By Demarius J. Walker
In honor of my Baptist roots let’s call this a testimony. Yes, testimony, that sounds right. This stream of conscious rambling blogpost is my testimony. A testimony about the grace of God? No, that seems too grand an idea for my current capacity. Maybe this is a testimony about the aliveness of life that Howard Thurman calls us into awareness of? No, my goal here is not that lofty. I’m thinking, I guess, of words written by John O’ Donoghue, “If you live the life you love, you will receive shelter and blessings.” I do think I can testify regarding the truth of that statement.
It was at the Chevron beside the highway on the corner of Pryor Rd. and University Ave. that I came to myself. Can a gas station be Holy? Last week was the second time our little community headed out on the road for a retreat. Last week was the second time we stopped before our trip to get gas at the Chevron or the corner. I recall our first visitation. The Road Fellows had just received our worksite assignments for the year, most of us got our first choices, I did not. I remember being somewhat disappointed. I scampered behind the building to quickly smoke a cigarette before anyone noticed my absence. I recall staring off into the distance at the Nubian Beauty Supply Store childishly grumbling about some game plan I thought I had constructed. And then I recall some chuckling; it took me a second to recognize it as my own. At once, I had come into an awareness of the pettiness of my concerns. At once I had become aware of the magnitude of the Divine. The myriad possibilities opened before me and I resolved to fully embrace the experience that was to come. I jumped in the white van driven by Daniel and we headed to Alabama.
On our second visit things were different. We had been at our worksites for over a month, I was having a fulfilling time at my own. I was no longer a smoker (thank God), Daniel was gone, and this time we were headed to North Carolina. As we pulled in I returned to that moment when the possibilities had opened up before me and a rapid succession of images began to project on the screen of my awareness. I became acutely aware of all the rooms I had been in during the last two months: recreation centers, monasteries, governmental buildings, the emergency room at Grady, conferences at UGA and Tech, town hall meetings in churches. These and many more places raced through my mind and that chuckle was now accompanied by the simple phrase, “Oh the places you will go!”
To fully appreciate this statement in relation to Donoghue context is helpful. In, short, I am the disinherited. What I mean by this is that I have been born into a family lineage that has experienced a consistent series of gross historical injustice. These injustices include violence done to our minds, bodies, and spirits as well the systematic destruction and withholding of all forms of capital that would aid in our actualization. This is all to say, I am a person that this society does not and has not wanted to live. I live in a place that has been designed to prevent me from fully experiencing life. Yet, as I stood on the top of a mountain in a North Carolina retreat center surveying the beauty of God’s Creation, I could not help but recall Kanye West’s line "We wasn't 'pose to make it pass 25 jokes on you, we still alive. So throw yo' hands up in the sky cuz we don't care what people say."
My point is that the system of oppression that snuffs out life somehow misses me on a routine basis. The question is why? A full answer, or at least an attempt, is perhaps beyond my grasp at the moment and certainly beyond the strictures of this testimony. So I will simply say this, I am a young man earnestly seeking God through experiments with Truth and Love and Community and along my journey I have been well feed. Remaining open to the spirit I have had shelter and many blessings. That has to to count for something, right?