You ever wonder why some Native people are mean? I used to wonder why some Native people at church were mean, because I thought God wanted us to be nice to each other. I grew up going to church most days out of the week. My parents took us to a White church for the first half of my childhood. My Dad told us it was to make sure we understood how to interact with White people. Later on, my God parents started a Filipino church that we attended in the second half of my childhood. Those years were filled with adobo, pancit, lumpias, fried bananas, and rice. It was an awesome time, not just because of the nice spread at potlucks, but because my God brother was there too. However, we had a pretty mean children’s church teacher. And despite it being a Filipino church, she was one among several Natives that attended.
Our children’s church teacher was this Native lady, she was Navajo of course, and she was always riding me. Whether it was to stop chewing my gum loudly, sit in my chair, stop talking while she was, etc. She was always on my case about something, and she was always kicking me out. It was interesting because I never got kicked out of the White children’s church. It was only the Brown children’s church. All my White Sunday school teachers were mostly nice to me (although a little condescending). Or at least the White Sunday school teachers in the city, don’t get me started on the White children’s church teachers on the rez.
The most memorable time I got kicked out of children’s church was because I made a butt out of the playdoh ten commandments. Not my first or my last (reference to Bob) time getting kicked out. That older Navajo lady flipped her lid. She yelled, “Leave, now!” She took my yellow ten commandments playdoh and threw it forcefully into the garbage. According to her, Jesus doesn’t like butt references. I always like to think Jesus would have laughed if he was there… I mean, sure we were making the ten commandments that should be held in reverence, but it was out of playdoh. And she threw the ten commandments in the trash, so technically she had the greater offense. But come on’ man, cut a kid a break. And if Jesus is fully human, he would have a butt and he would like butt jokes because a cheerful heart is good medicine.
Now that I’m older, I’m a little more forgiving. In reality, there are mean people from every ethnicity. But I believe part of the reason the Native children’s church teachers I had were mean was because they were acting out their childhoods going through boarding schools or replicating the behavior of White missionaries who evangelized their families. Either way, it’s a good reminder to be patient and compassionate with our Native kids, because they’ll remember. And one day, they may tell a story about you.