Home > Uncategorized > church of uber – ADRIAN

church of uber – ADRIAN

Saturday mornings are always interesting in Uber world. You really never know what you’re going to get at 4:00 a.m. Walks of shame are common, sleepy and/or drunk are equally normal, and hyper excited vacationers heading to Hawaii or the Caribbean are also a regular occurrence on Saturday mornings. For whatever reason, not many drive Uber early on the weekend, and I’m always slammed until it’s time to turn off the driver app. Last Saturday was no exception.

I was out the door about 3:55am. After a 10-minute trip to pick up my first ride, I stopped in front of an apartment complex that was poorly lighted. I couldn’t read the numbers on the side of the building, but my app told me that my rider (Adrian) had been notified that I had arrived. I was thinking about her name: Adrian. I’ve only known one Adrian, and she was married to Rocky. So, I was humming the Rocky theme song (getting up for the day), and sitting in the dark.

Suddenly, the back door opened and this blonde ball of fire got into the back seat. “Hi! I’m Adrian.” I turned quickly to take a look at the face with that voice. The southern drawl was unmistakably thick and twangy, with lots of sass. The kid was gorgeous. I later found out she had been out of high school about 2 years. Adrian had blue eyes and platinum blonde hair that was piled in huge mounds of curls and ringlets. Scary beautiful. The skull and crossbones tattoo on her neck was interesting, but I didn’t inquire.

I started right in: “Girl! Where are you from?” Scarlett O’Hara couldn’t have poured the molasses any thicker! “Well, I’ve been traveling some the past couple of years, but I’m from San Augustine, Texas. I still call that home.” I asked, “Did you say San Augustine?” “Yes sir! San Augustine, Texas.” I then asked her if she was a Curly Wolf (school mascot). She screamed in disbelief! “OH MY LORD! How did you know that?” I laughed and replied, “Adrian, it’s a very small world.”

Back when Patti and I could count our relocation moves on the fingers of one hand, I took a coaching/teaching job in San Augustine, Texas. I was chasing a dream to coach with my old head football coach. His hometown and alma mater was in San Augustine. He was back home to serve the place where he had graduated and played sports. Coach A had a son that graduated in my class. I had a lot of father figures in my life at the time, but Coach A was special to me. That year in San Augustine was the last of my teaching and coaching career.

The school song at San Augustine begins with the words, “Deep in the piney woods.” That is an understatement. Parts of East Texas are so thick with trees that you can only see the sun at noon. It was one of those places that could easily have been the inspiration for the movie Deliverance. I can hear the banjos playing even now. I’m sure many things have changed since 1982, but back then, it was a fairly backwards place.

To be honest, I was half listening to Adrian go on about her life in San Augustine, because my mind was sifting through old files and memories from that one year in the piney woods. At the time, I was 25 years old. For the most part, I was posing as a teacher and a coach who secretly hated being stuck in the classroom. My coaching knowledge and style for motivating young men to excel in athletic conquests was shallow and mostly ineffective. Kids usually love their coaches, unless their coaches have lost the vision for why they’re coaching. I did love some of those kids, but I was so young, I can only say that I didn’t have much of a clue about anything going on in my life at that time. Ask Patti and she’ll confirm that I had lost my mojo and excitement concerning teaching and coaching in the public school system.

My ride with Adrian was short and sweet, and I only held to bits and pieces of why she was in the Springs, but her sweet voice and East Texas speak threw me into a whirlwind of memories of that year in San Augustine. I wish I could tell you that in 1982, I was highly offended by the cultural racial norms of deep East Texas. I wasn’t. I was full of pride, certain of my brilliance, uncertain of my voice, and had never remotely considered that white privilege was a real “thing.” It is, and what I witnessed was fairly familiar to what I grew up with, and it never really dawned on me (even at age 25) what kind of hardship the kids on my basketball team suffered while trying to play the sport they loved. I never heard one complaint from any of the multifaceted injustices I witnessed, but the memories are still so alive.

I had only one white kid on my Varsity squad, and he was a move-in from DFW. He was a much better athlete than I had ever been, but I, too, was the only white kid on my high school basketball team at McGregor. My token white kid was a “gamer,” and had everyone’s respect on the team. He had also been the starting quarterback during football season. The boy was all business, yet all of my guys were easy to coach.

By the time basketball season rolled around, Nicole (my eldest daughter) was about a year old. Patti and Nicole would usually ride the team bus when we played out of town. From the time Nicole got on the bus, until we got off at our destination, she was usually hijacked by the players, and sat at the back of the bus with them. They would pass her around like a doll. I was always driving the bus, and I could see in the rearview mirror that whatever those guys were snacking on, she was getting her share of, too. The love in all of that was simply beautiful. When they’d hand her back to her mother, she was usually stuffed to the gills and covered with whatever she had been eating.

San Augustine had been one of the latter high schools in Texas to integrate (or at least that was what I was told when I started work there). Even in 1982, there was separate water fountains in the county courthouse located on the city square. I never entered the doctor’s office in San Augustine, but Patti said there were separate waiting rooms there also. I had grown up with the exact same thing in my hometown, and didn’t really ever question how things were in San Augustine.

There were small towns in Texas that had serious reputations, and very public advertising that discouraged any black or latino family from taking residence of any kind in those communities. Some of those “sundown communities” were within 50 miles of my hometown. Confederate flags flew just below the American flag. Some still fly even now. Where I grew up, it wasn’t that noticeable, but the railroad track that ran through the middle of town was a serious line of demarcation concerning which side of town people lived. As late as 1998, James Byrd, Jr. was brutally murdered by being dragged to death by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, which is only about 45 miles from San Augustine. Although it’s not always manifested before your eyes, you can smell and taste the ignorant hate in certain places in this world. Rohr teaches that “ignorant hate” is the real description of what it means to sin. Think about that long enough, and you’ll probably agree.

There were two chilling memories that my conversation with Adrian brought back to the surface. The first had to do with the amount of fear that black young men had concerning nighttime in that small town. After a basketball game, whether it was out of town or at home, my kids were afraid to walk home from the gym. After every game, I would put them on the bus and make sure each kid got home safely. They would not walk through the white neighborhoods in order to get home. I wished I could say that was disturbing to me at the time. It was not. I noticed it and reacted by trying to get them home safely, but I don’t remember calling out bullshit for having to take them home after dark. Those young men were afraid for good reasons. Absolute BULLSHIT!

I taught a couple of P.E. classes that year. In one of those classes was a young man who I shall call Lawrence. Lawrence was in his senior year but had spent all four years of high school in a resource program. I was told he had authority issues, was a discipline problem, and was barely able to read. Lawrence was a kid, but he was a full-grown man. On Friday’s, I allowed the P.E. class to do whatever they wanted during class. In that school, basketball and baseball was king… not football (strange, but true). All during football season, Lawrence would wear me out: “Can I try out for basketball?” Lawrence had never played organized sports, but he could definitely play the game of basketball. He had Barkley’s body, mouth, and ability to jump into the rafters, but my only concern was his temperament and willingness to operate in a coached system. About a week before tryouts, I caught Lawrence in the hall and told him I’d let him try out, but I wasn’t making any promises about him being on the team. A week later, it was very obvious that Lawrence had the skills to play with anyone, so I brought him into my office and asked him what kind of effort and attitude should I expect? He burst into tears. “No one has ever let me belong to anything.”

The backstory was bad. No dad, mom in jail, grandparents didn’t want him. Lawrence lived with a friend of an aunt, and rode a bike 6 miles to and from school every day. Lawrence hugged me after games, and sometimes in the halls around school. I paid him to mow and rake pine straw around my house. The boy had nothing.

COACH… CAN I GO WITH YOU?

As I mentioned earlier, I left San Augustine and coaching after one year. When the time came for us to move, I hired Lawrence to help me load the Uhaul. It was a Sunday morning, and he showed up pretty hung over. I could smell the cheap wine or whatever it was he’d filled himself with the night before. He was hurting, but he was a beast loading the truck. I gave him a few items out of my closet and some money. Then he grabbed me and said, “Coach, I got a question.” Okay, what is it? “Can I go with you? I won’t be any trouble, and I’ve got to get out of San Augustine.” I don’t remember exactly what I said, other than it was not possible, which sucked big time. I sucked.

That wasn’t the last time a kid asked to move somewhere with Patti and myself, but it might be one of the more painful memories of my early adulthood. Lawrence walked off my lawn crying his eyes out. I was so full of my dreams and aspirations that I couldn’t make space for anyone else’s needs. I know it is normal for a kid in his ‘20s to respond to most of life’s demands in that fashion, but it sits now like a sand-bur in my heart. Full-time ministry was still several years away for me, but obviously… I wasn’t ready. Not even close.

I’ve wondered more than once about Lawrence over the past 38 years. Is he still alive? Is he a good man and a productive citizen? Did he crawl out of his circumstance and rise above his family’s plight? Just like that ten minutes in the car with Adrian, or any ride in my Ubermobile, I had one shot with Lawrence, and then it was over. I’m reluctant to give myself a grade in that entire situation (though it feels like an D-), yet I really hope that what I did give him at the time (some love and respect) made some difference.

Overall, I’m thankful for my ten minutes with Adrian. But in a flash she was out of the car and gone. Maybe right now is more important than we can ever appreciate. Church of Uber has taught me that time and time again. It’s important y’all!

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Speaking of relocation, Patti and I are moving in July to Sundance, WY.  I have been commissioned by the United Methodist Church to pastor two small churches in NE Wyoming. Thank you for your prayers… for us, our family here in Colorado Springs, our church here in Fountain (which we love), and the churches we will be serving in Wyoming!  Ain’t life a trip?!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Lisa Spitzer
    May 10, 2019 at 10:16 am

    This touched me. Your story takes me back to our childhood days in McGregor. I too, remember so much of what you’ve written. How it was all accepted without question. It was truly a different world. While I have some great memories of our hometown, there are also the sad, unfortunate ones of two towns…the one on the west side of the tracks and the other on the east.
    Thank you for this Mike. I wish you and Patti much success in Wyoming.
    ♥️Lisa Spitzer

  2. Matt Snyder
    May 10, 2019 at 10:35 am

    I read every word. Love hearing from you, Mike, and wishing you and Ms. Patti the best of luck in Wyoming!

  3. May 10, 2019 at 11:40 am

    You didn’t suck Mike, do not own that.

    • May 10, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      I appreciate the vote of confidence. Yet, at the time, I seemed to be more than okay with these kinds of injustice issues, mainly because I benefited from an exclusive position of cultural power (male, white, and educated). As I’ve gotten older, I’m not all that interested in exclusive privilege for any reason (whether it be political or spiritual). You’re kind Billy. Love you.

  4. Joy Ingram
    May 10, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    What Matt said… Every word

    • May 10, 2019 at 5:05 pm

      Thank you sweet lady! Much love!

  5. Rene Leus
    May 10, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Mike, this is a wonderful writing. I struggle with the same memories and injustices I witnessed growing up in Arkansas. And the injustice and the injured are still here. I see it everyday of the week. Makes me weary, but also makes me constantly think of what I need to be doing for change. One pastor I listened to said that racial injustice was not this generation’s problem or legacy. But, it IS. It is part of our heritage…..a very ugly part, but a part we have to accept and change. I appreciate this writing so very much. Thank you. And keep me posted on the move to Wyoming. It really sounds exciting.

  6. Katy Kruse
    May 10, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    Wyoming, couldn’t get much further away! Don’t worry, Marcy loves to fly. I know you two will make friends fast and be very happy there. Come see this old lady some time when you come “home!”❤️

  7. Paul Allison
    May 11, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Beautiful as usual.

  8. Justine Dowdy
    May 12, 2019 at 1:18 am

    Thanks for sharing, Papa Mike. Love learning from you.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: