Dying to be born again.

My nephews and I Easter c. 1992

Easter in the  Pioneer Homes, the north Jersey housing project where I grew up, was always a special event.  The Friday and Saturday before were always spent in deep preparation. Bus rides to downtown Newark to find just the right pair of kicks to go with your stiffy Levi jeans. Hair fried to perfection and stacked into the highest level of freeze curls. The right bamboo earrings, the right name belt buckle the right everything was of utmost importance for Sunday’s big reveal.

Sunday morning saw men, women, children, “crews” would filter out of the steel front door of their respective buildings. Ooo’s an Aaa’s were exchanged. Unmitigated shame was felt by the kids whose family wouldn’t (or simply couldn’t) get them anything. Not too much would be seen or heard from these kids that day (unless of course they were flinging dirt at the clothing of the kids with new duds).

Easter Sunday provided a kind of ghetto rebirth.  We guffawed at our means. We were children of plenty in a self-made land of milk and honey. For a day. Monday morning the workers would head back to work, the dealers headed back to the corner, and the children all stood on equal footing again hair styles mussed, clothing soiled and/or torn.

The meaning of Easter, for me, is a world away from the materialistic one I held all those years ago. While I tend to shy away from literal interpretations and guilt ridden declarations that Jesus died for my sins; I do have a great deal of appreciation and respect for what Jesus’ walk meant and try apply the principles of his existence to my life. Jesus’ life (based on what we know about it) was spent reaching out to those no one else would, enduring persecution, and eventually dying for what he believed in. We don’t have to look far for modern-day examples of lives lived this way either (see:

Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Mohandas Gandhi)

The truth is we all die a little for our “sins” everyday. Most of these deaths are tiny suicides consisting of the things we do that go against our well-being. The beauty is we can be re-born at any given time by choosing to do something different. These days I work more on spiffing up my insides that I might die a little less each day. There is much work involved which I’m finding is a hell of a lot more uncomfortable than sitting under a dryer waiting for my doobie to dry as I had a many an Easter Saturday past. The pay off for enduring my growing pains, however is a life truly worth living and increasing respect for myself. Quite an upgrade from the temporary satisfaction of believing I had the dopest a symmetrical do in my hood for one day.

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