Friday, December 27, 2013

Thanks for 2013! Video Dedication


  Thank you to everyone who was a part of making my 2013 so amazing. I'm sure 2014 will only get better.

"I've been about you and I'm still about you!"
Much love.

Brandon

When You Don't Like a Christmas Gift…Distinguishing Between Receiving Love & Feeling Love

When you receive a Christmas gift, regardless if you like it or not, you are receiving an act of kindness and love. You are the recipient of love from someone else whose intention is to show care and consideration to your behalf.  

We probably don’t do it as much as we should, but we have to check ourselves when receiving holiday gifts. Our facial expressions, the way we say thanks, all of these require particular attention when we receive something that really wasn’t high on our list or feel useful to our everyday lives.

It makes me think about the difference between what it means to receive love and feel loved.

More often than not, we are consumed with feeling loved. This type of love is important because it’s tailored to meeting our needs and affirms who we are as people. When we feel loved, we don’t question our position with others and develop a sense of safety and stability. So feeling loved is not arbitrary or negatively selfish. What happens though, is that it does have some qualifiers. To love me is to….____________, (fill in the blank), _______________ (verb) and __________________ (example of what it means to love me). It’s sort of conditional in that it puts your needs at the center and asks others to comply. Again this is not bad, but is it the modality of love we should be using at all times, especially around the holidays when gift exchanges occur? How does feeling loved makes others feel, especially when they are trying to love you and you say – NO THANKS!

This past Thanksgiving I had the pleasure of learning the distinction between receiving love and feeling love.

I got into a disagreement with my mother during Thanksgiving, and in that moment, nothing mattered more in the world to me than having her understand my point. She didn’t have to agree with me, but I deeply needed her to understand my point of view, affirm it, and acknowledge that it had merit but that she disagreed.  She didn’t do that and I became very irate and out of character. It wasn’t pretty.  After I calmed down, she kept apologizing and telling me she loved me.

That was nice, but in that space, I wasn’t entirely receiving the love she wanted to give, I wanted to FEEL LOVED  on my own terms by being understood and affirmed. I realized in that moment, a BIG PART of making me feel loved, is to understand and affirm me.

I had to make a choice once I realized that my Mom wasn’t going to understand or affirm me. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to…that’s not how she was showing me love. I had to set my MAKE ME FEEL LOVED card down and just receive the gracious love that she was giving me. And by all means, it was great, because after showing out in embarrassing ways that could be shameful and guilt-ridden, she forgave me, did not judge me and loved me (along with rest of my family).
  
Receiving love from others you trust requires selflessness and more compassion from the human spirit. It sets aside one’s desires and is gracious enough to receive love. It’s not judgmental of “this isn’t good enough for me”  or “this won’t meet my needs”.  Now again, we shouldn’t run with scissors in receiving  any old type of love either.  If someone you trust is consistently loving you in ways that don’t leave you feeling loved, then there is an important conversation and a set of actions that need to happen. However if someone you trust misses the “I feel loved in this moment” card, but you know that they are showing you love in the best way they know how, it could be nice to love them back and receive it.

A gift receipt! Isn't that clever! 
Cause think about it…how do you feel when you give someone a gift and they don’t like it or use it? It could hurt your feelings because they rejected the love you were giving.

It’s just like Christmas. Sometimes we get gifts that make us feel loved and meet our needs. Other times we get gifts and we need to receive them in the spirit in which they were given. Receiving love from someone we trust deepens the love we have with that person, and in turn can make them feel loved.


My final thoughts…whoever thought of gift receipts is genius! The happy medium between feeling loved and receiving love lies in the space between accepting an act of kindness and translating that kindness into ways that can meet your needs. I prefer to give and receive gift receipts anytime I’m gifting.

Metamorphosis in America pt II: Need for Structure

When I started this series I was frustrated and perhaps even long-winded about the general lackadaisical attitude of people regarding racial inequities and gun violence in low-income urban communities.  And as I’m typing this, I’m listening to the counter thoughts of my readers who are thinking, “yea Brandon…so have a lot of people before you.” And they’re justified to think that. I’m not trying to insert myself as another intelligent observer who is ranting and preaching to the converted. I’m more of an unexpert and I’m really trying to understand and gain knowledge about what sorts of things are contributing to the problems in this community, and then offering any type of solution that’s possible.

Fast forward (well actually rewind) to a conversation my immediate family had with my aunt, two elder male cousins and my friend Daniel on Christmas night.

We were discussing the scarcity of structures in black families, neighborhoods, schools and yes….even the gangs which meander through our streets and communities.

Some black churches of today
 focus their structure on means
to prosperity and materials, 
Black churches were organized community
structures during the Civil Rights Movement
and played a key role in voter registration.
During times of distress for blacks living in the 1940’s – 60’s there were organized structures that focused on healing the lamented hearts and souls of their oppressed brother. The black church was an epicenter and place of refuge, and often did not remain silent in the face of social injustice.  Generally speaking, and please note that I’m saying GENERALLY SPEAKING, most black churches today have shifted their focus from being an organized group that does outreach and advocates for their communities, but rather have become insular buildings that give motivational how-to-steps about how to use God’s Word to get the things you want in life…some are particularly savvy in applying this to money, a spouse, and material possessions.  We need more churches whose structure includes a social justice lens and have organized systems of uplifting the communities.

  
 The black family structure is also flailing and needs to be revitalized. I don’t mean in the sense that every black family has to have two parents, etc. While those are ideal, I’m simply addressing time  and sharing that is reserved as a priority to  create a communal/familial presence within nuclear and extended families. If I were to have 20 houses in a black community turn on their lights and open their windows for me to see what was happening, I wonder what the percentage would be of those who are spending time together and supporting one another in healthy ways. Unfortunately what is prevalent amongst some black families is the imbalance of berating ex-spouses or children, and/or people who are so busy with their personal lives and social media that they lack deep or meaningful interactions with one another.  While there are a host of issues that sometimes keep families from healing and operating as a united support structure for one another, there is always THERAPY! But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.


When discussing the gun violence and reckless crimes that are plaguing the streets of Chicago, there is usually some type of gang affiliation. A lack of structure to the gang  culture is somewhat at work when discussing the gun violence and gang wars. When gangs were actually organized with leadership and clear turfs, there was not the influx of innocent bystanders victims and fluidity to the boundary lines of rival gang territory. What has happened now since so many of the gang leaders are getting locked up is that gang members don’t have a consistent leadership and are constantly shifting and adapting to what they can acquire and claim as their own. There is a by-any-means-necessary approach to the claiming of turf. I’m not advocating that gang leaders need to be released from prison, simply addressing the pattern of chaotic outcomes and its connection to lack of structure.

If a metamorphosis is going to happen in the black community, there need to be more organized structures across the families, churches, schools, and communal organizations. This is not to criticize or discount the work of the organized structures that exist. Blacks would not have many of the successes they have now without the sustainability of many wonderful organized structures. In order to continue and uplift the marginalized black brother and sister who’s lives resemble anarchy,  blacks (and those who care to advocate on marginalized blacks’ behalf) need to be creative about developing new systems of structures which will meet the needs of the ever shifting dynamics in black communities.