52 Weeks of Gratefulness #8 – Jarvis Brinson

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Jarvis Brinson
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Jarvis Brinson

In Week 8 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Jarvis S. Brinson.

I am who I am by the grace of God. As I reflect on my journey, I often find that grace beautifully expressed through the life and influences of others. Jarvis Brinson was such an influence in my life.

When I think of Jarvis, the simple, yet apt description of him would be: he’s just a good guy. Jarvis is and has always been a kind, wholesome, trustworthy human being.

Jarvis was one of my best friends through high school and one of my earliest friends, if not the first friend I had outside of family. Our friendship dates back to elementary school. We grew up in the same neighborhood and his house would be my most frequent destination after school, on weekends and during summers. I remember the grand, elaborate plans we would make for tree houses and forts we were going to build. We spent most of our time planning and discussing our plans. Planning is probably what characterized our friendship the most. We would often walk to and from G.N. Smith Elementary School together, discussing our plans.

One of the things I cherish most about our friendship is that it wasn’t all talk. A product of our mini-mastermind sessions was our both applying to and attending my beloved alma mater, Bailey Magnet High School, an institution that remains unmatched in its impact on my life. I largely have Jarvis to thank for that. He would hold me accountable to act on my plans and I would watch in awe as he’d execute on his.

I’ll never forget Jarvis getting a job over the summer of our 8th and 9th grade years and by 10th grade, this dude had a whole truck. And, it was not just a truck, it was a new truck! I was so impressed and proud of him. He’d sometimes give me a ride to school and would drive with the conscientiousness of a senior citizen. He was meticulous in his observance of road safety and never once did anything to show off. The dude was a freak -a 50 year old in a 15 year old’s body. Well, maybe not a 15 year old’s body. Jarvis always looked mature for his age. Dude had a full mustache and goatee as early as the 6th grade, while I, meanwhile, was trying to fill in the peach fuzz above my lip with my mom’s mascara! About the only give-away that he was a teenager was the music he listened to. I remember the satisfying “thunk” the radio would make when he would insert a tape into it. It was Jarvis that introduced me to genres of music beyond the walled garden of “Kixie 107”. As a preacher’s kid, it was the only secular radio station that was not contraband in my house. His music collection was the first time I encountered “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics”. While Jarvis was buttoned up (or so appeared), his music was not. If there was any rebellious streak to be found, it was in his playlist.

Notwithstanding, Jarvis was the model of maturity. He was rock solid. He was a committed friend that followed through on his promises. He maintained his relationships purposefully and with intentionality. When we graduated and went off to differing colleges, Jarvis would write, yes write, full three and four page letters to stay in touch. In the beginning I would call and once or twice I would visit him but I came to a point in my life where I lost my way. But, Jarvis kept writing even when I did not respond. It is one of my sincerest regrets. I’d like to take this moment to say, “I’m sorry, Jarvis.” I’m sorry for taking your kindness and friendship for granted. I was fortunate to have ever been in your orbit. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate the value of that. I humbly ask that you forgive me.

Yet, even with all the years that have transpired and my having taking the gift of his friendship for granted, I know I can again have a place with him, not because I assume his forgiveness or presume his graciousness, but because that’s just who Jarvis is.

I told a friend a few weeks ago who’s bearing with a wayward family member this: “When you’re dealing with someone who is lost, it is important that you do not move because the lost can only find their way when they have a fixed point to refer to”. Jarvis Brinson was such a point for me. I’m grateful. #52WoG

*Pictured from left to right, Jarvis Brinson, Paul Luckett and Christopher Johnson for our junior prom.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #6 – Lessons From My Father About Work

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Lessons From My Father About Work

In 6 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for lessons from my father about work.

No one in the world works harder than my father, Rev. Paul Luckett. No one.

I remember when my Dad was a student in seminary, he was a full time student, paying his way through school as a custodian for our apartment building in Atlanta, Georgia, pastoring two churches and driving between school in Atlanta and the churches in Jackson, Mississippi every weekend.

I remember spending countless summer days with him and my little brother Nehemiah Luckett, cutting yards, painting houses, buffing floors, hanging shingles, etc.

My youngest brother James recently told my Dad, “Whew, you’re a hard worker, Daddy. That’s a good thing to be. But, don’t you think it’s time to go home now?”

With my Dad having such a strong work ethic, naturally he had lessons to pass along to us. Here are a few I hope to pay forward:

A want is something you work for. A gift is something you’re given.

No one is obliged to give you what you want –or anything for that matter.

If there’s something you want that you feel you’re owed, it’s no longer a gift but wages.

Wages require that you be hired. To be hired requires at least an informal contract that’s been expressed for work in exchange for wages.

Are you feeling like someone owes you something? Well, were you hired for the task that you think you’re owed for?

No one owes you for work you weren’t hired to do.

And, no one owes you for being a ‘good’ person. If your goodness is contingent on being compensated for it, you’re not a good person but a faker-for-hire.

Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. If anyone gives you anything, be grateful -you don’t get to place demands on a gift. If you have demands, if you want something, work as hard as it takes to get it. Wants aren’t owed but earned.

This is treasured wisdom from my father that is still ministering to me today. Thanks, Dad. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #7 – Dr. Athelia and Placid Eze

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze

In 7 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze.

I was in my MR COMPUTER MAN service truck on Highway 82, headed back from a service appointment in Columbus to Starkville, when a tan 2001 Lincoln Town Car flew past me. As the car advanced ahead of me, the driver glanced over in my direction and suddenly the car’s speed dropped precipitously to match my own, our vehicles side-by-side on the highway. The driver locked her eyes on me, nodding her head, then pointing in my direction and afterward sped off. I was perplexed and slightly unnerved by the encounter, but little did I know that moment would mark the beginning of one of the most meaningful relationships of my career. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from Dr. Athelia Eze to provide IT services for her practice and that began a 20 year relationship with her and Dr. Placid Eze of Eze Family Medical Clinic.

I’ll jump straight to the punch line and say that Dr. Athelia Eze and Dr. Placid Eze are unsung heroes in the black community, not only here in Starkville or in North Mississippi, but arguably throughout the southeast, having had clinics and pharmacies in (including, but not limited to) Starkville, Columbus and East Point, Georgia. No one has done more in this area to identify, recruit, educate and produce black medical professionals than Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze. They gave minorities a chance and an onramp into medical professions when no one else would.

This is not something I’ve heard about, the Eze’s themselves don’t even talk about it, it’s something I’ve watched them do quietly and purposefully. I would add that it’s also something they’ve paid dearly to do. I’ve watched them take people with little to no background in a professional setting, with next to zero experience in the medical field and in many cases pay to have them educated, personally study with them for exams and certifications to help them along the path to attain a meaningful and gainful career. It’s an absolute slough of trial and error, frustration, candidates quitting, spectacular failure, betrayal, disappointment, considerable expense, but always love.

Love characterizes their practice. You can hear it in Dr. Placid’s laugh and bedside manner with his patients. You can see it as Dr. Athelia would greet her customer’s children by name, knowing the candy each child preferred. It is a safe place, sadly still needed in 2022, where blacks can come and not get strange looks or funny treatment for the kind of insurance they have, for not having insurance, or for not looking like a ‘good client’ –whatever that means. Sure, as an I.T. professional I’m there installing network equipment or servicing computers but I’m always paying attention. And, when people came through those clinic doors or pulled up to the pharmacy drive-thru window they were treated as though they belonged there, as though they were wanted there. For better or worse the Eze’s focused on care first and would often work with their patients to figure out how to take care of the cost later.

Care for your people even when it costs you is the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.

Dr. Placid is from Nigeria and Dr. Athelia is from the coast, so they didn’t even know many of the people here that they would come to make investments in. As graduates of Morehouse College and Mercer University, respectively, as well as being members of the black greek letter organizations Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Kappa Alpha, they were steeped in an African-American culture that prioritized collective progress and embraced education not for education’s sake but as a tool for empowerment. So, in all that they do and everywhere they go, they’re always looking out for black people they can invest in -even if it costs them –because they love them. Again, the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.

I can hear the question, “Wait. Isn’t this just reverse racism?”

No.

Dr. Placid and Dr. Athelia love all people. In watching them serve, hire and work with people of all backgrounds, that would be clear to anyone.

They simply made it a point to focus love where love was lacking. You should too.

This is black history. I am inspired by the Eze’s commitment not only to offer compassionate medical care for their community but also to increase its economic capacity. While it doesn’t always look great for the bottom line, it always yields a profit because love never fails. Their love has born fruit in my life that I’m eager to bear in the lives of others. I’m grateful. #52WoG #BlackHistory

It’s All Good

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated with a person or a situation, only to find that it was the very means God was using to meet my need or to do a work in someone’s life.

It reminds me that we have a loving Father who is always doing a good work (John 5:17) and there is nothing that happens in my life that He can’t use for good when I trust Him with it (Romans 8:28).

By faith I have this confidence, that some way, some how, it’s all good when I live for Him (2 Timothy 1:12).

Standing on this truth is how we can do 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, [and] in everything give thanks.”

The verse follows, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

My attitude should reflect that.

I repent. #perfectourlove

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #4 – Dr. George Bennett

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com 52 Weeks of Gratefulness #4 – Dr. George Bennett #52WoG
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com 52 Weeks of Gratefulness #4 – Dr. George Bennett #52WoG
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com 52 Weeks of Gratefulness #4 – Dr. George Bennett #52WoG
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com 52 Weeks of Gratefulness #4 – Dr. George Bennett #52WoG

The flight instructor stands at the hanger, wearing old-school Chucks, beige cargo pants, a beige safari style shirt and a beige bucket sun hat. He’s scribbling into a small notebook using one of the many pens lining his left breast pocket. He occasionally looks up, peering over black-rimmed 1960’s style glasses to coach aspiring pilots through the nuances of a pre-flight check, expertly interspersing amazing tales of aviation history, daring feats of flight and near death encounters he’s personally experienced during his long and storied career. He smiles with each recounting and you can see the joy in his eyes from having spent his life doing what he loved.

Dr. Bennett is in his 80’s now, still crawling under a sailplane to check for the signs of wear and material fatigue that a novice might miss. He’s literally a legend but you’d never know because he’s utterly unassuming and completely approachable. He spends his weekends, oftentimes in grueling heat, climbing into a cockpit to pass on his vast experience to anyone wise enough to learn from it.

The flight instruction is being offered by the MSU Soaring Club provided through Mississippi State University. We’ve brought our son Roman to one of their meetings after a chance and kind introduction to the club by Jamie Jones. We’re hoping that Roman can join the club and start taking flying lessons. But as we look around, there is no one else near his age or his size. At eleven years old, the parachute nearly swallows him and probably weighs as much he does!

Being the expert that he is, Dr. Bennett makes mention of the minimum weight needed to achieve the proper distribution in the glider. At this point, Dr. Bennett could have very legitimately said Roman was not quite old enough to participate and that would have been that. But, Dr. Bennett looks at Roman and asks him directly, “You want to fly, don’t you? How much do you weigh?” After receiving Roman’s weight, Dr. Bennett makes a calculation and proceeds to use lead bags (those that typically holds down a wing of the gliders while it is stowed in the hanger) to make up for the lack in weight. But then, we’re faced with a new problem -Roman’s legs aren’t long enough to reach the pedals. Again, Dr. Bennett makes every accommodation so Roman can fly, telling him, “For now, we’ll focus on teaching you the stick controls and I’ll take care of everything else.”

From that moment almost five years ago, Dr. George, as we affectionally refer to him now, has not stopped pouring into Roman. He uses every break, every free moment between flights to share another lesson to prepare Roman for the next stage of his development as an aviator. It is quite something to behold how this man’s love of flying extends beyond the subject to his students. And, he does it all so effortlessly.

I’m not interested in aviation beyond supporting our son’s interest in it, but the apparent love around what Dr. George does has a draw to it. It makes me want to be around him, regardless of what he’s talking about. He’s teaching my son to fly but his example is teaching me a valuable lesson too. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #3 – Hard Truths Spoken In Love

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com 52 Weeks of Gratefulness #3 – Hard Truths Spoken In Love #52WoG

In Week 3 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for hard truths spoken in love.

I have been blessed to have great mentors and as you typically do with mentors, you ask how you could improve.

One night I was chauffeuring Dr. Gregory Jones home from a revival (as ministers under his instruction would usually do) and asked him, “Where do you see me struggling? Where do I need to grow?”

Pastor Jones answered flatly and without hesitation, “You struggle with pride.”

I took his words to heart, repented and set out to understand pride and make war with it ever since. It’s a lifelong struggle because you never completely defeat a demon like pride in this life, you only learn to become better at fighting it. Demons depart from you for a season but are always lurking, looking for an opportunity to return (Luke 4:13, Matthew 12:43-45, Luke 11:24-26). #spiritualwarfare

As I’ve searched, prayed and laid my life bare before the Lord (Hebrews 4:12) I’ve learned that because I struggle with insecurity, I have a tendency to build makeshift structures: false pedestals to exalt myself and protect me from the pain of feeling small, that allow me to pretend which is hypocrisy and to make myself more or less than I am which is pride.

In my youth these pedestals were possessions, promiscuity and popularity. Now, it is the appearance of righteousness, accomplishments, having everything together and having it all figured out.

But these false pedestals always fail me and when they splinter, not only do I end up pierced through with many sorrows, my witness is undermined, my Master’s name is dishonored and the faith of some looking on can be weakened.

Now, I’m scared of heights as hell. (Catch that on your way home.)

Or, should I say that, by God’s grace I am wiser to the enemy’s tactics and the conditions that can lead to a heart lifted in pride. I struggle every day and thanks be to God for the struggle because it reminds me of my desperate need for God and that His abundant grace is sufficient for me, that I may humble myself under his hand and trust Him to build me up (1 Peter 5:6).

I have come to this knowledge because I had a mentor and a father in the faith who loved me with a Love that held me accountable and did not withhold the truths that were hard for me to hear and that were necessary for my growth and sanctification (Ephesians 4:11-16). I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #2 – Mr. Charles Cheney

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com 52 Weeks of Gratefulness #2 – Mr. Charles Cheney
Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com 52 Weeks of Gratefulness #2 – Mr. Charles Cheney
In Week 2 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Mr. Charles Cheney.
 
In a conversation about parenting, a dear brother, J.B. Nicholson, said that children are like arrows in a man’s quiver and raising them is like straightening an arrow’s shaft, you must repeatedly smooth them in the same direction.
 
I was very fortunate to have had many wonderful people, especially men, who were co-laborers in the smoothing process of my life. Mr. Cheney was one of them.
 
Mr. Cheney was a bear of man with a spirit as gentle and kind as a dove. It was apparent that he enjoyed food, as he and his family operated a restaurant in addition to his daily 9 to 5. Their family attended the same church as my family, Blessed Trinity United Methodist Church and the highlight of many Sundays was eating at their restaurant after service. No one, and I mean no one, could fry fish like Mr. Cheney. The portions were generous, like the man, and his restaurant retains a spot in my heart as one of the best of all time.
 
Mr. Cheney’s generosity seemingly knew no bounds. He took it upon himself to start a Boy Scouts troop at our church. I fondly remember the simplicity of those days. We’d have entire meetings that consisted of nothing more than seeing who could do the most push-ups and sit-ups. That was it and we loved it.
 
I especially remember the one and only “camping trip” that we did as a group. Mr. Cheney told us we were going to cook “man meals” and cook our own dinner over a camp fire. He took our group of boys to the grocery store, bought us each a pound of ground beef and told us to find other ingredients that we’d like to include in our meal: potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, etc. -it could be anything, whatever we thought would suit our palate. He then brought us to his house where we each prepared our own meal: we mixed our chosen ingredients together, added seasoning, wrapped them in aluminum foil and placed them atop the camp fire in his back yard. Looking back it seems so simple, too simple to have kept the attention of a whole band of pre-teens, but that it did. It was one of the best times of my life. So much so, it’s a tradition I decided to pass down to my boys.
 
Notwithstanding, it wasn’t all food and fun. Mr. Cheney was yet another man that I wanted to be like. He was a professional man, a family man who dealt lovingly with his wife and children, he was kind and generous. His influence was another part of the smoothing process of my life, helping to solidify in my mind the kind of man I wanted to be.
 
I don’t have any pictures of Mr. Cheney but I try to honor his influence in my life by doing for others what he did for me. Pictured are my boys preparing their “man meals” and cooking them over a fire in our back yard. They seemed to have as good a time as I had with him 30 some years ago. I hope to be as good an example.
 
I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #42 – Jannie Thompson

Jannie Thompson
Janine Thompson with Ebenezer youth at old Burger King
Janine Thompson jump rope Ebenezer youth
Ebenezer Youth Group

In Week 42 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for the youngest person I know, Jannie Thompson.

Miss Jannie (as she’s affectionately known around my house) was one of the first people to welcome me when I visited Greater Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church as a college student. If Ebenezer had a mascot, it would be Jannie Thompson. She is the personification of the down-home kindness and warmth that characterizes that fellowship.

I got to know Ms. Jannie mostly by serving with her in the youth ministry. Among the many things I’ve come to love about Ms. Jannie is her enthusiasm for life. Whatever the youth were doing, she was doing. It didn’t matter if it was kickball, jumping rope or racing, she was in it to win it.

She kept us grounded because she is unapologetically real. She is one of the kindest people I’ve met but she will slip off those shoes and earrings on you, if she has to. Because she was so real, our time together as a youth group was real. We didn’t pretend or play church. We wrestled with real problems, discussed what was happening today and talked about how to apply our faith to real life.

But perhaps what I appreciate most about Ms. Jannie was her openness and big heart. There were kids that came to our church hurt, confused and alone but always found a safe place with Jannie Thompson. I personally saw her be understanding, forgiving and take in scores of people into her life where she would love on them and where they would find healing. I was one them. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #41 – Childhood Neighborhood

Childhood Neighborhood - Facebook

Image Courtesy of Google Maps

In Week 41 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for my childhood neighborhood.

I find the sound of lawn mowers strangely satisfying.

It elicits feelings of safety and security. When I was growing up as a kid in Jackson, Mississippi, lawn mowers were part of a cacophony of sounds that announced the arrival of a new Saturday morning. It meant it was sunny, the day was underway, the neighborhood was awake and that it was time to go out and play.

As I reflect back on this as an adult, it has another meaning that I didn’t consider consciously as a child but nonetheless planted the sentiments I find myself reflecting on today. And that is, I had neighbors who cared.

They cared enough to be up at the crack of dawn to weed flowerbeds, trim hedges and mow lawns. They cared enough to organize neighborhood watches and neighborhood events.

I remember during Christmas, the neighbors would come together to select a theme for the entire neighborhood. Each yard had common decoration elements such as a frosty white Christmas tree behind a spotlight and matching signage with different phrases like “Joy to the world”.

There was a deep sense of pride in *our* neighborhood characterized by doing things with each other and for each other. We were together and it made me as a child feel secure. I pray we can get back to that. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #40 – Mr. Richard West

Richard West. Former Chemistry teacher at Bailey Magnet High School
Bailey Magnet High School Chemistry Lab - Jackson, Mississippi
Bailey Magnet High School - Jackson, Mississippi
Picture of Richard West courtesy of Jackson Academy.

In Week 40 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Mr. Richard West.

Mr. West was my chemistry teacher at Bailey Magnet High School in Jackson, Mississippi. He was the first black man that I had as a teacher. He taught me how to use my first scientific calculator, a Texas Instruments TI-35X, which I still have to this day.

There’s not any particular thing he said or did, it was his presence that made the difference in my life. Though I didn’t know a thing about Chemistry going in, students know when a teacher is competent and his command of math and science were evident. He was intelligent, professional, kind but firm, in control, excellent -alpha.

Mr. West’s representation in a professional setting as a teacher during my formative years affirmed that these wonderful qualities were not only possible for me as a young black man, they are what define a black professional.

His positive influence on my self perception, education and professional outlook cannot be overstated. I’m grateful. #52WoG