I celebrated my 29th year of life in one of my favorite cities with some of my favorite people.
My plane landed at LaGuardia on the morning of my birthday, October 19th. Sara picked me up from the airport, at the wrong island, of course, but isn’t that normal when you fly into airports and your friends promised to be on time? It never fails; the text conversation goes something like this:
I just landed
Okay, I’m on my way
Did you check bags?
Okay, good because I’m 30 minutes away
I told you when I was landing
I know, I figured you had bags
Deplanes – walks to get bag – gets bag
I got my bags
I’m 20 minutes away
Angry Face, Fist, Angry Face, Fist
Waits outside for 10 more minutes
I’m pulling up
You’re at terminal 2 right?
Okay, I’ll be there in 15 minutes
However, this was not the conversation with Sara and I because she is prompt, a planner and always so happy – just like I remember her in college. Our first stop was to get birthday cupcakes and then she asked me have I ever had roti before? I looked at her and said she was pronouncing it wrong. After a 10-minute dialogue/argument on how to correctly pronounce the Indian/South American tortilla, we arrived at the cupcake shop, and a few minutes later, the roti shop.
My birthday was off to a great start, and the subsequent food coma was a perfect mid-day treat. A few hours later, Sara’s husband, my fraternity brother and fellow Saginawian came home, and the festivities officially began. The next few days were full of exploration, reminiscing, visioneering, laughter and great times with good people all over Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Eventually, we made our way to my cousin’s, Candaice, birthday celebration in Manhattan. She was born two days after me, and I feel the need to mention that early and often, including now. We had a $60 brunch that included bottomless mimosas that I didn’t drink because I don’t drink, so in return, I ate the most expensive piece of French Toast ever created. It was excellent, however, and being able to celebrate with Candaice was worth it.
Sara accompanied me to brunch because John had to work. After a few pictures, it was time to head back to Brooklyn to link up with John. While we were walking to catch the train, my other cousin, Jillisa, caught us outside and told us that someone could give us a ride back to Brooklyn, which we politely declined. Why? Firstly, the train would have been faster. Next, we barely knew the couple that was going to shuttle us back to Crown Heights. Finally, we didn’t want to be kidnapped.
Still apprehensive, we fake-smiled and accepted the invitation after we were reassured that they give strangers rides to Brooklyn all the time. It was just like Uber! Sara and I looked at each other, walked behind the pair and hopped in the backseat; but just before we got in the car, the young lady proclaimed, I heard about you, Shell. Puzzled, I asked what did you hear? They are lying. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, that you have a close relationship with God and you’re not the same as you were a few years ago. I smiled and realized that this was the car that I was supposed to be in. This fortuitous encounter would prove to be mutually beneficial.
We pulled off, and the conversation from outside continued. I began to explain my beliefs about Jesus. It was my opinion that:
The world overcomplicates what a relationship with God should be instead of accepting that a perfect God freely gives perfect love to imperfect people
o No matter what their imperfections may be
His grace is a gift, and as our relationship grows with God then our behaviors should more closely align with God’s will for our lives
o Things of the world will appeal to us less
However, it is a process, and it does not happen overnight
o We will fail, make mistakes and learn, and that process will repeat itself 7 times 77 times over
o Jesus said you get 539 mistakes thing, not me; and he understands your struggles because he freely chose to live our lives, suffer our sufferings, be tempted by our temptations, and through it remain faithful to his mission
He was sinless, yet seemingly always surrounded by sinners because, it is my opinion, he knew the value of modeling the behavior he expected of his followers
o Sometimes, that meant going right to their front door, and not only knocking, but going inside and hanging out for a while
That’s the Jesus I knew and the Jesus I aspired to shape my actions after
After I had finished my 20-minute dissertation, we had made it about two blocks, and I thought to myself we should have taken the train.
She then told me about her walk and the changes that she had experienced in her life. She was very intentional in her path and actions. I admired that because sometimes it seems that I just let the tide take me where it takes me, and I end up in random backseats.
I knew I needed to hear her words. I needed to be more intentional about my gifts. I needed to be more intentional about my writing, speaking and love for people. I needed to be more intentional about letting people in my backseat, figuratively. It was a great conversation!
As we pulled up to Sara’s apartment, the young lady’s boyfriend asked me, do I still get tempted. I laughed and said the short answer is yes, and the long answer is yes, that doesn’t stop, but the closer we get to Christ the stronger we get, but the temptations never cease. They probably get worse. Sara and I exited the car; we looked at each other and exclaimed that was supposed to happen.
I’m glad we didn’t take the train.
All in all, it was a great start to my 29th year of life, and I am happy that I spent it with my favorite people because isn’t that what life is about? Relationships, love and food. Perfect.
John Ketchum in front of Luke Cage’s Pop’s Barbershop