Wednesday, November 4, 2015
“I want to live my life in such a way that when I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, "aw hell, he's up!” ― Steve Maraboli
In the early seventies, both Karen and I were elementary school teachers in ghetto schools in Los Angeles. Karen taught in the same school for twelve years, but I moved into the mental health field after three years. When we were hired, California law required all teachers to have a degree in an academic field that was not education. They were then required to get a Master’s Degree in Education in order to get their teaching credential. Since both of us already had degrees in Elementary Education, we had three years to get a Master’s Degree in something other than education. I got into a Master’s program in psychology (Marriage, Child, and Family Counseling) at the University of La Verne which was a United Evangelical Brethren school, the denomination with which the Methodist Church merged in 1968 and from whom they added the name “United” to Methodist Church. I loved what I was learning and was a student of Dr. William Glasser who taught what he called “Reality Therapy” and also started a program in L.A. ghetto schools called “Schools Without Failure” and both of our schools were part of that program. After three years of studying with Dr. Glasser and how to work with the mentally ill, I left teaching and began working in mental facilities for the next seven years. But back to my story. While we were still both teaching in all-black schools with mostly black teachers (only three or four out of thirty teachers in each school were white), California switched from report cards to parent-teacher conferences. Back in those days, California led the nation in public education and were always on the cutting edge of the newest modalities and trends. Sadly, some years later, when property taxes were removed as funding for education, the state of the schools in California took a serious nose dive. Again, I digress, back to my story. I was a hippie in those days and wore bell bottomed jeans and yellow glasses to the school every day. I loved my kids and loved teaching. Parent-teacher conferences were something I welcomed because it was rare to get to meet the parents of these ghetto kids, and the kids always did better when their parents were involved. Both Karen and I had to protect our kids when the high schools near us had race riots. We were in a battle zone in more ways than one. One of my students, a young boy who was doing really well in school, told me his dad would be coming for the parent-teacher conference which would be a first because almost all of my students did not have fathers living at home. I was really excited and happy until he told me his father was a Black Panther. The Black Panthers were one on the more violent black groups fighting segregation in those days. My best friend here in Tanzania is a former Black Panther (Pete O’Neal) who has had television shows and books written about him (picture at the right from the seventies—picture from today just below). He’s in his seventies like me and surrounds himself with the orphans he calls “The Leaders of Tomorrow.” He says his life didn’t really begin until he started his orphanage at the age of 67. I don’t think I’ve ever told him this story. Anyway, it was with much dread and apprehension that I sat in my classroom that night and waited for the Black Panther father to appear. When he did show up, he looked like all of my fears thought he would. He was a huge, heavily muscled man with a big afro and mustache. He walked in and sat down across from me. I had all his son’s work out in front of me and started to take him through the usual conference talk. He held up his hand and said, “Don’t!” I stopped talking. He then said, “Boy says you be good. Boy don’t lie. You keep on bein’ good—we be good.” He then got up and left. You know, ever since that night, I have tried my best to “keep on bein’ good” and I hope all those who know me, know that about me. It was a sermon at a time when I was not hearing any sermons, and it turned out to be one of the best sermons I have ever heard. Jesus said pretty much the same thing I found out later. Now, I have been preaching that message for the last thirty years or so. Christ wants us all to “keep on bein’ good” ya’ hear?