I never really claim to be a poet, but I like writing poetry. I love haiku. Its beauty is in its simplicity. A rigid format that nonetheless lets you play within the boundaries.
By Michelle Garren Flye
We once held the Truth,
It squirmed away, leaving just
A bloody remnant.
Better than Justice,
Who left us what we didn’t
Use—her blinded eyes.
What have you become? Twisted
Between sexual harassment and racial discrimination, it sometimes seems as if our nation is tearing itself apart at the seams. I wonder if we stopped and looked at the other person’s point of view if we’d see how these things happen—not planned violence or gangs or murder or anything truly evil, but the moments of passion that humans get carried away by. The moments when our failings all add up and someone suffers for it.
I wrote this story in response to several news stories. It might not be popular among those who think every choice they make is the right one, but try to see our world as Jesus, who—according to every Bible story and every preacher—loves us all, would. (For another Jesus story, you could try Jesus Walked Into Planned Parenthood.)
Jesus Walked Into the Waffle House
By Michelle Garren Flye
On the night of the local prom, Jesus walked into the Waffle House. He didn’t want waffles or pancakes. He smelled the frying bacon and shook his head. Hadn’t His Father warned them about that?
He smiled at the hostess, an older white woman who worked the night shift so she could take care of her daughter’s two fatherless children during the day. The hostess didn’t smile back, but Jesus knew it was because the baby had skipped his nap that afternoon and she was simply too tired to smile. As He walked past her, however, her head lifted and she straightened her shoulders. As if she felt a surge of strength to carry on.
He moved peacefully into the dining room where a trucker sipped coffee and thought about his family at home. His wife was pregnant and her father had just gotten sick. The trucker worried that the stress would be too much for her. Jesus laid a hand on the man’s shoulder. “She’ll be all right.” The trucker looked up and nodded. He had faith but sometimes it was sorely tested.
The waitress was taking a break. Her feet hurt. She’d already worked six hours when the manager asked her to work another shift. But she needed the money. She had tuition to pay and no one to help her. She wanted nothing more than to graduate and really get her life in order.
Jesus leaned on the counter beside her. The manager came over. “There’s some prom kids outside. We’re likely to have a rough couple hours of it.” The manager saw prom kids every year at this time. Sometimes drunk or high—and always rough and rude—they often came to the Waffle House for a late night snack after prom. The very thought of them exhausted him. He shook his head and muttered, “Two a.m.? Those kids should be home.”
Jesus knew he couldn’t stop what was going to happen. He could see it now. The manager’s daughter had been raped once and he felt protective of the young waitress who was just trying to make her life better. When the young black man dressed in his prom tux complained about the food to the waitress, the manager would interfere. The black man, who was still young enough to think every choice he made was the right one, would reply, rude and indignant that he had been challenged. The trucker, still worried about his wife, and the hostess, tired and thinking of her daughter and grandchildren, would call the police at the first signs of trouble, long before anyone could calm down and think about what they were doing.
And when the police arrived, a pissed off cop would see a sobbing young white waitress and an angry black boy surrounded by the patrons and employees of the Waffle House, all arguing. And the cop would direct his own anger—born of years of these kinds of nuisance calls—at the boy. The boy whose grandmother was so proud of him for his last report card, and whose teachers had promised he would do great things. The boy who wanted to go to college and get an engineering degree, but who had made a bad choice by smoking a joint behind the gym at the prom and now felt invincible.
Jesus could only watch as the cop proved he wasn’t.
This is my L.M. Montgomery collection. I’m a fan. I remember the day my mother put the library book Anne of Green Gables in my hand. “You should read this,” She said. “It was one of my favorites when I was a girl.”
I remember thinking something like, Yeah right. I’ll humor her. I wasn’t really an adventurous reader when I was young. I tended to find certain books I loved and read and re-read them. Little Women, the Trixie Belden series, Chronicles of Narnia, Thornton W. Burgess’s series of animal books—those were my jam. Like Frances and her bread and jam (Google it), I knew what I was getting when I read and re-read those books. There were no unpleasant surprises.
Anne was a leap of faith. It took me a day or two to pick it up. I opened that cover with trepidation, not knowing the beauty and magic that awaited me. Nor that reading about her would later lead me to reading about her sister in literature Emily, who had the same “flashes” that I sometimes did—and then I’d realize that I must be a writer like Emily and Anne.
When our local community theater decided to do a play based on Anne of Green Gables, I knew I had to be involved somehow. Fresh off the success of A Christmas Carol (in which I played one of the only non-singing roles of “Woman 3”), I gathered my courage and, for the first time ever, auditioned live for a part in the play. It paid off and I got the part of Mrs. Barry, and now I’m living some of the scenes I once read and dreamed about as the overbearing mother of Anne’s best friend Diana. My favorite has to be the iconic scene in which Diana drinks currant wine by accident and comes home drunk. I also have a wonderful bit where I trade gossip with Mrs. Lynde.
Seeing Matthew and Marilla in living color has been a treat, but most lovely of all has been watching Anne and friends really come to life through the efforts of the talented young actors playing them. Anne is dreamy and creative, Diana is sweet and loyal, Ruby is beautiful and histrionic, Gilbert is earnest and competitive, and all the others of the Avonlea gang are brought to life in true form. Avonlea has already appeared in all its magic to me on that stage, and costumes and set haven’t even been finalized yet!
My dream is that our little theater performance of Anne will bring others to go on adventures with her. Other mothers may put that beautiful book into their dreamy daughters’ hands. “Read this,” they’ll say. And the dutiful daughters will reply, “Sure, Mom. Whatever.”
Today, all over the country at 10 a.m., school children will exercise one of America’s most fundamental rights. In an act of (hopefully) ringing civil disobedience, they will walk out of their classrooms for seventeen minutes in protest of the lack of government action on sensible gun control. In the wake of the Parkland shooting and our national government’s subsequent groveling at the feet of the NRA, students across the nation will seek to make themselves and their opinions heard through this act.
Good for them.
Today of all days I think it is important to remember that civil disobedience has shaped our country in some wonderful ways.
- Without civil disobedience, women would not have the right to vote.
- Without civil disobedience, African Americans would still be enslaved.
- Without civil disobedience, we’d all be paying taxes to Great Britain.
And yet, this week alone, I have seen some horrible reminders that civil disobedience can (and usually is) forced to become militant.
Consider the case of the two Seattle Seahawks football players going to practice who were followed by a woman who screamed at them that they better not kneel during the national anthem because her tax money paid for them to play football. I won’t even address the tax money fallacy or even that she was screaming obscenities at two men who aren’t actually known for kneeling during the national anthem. My problem with this is that they have every right to kneel during the national anthem if they want to and feel the need. Hell, the way things are in our country right now, I have a hard time keeping my knees from buckling during the pledge of allegiance and national anthem rituals I once embraced wholeheartedly.
But worse than that were the comments I read on a local news story about how school systems in our county are dealing with the school walkout. Two school systems issued statements promising to support the students in peaceful protests and to provide safe spaces for them to do so. Comments on the online story ranged from supportive to a some really ugly sentiments like the students were making themselves targets by walking out of the school and one from a parent who said no kid of hers better take part in such a display.
Are today’s young people willing to make their peaceful cause a militant one? Women were imprisoned and beaten for demanding their right to vote—and they kept marching and demanding. In the 1960s, some—not all—African Americans fought back against similar treatment when their peaceful sit-ins and marches were threatened. The Black Panthers were a frightening and militant group who were ready and willing to kill for their cause.
And, possibly the most poignant history lesson of all to every American citizen out there, when throwing tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of British taxes didn’t have the desired effect on the British government, war was the result.
So listen to your children. They aren’t tomorrow’s voices anymore. They are today’s, and you ignore those voices at your own peril.
Today I found out that my favorite teacher passed away. Mr. Goins was 75 years old, and I never told him he was my favorite teacher. He was the first to teach me the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of journalism, the first to encourage me to check my sources and back them up, the first to impress upon me that journalism is facts only—my opinion and my point of view do not matter in true journalism.
Mr. Goins was too kind-hearted to be a journalist, but he was the best of the best at teaching it. He led the little band of would-be journalists who made up our high school newspaper The Broadcaster to multiple awards. In fact, it was while attending a ceremony to receive one of these awards that I first stepped foot into Howell Hall of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And I knew I would go there and get my degree in journalism. And I did.
I’m luckier than most. I managed to finagle my way into the job of editor of The Broadcaster during my senior year and I helped found The Purple Fridge, the literary magazine of our high school, which Mr. Goins also agreed to sponsor. So I worked closely with this gentle soul who guided and advised and helped, but never ordered. He never yelled, though once or twice I think we all saw those bushy eyebrows flare over the gold-rimmed spectacles he wore. And sometimes he’d take those glasses off and rub the tear-drop shaped indentations on his nose very wearily.
I’ll never forget going into The Broadcaster office—Mr. Goins’s classroom—after school to ask him a question and find him, more often than not, kicked back in his chair with his feet up on his desk smoking his pipe. He’d drop his feet to the floor and motion for me to take a seat nearby, puff on his pipe and listen, think, and answer. He was never to busy for a student.
I never thanked him for that. I never told him he inspired me to pursue my writing career or that I still remember his journalism lessons like they are Christmas lights strung along the journey of my writing career, lighting my way. But they are. His lessons live on in my life, and I treasure their light. Thank you, Mr. Goins.