I pondered this as I listened to a Sunday school teacher discuss first, the prophesy of Isiah which told of how the savior would be hated and despised, then of how the 12 year old Jesus went missing, only to be found teaching the rabbis in the temple.
I have often been told, and told others, of how Christ has felt all things and “descended beneath them all” empowering him with unmatched and perfect empathy for all of us. Somehow, before today, this little bit of rote teaching has always painted an image in my mind of some Teflon superhero; able to bear all hardships without any of them sticking. Isiah said he would be hated and despised. In his last days of mortality, one of his chosen twelve sold him to the executioners.
Today I thought of how it feels to be hated or just simply disliked. I have felt that. It hurts. I looked and found no scripture that said the Savior was unaffected by being hated. He has felt all tings and suffered all things, including the loss of friends.
When the young boy Jesus was found in the temple his distressed parents asked why he had treated them thusly. In the past I had always thought his response to them was a bit snarky, “knew ye not I was about my Father’s business?” But that is me thinking, not Him talking. I think of how I have to tell my kids something three or more times before they listen, how they act out to try to get their way, or just be kids. They aren’t perfect, but HE was. His parents were not. I imagine the exchange between Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was more about freaked out adults being somewhat put in place by a patient and devoted child. It was likely something more along the lines of, “why would you waste time looking for me at Mikey’s house or at the candy store? I’m Me. This should have been the first place you looked. You know who I AM, you should have a little more faith.”
It was an exchange between a perfect child and mortal parents. Mortal parents who are surely heads and shoulders better parents than me. How often do I hear snark in others when really I am just a little bit wrong? How often do we lack faith and end up freaking out when things are going to be just fine. How often are we freaking out because we are looking in the wrong places?
But in the end, Mary and Joseph still had to go do the work to go find their child. That child grew up and went about doing good, and people despised him for it. They despised him and he still did the work of dying and rising again. He did the work so that our work would one day be worth it.
I have wondered where or how to start this story for quite some time now. There are so many ways and places but none seem quite right, so I will just go straight forward.
Matt Taylor is about 6’2”, maybe a buck fifty. He is blonde, as is his equally tall and slim wife. He is twenty eight, I did not ask how old his wife is, and the two of them live in Atlanta.
They live in Atlanta because Matt is a sophomore on the Morehouse College basketball team.
If you know of Morehouse this is the place where you do a double take and I answer again, yes, that Morehouse.
Morehouse is a historically Black college, founded in 1867, when little to no educational opportunities were open to African-Americans. Harvard hadn’t graduated any Black students, nor had many other schools for that matter, and with those ivory doors closed a population’s desire for learning and opportunity had to be created elsewhere. That is how schools like Morehouse, Fisk, or Howard began.
It is a story in American lore that in context makes sense, it can be understood, it fits in the times and time-lines.
Matt grew up in Idaho Falls. If you haven’t been there, the place is whiter than the Winter Olympics. After high school Matt got right to work, he never planned on college. It wasn’t that he didn’t care for learning, he just didn’t see the value in it. What he did see value in was basketball.
We didn’t talk about it then, nor do I know for sure, but I don’t think the NBA was in his sights then or even now, but that’s the great thing about basketball; you don’t have to get paid to play it. So he played some ball. At the same time, even without a degree, Matt was smart enough to know it takes money to pay bills so he also got to work. He did all kinds of things, mostly working for himself. At his core, even more than being a ball player, Matt is an entrepreneur.
These two loves are how Matt found himself living out of a suitcase managing and promoting an “And 1” style exhibition basketball team. It was Hot Sauce, High Octane, Sik Wit It, all those video game style players. He went everywhere with the guys, as far as Hong Kong, learning along the way. He picked up a little business sense, some basketball skills, and something else he could have never planned on; perspective. He got to know the guys. At times he found himself couching it at their homes, doing what they did, eating what they ate. They also got to know him.
But you can’t live on someone’s couch, or in a Motel 8 forever, and Matt decided to sit still for a while. He hadn’t lived anywhere more than three months since high school (having also traveled to Argentina as a Mormon missionary), and finally unpacked his bags in Provo Utah. That’s where he met his wife.
Nice story right? So what?
In another part of the country, on another basketball court, is a coach who is wishing his college hoops squad had a little more “maturity”. He finds out about a 27 year old kid who has a lived on his own for years without getting in trouble, can ball, and hadn’t used up any eligibility. Who cares if he is white?
The school didn’t care and even more importantly, Matt didn’t care either. He and the Mrs. headed off to Morehouse.
He’s been there a little over a year now, I found myself in the area, so I took the opportunity meet up with him. We arranged a time and when I asked where on campus to look for him he said, “just ask anybody where the white boy is and they will tell you.” He was only partly joking.
It was obvious right from the start that he loves it there at school, and that he loves to talk. He really, really loves to talk. In fact he talks enough that though I have never sat in a class with him, I am willing to bet that after two sessions White is no longer his defining feature, but rather it is his mouth. Now I share this same condition, both conditions now that I think of it, and I have learned through sad experience that a willingness to speak is dangerous if your mouth isn’t backed up by a brain. He is fine, I am often in trouble. Back to him loving school.
He is not the only White guy on campus, there are seven, but he is the only Mormon. He is probably also the only married sophomore. I was possibly projecting a little but I would think that this would make for a lonely existence, or at least an isolating one, but he never expressed that, he is part of the team. “You don’t make it four years on this campus if your being here has anything to do with your being White… you either make it here and are a brother of Morehouse or you are not, bottom line. We are a family here on campus.” I believe he believes that. As I walked, sat, and talked with him I was listening to a guy who questions everything, has an opinion on most things, and has no fear at all in speaking his mind. He is also a guy who has no question as to whether he belongs at this school. Better yet, and possibly more surprising, is that he not only believes he belongs, but he has also felt welcome. He says his classmates make him feel that he belongs.
I think that is what would surprise most people. It isn’t just that there is a White boy playing ball at a school historically and traditionally meant for Black men, but that the school and Black males at that school welcome the White boy. There is more to the story, and more to the moral of the story than I will get to here, I’m sure Matt will write a book. When he does I will read it and I hope others will read it as well. He is learning things most people don’t ever learn in school but should. He is crossing lines most Americans do not, and so far its working out well.
I’m featured in today’s edition of the Philadelphia Tribune. A little pub never hurt.
The show is open now through Nov 31st in the Fox Art Gallery at Claudia Cohen Hall on Penn’s campus. (249 S. 36th St)
Claudia Cohen Hall
Perhaps I should explain…
These are actually two of the first paintings I ever did outside of high school.I spent all of 1995 and 1996 in Atlanta Georgia as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I left twenty days after my 19th birthday.For two years I did not watch TV, listen to the radio, or date… crazy right?What I did for those two years was walk around and talk to people. We talked to everyone. It’s pretty much all we did. Sometimes we would volunteer at a hospital, or the YWCA, or other community organizations, but mostly we talked. We talked about religion. Religion is personal stuff, one of those things you don’t bring up in polite company. I brought it up with everybody.
Before leaving home I think I knew four black people: Clint, Royce, Karl Malone and Snoop Dog. I only actually met two of them, they were Okay. Loved Karl, thought Snoop was bad (as in not good).Then one day I moved into an apartment on a road called Bankhead Highway in Atlanta’s west side. White people did not go to Bankhead. Black people who had a choice, did not go to Bankhead, cops told me I was stupid for living on Bankhead. One year Freaknik came to Bankhead but that’s another story
These paintings illustrate the beginning of my education. They show a little bit of what I was doing for what would normally be my sophomore and junior years of college.
I’m still learning and you are invited to join me.
Same old story, nuthin new…
Mormon white guy raised in Utah does a Rastafarian themed painting that gets bootlegged in Russia. Heard this one a million times.
… at least I think its Russian.