Walk this way

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I’m not a world famous novelist or journalist. I’m just a simple person. I love God. I love people, especially those who feel unloved, and I want to be an encourager. I write from the heart. But the last three weeks have been so hard that I haven’t felt like writing anything at all, especially anything good or positive.

I shared my dilemma with my journalism students. We often talk about our personal writing struggles. They suggested I use my writing to work through my frustrations. I want to use my words to bless, not curse.

Then one of them suggested I write about Steven Tyler—a frequent topic in our random media discussions. He’s bad…in kind of a good sort of way.

Okay, I’ll confess. I like Steven Tyler. REALLY like. REALLY, REALLY like.

And so not to alarm my “normal” conservative family members and friends, please allow me to indulge in my infatuation from within an American Idol context. Yes, some of his Aerosmith lyrics are crudely suggestive. And yes, while I am adamant supporter of the First Amendment, I cringe when I think about how Aerosmith pushed for funding for federal funding of an explicit art exhibit in 1992. But let’s stick to this context—American Idol. Other than his occasional bleeps, Mr. Tyler is actually a pretty cool dude on the show.

There are two main reasons why Steven Tyler strikes a chord with me.

(Side note:  Despite what some of you might think, I won’t begin by talking about his hair—although I do like his long hair…and his feathers. It took me a while to believe he was actually wearing feathers, but that’s what they are, actual feathers in the form of hair extensions. Don’t believe me? Check out this salon that specializes in them.)

But I digress. Let’s get back to the point of this blog—two reasons why I like Steven Tyler on American Idol.

THE MINOR

The twinkle in Steven’s eyes suggests he’s a mixture of mischief and spontaneity, which if you know anything about me at all you know this is my kind of person. Steven makes the show more interesting. (Some days it’s all I can do to appear the calm, subdued English teacher. But what fun would life be if I didn’t talk my past a security guard into Fenway Park during the off season or if I didn’t accidentally find myself staring at a shiny badge during the middle of drug sting while searching for boxes for a move to a new apartment–just a couple of stories from previous blogs, I think.)

Steven Tyler doesn’t care what other people think. He wears what he wants to wear, he unleashes a quirky sense of humor the audience may or may not get, and he encourages whomever he pleases. In other words, he doesn’t give into the peer pressure of downing contestants just because Randy thinks they’re pitchy. And despite the gibes of his band mates, he followed the decision to do something “normal” like appear on a mainstream TV show.

THE MAJOR

Despite his outrageous rock n’ roll persona, Steven Taylor exudes compassion. He stole my heart the moment he knelt down beside the wheelchair of Chris Medina’s finance,  kissing and hugging her while reminding her how special she is. I also like the fact that, unlike Simon Cowell, Steven applauds the gospel roots of the contestants rather than showing contempt for their faith. Of course, Steven did grow up singing in a Presbyterian church choir.  He gets it. He has even voiced that he “gets it.” I wonder why he wandered away.

So in the context of American Idol, Steven Tyler is no longer the self-centered rock star with the ego-induced attitude. He appears the kindest and most humble of them all. Of course, Steven Tyler is on stage. He shows us what we want to see. We’re all on stage, aren’t we? Only God knows what’s really inside—good or bad.

I’m a public servant, a teacher. I’m on stage every day. Even when I’m sick with a fever or coping with the death of a loved one, I do my best to give my best performance. I shell out hundreds of dollars each year to equip my classroom or to buy things for a child who needs the help. I come in early and stay late and give away my time to someone else’s children. And not once have I ever raised my voice or said any child was “bad.”

My audience isn’t always so kind. Some of them take the term public servant and interpret it as “whipping boy.” They hurl hateful words at us teachers without regard for what it does to us emotionally. We’re the ones punished—or bullied—when their young princes and princesses don’t “make the grade”—literally now days.

What has all of that got to do with Steven Tyler, you ask?

Not much, really.

But on those days when my heart is too heavy to pour out anything good, on those days when the bullies make me their whipping boy, on those days  when I need a miniature vacation—an escape, I can point my remote to American Idol. I can pretend the American dream really can come true, I can listen to great music, and I can see the twinkle in Steven Tyler’s eye. It’s contagious. Before I know it, I’ve got one in my own.

And when I am heart is so heavy with grief and disappointment, I can do something goofy by writing about ceiling ninjas, pirates, or Steven Tyler. Maybe I can make someone smile—or even myself. Life is mean. We have to fight back if we’re going to help others get out of it alive.

And by alive, I do mean make it to eternity. Fighting back means using words to bless, not curse. Fighting back means trying to find the good in people, even when all they have to show is the bad.

Fighting back means not giving into peer pressure, the kind kids go through when they choose to go on a church retreat instead of a party…or the kind adults go through when they refuse to gossip during prayer meetings when their friends bring up so-called “needs.”

Fighting back means letting go of the ego and, instead, offering compassion. Fighting back means standing up to the bullies out there.

Fighting back also means letting go of the fear of being who God has called you to be. I just hope I don’t develop a taste for locusts and wild honey. But I sure do like Steven Tyler’s hair.

Don’t be surprised if the next time you see me I’m wearing feathers in mine.

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14 thoughts on “Walk this way

  1. Very well said. I am amazed at your brilliant insight and your remarkable way of STILL encouraging me to smile and see things from a different perspective. You still have a way of inspiring me as well. Thank you for this.

  2. This is the type of post that makes me want to shout to the world my stresses and just be who I am suppossed to be. I really can’t, but this just makes me long the more for freedom. 🙂

    • I know. But as writers, we can live out the story the way it should be written through our characters. Hang in there, kiddo. 🙂 Summer is almost here. You’ll have a taste of freedom. First week of May, right? I miss you!

  3. Yep! I really can’t wait. So many papers…*shivers*

    I miss you, too! I have to remember to send you the two issues of my college paper. We started it this semester. The advisor is really impressed with my writing 😛 (I’m the only one who has experience)

  4. I hear your heart in this post Tee and I just want to give you a big hug! I don’t watch American Idol. A very beloved young lady (Lisa Luekner) sings in our church. She has a beautiful voice and the slightest spiritual sensitivity would witness to the way this girl loves the Lord. She was on American Idol some years ago and *almost* won. Simon reportedly told her she was “too fat” to be an Idol.
    Re: Having folks take stuff out on you – How well I can relate to this. I was an RN at a county jail. You can imagine the abuses that can go on. Surprisingly, many of them were from the staff because of me showing compassion to some of the inmates. For me, it’s par for the course to use my wit to hurt and reply back with cutting things. That is my challenge.
    I’m so grateful for teachers. I really feel in this day and age you have to be part angel/ part warrior. I know there is a Christian song with the lyrics “The Warrior is a Child” but the singer escapes me at the moment.
    Thank you so much for posting and sharing your life with so many. You touch so many people.

  5. Kuby, thank you for taking the time to send this message. It means a lot. People don’t realize just how destructive words can be. I once had some kids in class who were taunting a special needs student of mine to act out. The boy thought he was in “the in crowd” by gaining their approval. Actually, they would laugh at him behind his back. This happened many, many years ago. When I found out, I was angry. I guess my passion is to stand up for the underdog. I like American Idol this year because I have seen so much kindness, so much compassion from the judges. As silly as it sounds,just watching makes me want to cheer on my students as if they were about to become American Idols too. In some ways, they are. Kuby, you are precious. Keep loving people. You do make a difference!

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