Stepping Back In


Stepping Back In

Many of you know that I left Facebook recently. In short, it was because I came dangerously close to becoming one of the people that I believe have hurt this country—the angry, divisive, and intolerant. I almost posted several glaring responses, tearing down the illogical musings of some of my family and friends.

But what purpose would that serve? It would show me to be inconsistent with what I believe: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” -Eph. 4: 29

If I would’ve hit “post,” it would have created walls between me and the people I most need connection with—those that I don’t understand.

You see, I am a teacher, so knowledge and understanding are part of my profession. First, I have to know the subject matter, and second, I have to understand the student so I can assess the needs and engage them with the appropriate learning style. They are the basics for learning and growing together in a classroom. And believe me, I learn every day from my students. Want to know where things have gone wrong with our country? Ask a teacher.


Before you can address knowledge, you have to understand a few things about learning. Taken from psychologist Abraham Maslow, the above illustrates the hierarchy of needs. Simply put, you cannot reach the top of the hierarchy without the proper foundation. If people are lacking clean air to breath, food, water, shelter, sleep etc. (red), they will not have adequate health for employment, family and social ability (orange). Without employment, family and a sense of connection (yellow), they will not be confident enough to respect others, achieve, or become a unique individual with thoughts of their own. So you can forget the purple tip of the triangle-the part our nation’s mottos prescribe with “pursuit of happiness, and liberty and justice for all”- if you have not laid the foundation on which they are built.

This is why legislating morality, acceptance, or compassion just does not work. The foundation has not been built. It’s like teaching one year olds how to jump hurdles. First, they have to have stability in their steps before we can expect them to jump. But steps are what teaching is all about. Teachers break down difficult processes into steps, and create learning adventures that even the forlorn and fearful student are willing to take.

Socrates, the Greek philosopher, had a method of teaching which involved a series of questions to stimulate curiosity. It’s a great way to open discussion and get at the heart of knowledge. So will you take a journey with me? Let’s begin at the beginning and analyze what I call the Pows and Wows of our present national situation. A pow is a blow to the gut, a place where we need improvement. A wow is the place where we are showing growth and vitality.

Since we are called to build each other up, let’s begin at the base—physiological needs. My questions for today are: Are you getting enough sleep, food, water, shelter, clothing, and clean air for growth? If you are not, how is that lack affecting the safety and security of your life? Which of these are your wows? If you are wowing in all of these, take a look at those around you. Could their fears, anger, blame, bitterness and rage be because of a lack of these basics? What can we do to build others up according to their needs as Ephesians describes? Where can we be the instruments for wows instead of pows? Just a simple phone call, encouraging word, or offer of food or childcare can make a difference in someone’s life.

Now, I’m not interested in getting into a political discussion at this time about who deserves what, or who is being taken advantage of. We are not ready for that yet. I believe in the classroom of American life right now, we need some sound teaching in educational psychology (hierarchy of needs) and classroom management (respect, listening, discipline) before we can handle the heavy issues of morality, acceptance and human potential.

So if you will journey with me, I’d like to walk through this hierarchy step by step. I’d like it if you could pose respectful questions and responses, so we can evaluate the pows and wows of our lives and how we can ensure that most of us are reaching our full potential and engaged with meaning and purpose for the greater good. It may take a few weeks, but I’d love to walk and talk with you as we learn from each other’s perspectives. Will you journey with me?

Black and Blue



I’m a mandated reporter, “one who is required by law to report reasonable suspicions of abuse.” As an educator of at risk youth for over 30 years, I’ve seen just about everything with regard to children and abuse. Things that still haunt me at night if I don’t pray through it. I’m here to report another abuse today.

The symptoms: black and blue marks all over the victim. I’ve noticed them before but they were like old wounds. These are very distinct and new. My problem is I don’t know whom to call. I’ve spoken up before, many times, to all the right authorities. But no one will really listen, and nothing gets done. And this child is in danger, real danger.

This child’s name is Liberty. She is beautiful–dark skinned and blue eyed. She has a captivating smile and a heart that loves and helps everyone. That’s what gets her in trouble. She hangs out on the lower edges of society—so she sees a lot of police, caseworkers, and EMT’s.

Her life has not been and easy one. She has seen some pretty grueling things–riots and war, and even her own family pulling triggers on each other.

But Liberty still hopes.
She presumes everyone’s innocence above their guilt.
She gives people second chances, time and time again.
Her teachers and preachers keep telling her she can be anything she wants to be and everyone is equal in America. But she is starting to wonder if it is all a lie.

What if the things you put your hope and security in start to fail you?
What if you can’t trust anything anymore? What if all the systems are broken that you once believed were put in place to protect you? Then what do you do?

What if each day you wake up to find that people are blinded by their own fears, guilt, and shame to notice your cries? You have become black and blue from the blows of hatred, cynicism, greed and poverty.

I, as a mandated reporter, am horrified because I am beginning to see the world that she sees. We have been so busy blaming each other, choosing sides and demonizing the other, that we didn’t hear her screams. We have done the worst thing we can do for her health. We have turned on ourselves. We have beaten each other up until the hatred has festered and oozed on to our children. It has bled into our government, our political candidates. It has infected our school systems, our media, our healthcare systems and even our protective systems.

Now Liberty is in critical condition. What she needs most from us is to join together in solidarity for truth, justice, and peace. She’s in the ambulance now… and now I’m tired of pointing fingers at whom to blame. I just want her well.

We have the power to save her. It’s called prayer, hope love, encouragement, respect, and unity. It really is her only hope.

Let’s come together in a safe space and take time to shout out to the people in blue, who put their lives on the line every day for our safety and security. Let them know you care about their well-being. Pray for them, their safety and the safety of their children.

Pray that they will have the courage to speak out against the brothers in blue that taint their good name. It’s a risky proposition. It hurts to speak up…you could lose your job, your life your means of supporting your children,

But then again…they are all our children…black, red, white, and blue…all deserve respect, honor, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what our country promises…regardless if they follow the same religion, political or sexual persuasion or same color of skin.

But then, we need to shout out to the black men and women in our lives, like my friends who are fellow social workers, teachers and preachers, who honestly are fearful each day for the safety of their husbands and sons on the streets.

When I used to teach teenagers their rights, specifically about how to respectfully refuse a police search of their car, my friends asked if I was trying to get their children killed. Their very words, “You may have that right as a white person, but as a black male, you are putting your life in your hands, refusing a search, no matter how politely you say it.” These are professionals voicing their concerns, not thugs or gang members.

There is true fear in the air, and it is affecting our children, our very precious Liberty.

If we want to do something, we can unify and speak up. We were taught how to do it by Dr. Martin Luther King. He cared that our children were suffering …
their fathers and brothers were being hung from trees because our country was caught in the circus of hate. I’ve lived through that once. And I will do anything in my power to keep us from going down that road again.

America, let’s be honest with ourselves long enough to open our eyes to the racism and demonization that is killing us. The police are not the enemy, nor are the blacks.

What is the enemy is the hate, disrespect, and intolerance for others who don’t look or act like us. Because we have not lived the culture of another, we judge it as wrong. We have scales on our eyes – which are our own biases against other generations, religions, cultures and systems. Whereas once we all held high and waved the flag of diversity proudly, now we separate and create new flags of division– Black, blue, and rainbow colored. There is nothing wrong with those flags. It is good to identify and have a sense of belonging. But not at the cost of being united. Not if waving those flags are killing our children.

But we can change that. We can educate each other. We can listen and open our eyes to our own judgments. We can be the miracles that this world, this country, this generation so desperately needs. How?

Let’s call out hate. Peacefully, though, on our streets, in our churches, in our schools, in our police departments, even in our political campaigns. Let’s face the anger and fear that fuel it, with the peace that passes all understanding, with forgiveness and reconciliation just like the man we claim to follow would do.

Let’s form relationships before judging. Let’s stop the viral Facebook posts and media coverage. Only share that which is unifying. Let’s talk over coffee or a meal. Let’s listen before responding. Check to make sure you have relationships across the lines of age, race, religion or sexuality, so you can see with new eyes. Seek to understand rather than to tear down, all the while refusing to tolerate evil, hatred, and bigotry. Bring back integrity in all aspects of life, by listening to each other, praying for each other and recognizing that we are seeing things from very many cultural perspectives. It’s part of what makes America so special.

If we don’t act soon, this bruising could become a deadly hematoma. Our precious Liberty could die.

I’ve spoken up many times worried about Liberty’s safety, and well-being.

How about you?