and where I am.

So it seems likely, then, the ordinariness of the friends on time, and the friends on time in their lateness, that seemed to make the evening memorable.

An attempt at a fancy drink resulting in sticky counters and simple syrup on the shirt now soaking in the laundry with crystals of OxiClean I dug out of the rug where I spilled the entire container.

A pregnant friend making ice cream, testing the water out to determine it’s too cold even for you, and deciding who knew of the artist first.

ordinary-evening

The contrast of time slowed down, now with heavy eyelids a new list of scribbles that daylight tomorrow is supposed to bring, compared to a blur of months upon months where the piles in the car and the piles in the inbox stack up is stark and poignant.

No lesson to be learned. No meaning to be gleaned. Just the reality that an ordinary evening put months of blurred hustle into perspective suddenly while closing the dishwasher, turning off the music, and flipping out the lights.

thurman

djordan
Pine Tree Drive

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in the instant

Life changes in an instant, An ordinary instant, Joan Didion, Quote, New York Times Magazine, Didion, Most Hopeful, Quotes, Life, Change, Donald Jordan

Life changes in the instant.
The ordinary instant.

Joan Didion

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Easter Monday

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Easter Sunday feels both impossible and a little too easy.

To claim impossible things hours upon hours across the globe as the meridian moves in single-hour increments.

Bombs. Easter egg hunts. Incense.

We celebrate ridiculous hope one time zone after another;
That’s what we do on Easter Sunday.

And then comes the Monday after Easter.
Easter Monday.
We return to our jobs
where we are in trouble for questioning the reasoning,
and caught between our ideas of Easter Sunday and bottom-line Friday.
And we make our choices.

And then comes the Monday after Easter.
Easter Monday.
We return to our churches
where we are in trouble for questioning the lessons and the allegiances,
and caught between character and piety and donor-approval.
And we make our choices.

And then comes the Monday after Easter.
Easter Monday.
We return to our neighborhoods
where we are pushed to hate and discriminate for the sake of something…
and caught between partisan and party and allegiance.
And we make our choices.

Easter Sunday is as holy
and easy
and gutless as
Christmas Sunday.

Unless we decide that somehow
ultimately
Easter changes everything.
And the Monday after Easter
is going to make us different
in all the ways
we hoped to secretly stay buried in
the tidiness
of our own racist and pious histories.

But Easter Monday means we crash into our
jobs
and our
churches
and our
neighborhoods
uncomfortably different than we left them.

And once we notice where we are,
we ask ourselves,
What about Easter Tuesday…

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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