Sermon On the Mount of Old Hickory: The Teenagers at the Streets of Indian Lake

I’m an artist, a mother, and a superhero. Joseph lives with me in Nashville. Joseph wears a cape. I’ll chronicle his upbringing. I will teach the world how to raise a very fine boy. A very good man. I can do that. He is of me. I am his mother. Thanks for reading my story. Come back every Tuesday morning at 6am. That is when I will post something new. I will make art, especially when the world is scary. That is what artists are supposed to do. 

Welcome to my Church. I’m very glad you came.

It’s mid-November, and Tennessee is just now starting to feel like fall. There’s something renewing for me about the changing of seasons. Perhaps I just get sick of the same old, daily routine. I tire of the familiarity that had once felt nostalgic at the beginning of summer. I welcome back cozy, over-sized sweaters and my favorite jeans.

The fire crackles softly beside me, cutting into the night with brilliant shades of flickering orange and red. The hum of the parkway can be heard off in the distance, and night-sounds fill up all the spaces in between.

Even in darkness, there is light.

I love this town. Hendersonville is just twenty minutes into Nashville—without the misfortune of traffic—and boasts the best community parks and natural areas around Nashville. We have Old Hickory Lake, and the water breathes life here.

I can feel the earth moving beneath my feet.

Something pristine is happening here. Almost Christlike. It’s not yet been born, but it has potential. The ability to grow.

Plant the Seeds

Watch them Grow

Last night wasn’t easy. My husband and I have decided to part ways. (You can totally date him. I won’t care. Just don’t inbox me. That sucks. Figure it out for yourself. Like a real woman. He’s a catch. I want him to be happy and successful at the same time. I’m so proud he decided to make himself successful. It means that now I get to be happy. How cool is that! Life is awesome. I’ve never felt more happy, alive, and free. I deserve it. I’m a very good woman and a very good mother. No, I won’t date you. God sustains me.)

It’s not immediate. Please don’t be sorry. There is so much forgiveness, light, and the intricacies of God at play, that we can move forward without fear. We love each other and always will. We made a family together. We share a family. Our children will always feel loved and safe because they are mine. I made them. And they are of God.

I try to see all children that way:

of God.

Sometimes, though, it feels very impossible to see things that way.

to see God in the children, all the children, all over the world

 Do we even see the children?

Instead, do we see our screens? Do they see theirs?

The Screens will be the Downfall of Society

We will lose when we forget to be human

forget to feel

forget to communicate

Sometimes, my emotions can get the best of me. I’m a writer of stories. A word ninja. I’m not a journalist, but I know people. I love people. I love their stories.

I’m an artist.

A writer.

A storyteller.

I am a woman.

I am a mother.

The world needs a mother right now. 

Don’t let them see you break.

When I get overwhelmed, the best thing for me to do is to put everything down, close my eyes, and allow life to move through me. In and out. With every breath. Goodness in. Goodness out. To be alive. (Yoga saved my life.)

Barnes and Noble became my sanctuary last night. I love the comfort of books and knowledge. The idea that, even in a moment of great despair, or moving through feelings of inadequacy, we always have the opportunity to learn something new. To better ourselves. To become our own pile of moldable clay.

I checked out with my books and our new Stranger Things Monopoly game, taking my bags from the young cashier who kept saying, “Cool beans!” I think she said it twenty times during our transaction. She was young. Adorable. She made me smile with her carefree movements and the way she seemed to really love working at Barnes and Noble selling books for way too much money. Most people just look around like it’s a library, then we buy books for cheaper on Amazon. Stupid Amazon. Taking over the world. Taking over our experiences.

human interaction is important

it’s everything

our relationships are everything

As I exited the front doors of the store to circle the side of the building, I tensed when I noticed a group of high school boys who’d been rowdy earlier in the store. I pulled my bags closer to me and took a deep breath. My heart started pounding. There were about six of them. One was white that I can recall. The others were big black boys. Athetic. Full of life and energy. Corkscrew curls on some and ball caps on others. One boy had on a sweatshirt, which said Beech, a local high school in the town of Hendersonville.

My heart quickened as I passed, worried that they may say something. Crack a joke. Even their laughter is big and deep at their age. They’ve evolved already. From little boys to nearly grown men. As I crossed the parking lot with their sounds fading off into the distance, I felt at ease. But why?

I started thinking.

I have a boy.

He’s a baby.

One day he will be big like them.

One day he will not be a baby. He will not be a boy. He will be a teenager. Nearly a full grown man.

Will the women be afraid of him?

I hope not. Joseph is of me. He is my son. I am his mother. He will be a very good boy and a good man. But his voice will be deep and his body will be big. He will be strong. I don’t want him to ever scare women with his manhood. I’ll make sure he won’t ever do that.

I paused in the parking lot, took a deep breath, turned around, and headed back towards that group of boys. I felt ok. Totally at ease.

God was there. I could feel Him all around.

The boys looked alarmed, almost frightened, as I approached.

“Hey, guys!” I said in a friendly manner, such as I always do because I’m a happy kind of person. I love people. I’m very good at loving people.

“Do any of you go to Hendersonville High School?” I asked.

They were baffled.

Scared of me.

Confused.

Afraid.

It made me want to make them feel safe. I’m a mother. I’m good at making people feel safe, especially the children. 

“It’s ok,” I told them. “I’m a mother. I have four children. The oldest three are girls, but I have a baby boy. One day he will be a teenager like each of you.”

They listened attentively and had all quieted down, as if I was a teacher at the front of the room, who was about to teach them a very important lesson.

“Did you guys hear about what happened at Hendersonville High School? I have a daughter who goes there. My oldest. She is a freshman.”

One black boy who was standing up asked, “What school? I don’t live here. I go to Hillboro Comp.”

“Oh, cool!” I said. “That’s in Nashville, right? Do you like it there?”

“Sure,” he said.

“That is wonderful!” I said. “Study hard. Make good grades.”

“OK, I will,” he said.

Another black boy, the one wearing the Beech sweatshirt, asked, “What happened at HHS?”

“There was a field trip. I can’t tell you the details because it doesn’t involve my daughter. It isn’t my place to tell you that. But my daughter did try to stop it. She did the right thing.”

The same boy from Beech looked up towards the movie theater, just ahead of the bench where he was sitting. I looked over to where he was looking. The boy looked frightened. There was a cop waiting there. Patrolling. “Just don’t let the cops see us talking to you,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“They got after us. Said we catcalled a lady walking past us. We didn’t.”

“Well, you know what? Maybe she should have said something to you herself about that. Women don’t like catcalls, but women should be brave. My daughters will be brave. I will teach them that.”

“But we didn’t do it,” he said. “They don’t believe us.”

“I believe you,” I said very sternly. Teacherlike.

“You are just a group of rowdy boys,” I said. “You sound and look just like boys to me. Just how you’re supposed to be.”

“I don’t want to get into trouble,” the black boy with the Beech sweatshirt said. I touched his shoulder gently, like a mother and a friend. I admired the twists in his hair. His ethnicity. The color of his skin. How innocent his eyes looked at that very moment. He’s a man and a boy. He’s all grown, but still very much a child.

“Don’t worry about that,” I said. “I think you’re good boys. I’ll stand up for you. As long as you’re good boys.” I scanned all of their eyes. They looked at ease.

“Thank you,” the boy with the beautiful twists in his hair said, and he audibly let all of the breath escape from his chest. (Let the children breathe. Listen to them breathe.) 

“We aren’t doing nothing wrong,” one of the black boys said.

“I bet you aren’t. I bet you’re good boys. You seem like good boys. And hey, since you are good boys, can you do me a favor?” I asked.

“Wait,” another boy piped up. “What happened at HHS?”

“I’ll tell you this much because it isn’t my story to tell. There was a field trip. There was a girl. There was vodka. There were students going to other students’ rooms. A girl was sexually assaulted. I don’t know if her parents will press charges, and it’s not up to me to decide those things. If it were my daughter, I would have the boy arrested. I would go to the media. I would make sure her voice was heard. I would love her. I would protect her. I would listen to her breathe. I would empower her.”

The white boy looked dumbfounded. “That’s messed up!” he said. He got rowdy, like boys often do. (God made boys that way.) “That’s not right!” he said.

“No,” I told them. “It isn’t right. I’m the mom of three girls. I have a son. Can you all do me a favor?”

“Yeah!” they said. They were excited, like they were getting a pep talk before heading out on the field before their big game.

“Watch after the girls for me. The ones in your school. Girls are magnificent. They are beautiful. They are full of light. They are exciting. They need boys to watch after them. To make them feel safe. Girls need Knights.”

The white boy piped up. He clapped his hands and said, “I’ll beat those guys asses!” Then he looked at me, and his demeanor changed. I was startled. I think he was scared that he acted too much like a boy.

I pointed directly at him. I became stern, but proud. Like a very good teacher. Like a very good mother. “What is your name?” I asked him.

“Keith,” he said.

“Keith! That is the right thing to do. Protect the girls. That’s what boys are supposed to do. You have good parents. I can tell. You are all good boys. Be good boys. Protect the girls.”

They promised they would.

I believe them.

We said our goodbyes.

The Art of Storytelling

Come back next Tuesday. Let’s pray.

And they all said:

Amen.

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