Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Lessons I've Learned from "Thugs"

When I first told people in Nashville that we were moving to Memphis, they were quick to warn me of the danger & crime, and even added some scary stories to the mix. So Michael and I decided to live in Cordova - close to Memphis housing prices, but "farther away from Memphis crime." Ha. There are so many things I could say about this, but I'll leave it to another blog post. For the record, I have never felt threatened during our time here in Memphis, and I have learned a lot of lessons about stereotyping and judging people prematurely.

I have been humbled during the last two days by the things I have seen and the lessons I have learned from so called "thugs." I have been taught by my culture that young, black men that wear their pants low and wear do-rags in their hair are bad people and most likely members of a gang. I have been taught to be leary and even fearful of them. Well, they have taught me something completely different.

Last night, Michael and I went out on one of our weekly date nights. We went to a nice Thai restaurant, to the discount movie theater, and then headed over to tcby for some ice cream. We didn't arrive at tcby until around 9:45PM. There was a pizza place next door. As we were getting out of the car, a "thug" came out of the pizza place. If I had been listening to my culture, I would have been "watching my back." But before I had time to register this, this young man humbled me. A white, middle-class woman was walking into the pizza place. She was out of the normal range that manners (at least in the south) would require someone to hold the door for her. In fact, this young man was already out the door and out on the sidewalk. When he saw her approaching, he turned and walked back to the door to open it for her.

Lesson #1: Don't judge by appearance and don't stereotype!

I'll just leave it at that... I think you know where I'm going here. On to lesson 2.

Often, especially in during these hard economic times, I will pass a homeless person on the side of the road while on my way to work. I always feel guilty that I "don't have anything to give them." I will usually say a prayer for them and in this way satisfy my conscience. Besides, I have been taught by my culture that if I give them money, they will just use it on drugs and alcohol. They need to go get a job! This morning on my way to work, I was approaching an intersection. I saw the homeless man with his sign standing on the corner. As I said a prayer and began to divert my eyes, something caught my attention. The car in front of me was stopping. The driver was a young black male wearing a do-rag (another "thug"). He rolled down his window, shook the man's hand, and handed him a wad of cash. Not that it should matter, but the homeless man was a white man, probably in his late 30's.

Lesson #2: Love is not words, but action

So many of us call ourselves Christians, but who are we really? We sit in our expensive church buildings with our middle-class neighbors, feeling comfortable in our pews. We don't drink, we don't cuss, we don't lie. But do we love? Do we obey? We pass homeless people on the side of the road and think we are doing what God wants us to do by not giving them money (to spend on their drugs and booze). But we are not told to decide who deserves our love and generosity. God told one man, to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. This "thug" probably didn't have much himself. But he gave what he had to someone in need, without discretion.

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18

Let's start truly obeying what Jesus says (all of it!!!) and glorifying him by loving (=serving) others, without discretion!!


  1. kristen dianne, i love you and miss you. thanks for this.

  2. Great blog entry, sweets. Verily, I married up. Way up. Thanks for going against the grain- Memphis is not Sodom and Christianity is not about riding the pew. Amen.