Mar 262012

[It’s been a while. My blog disappeared! Vanished! I couldn’t access it from any which way. So I called my web host. After about 20 minutes of password validation and transfers, I was informed by Justin, the nice tech help guy, that, “Nothing is working. Hmmm. This is strange! I’ve never seen anything like this before. Since I can’t help you, I’ll have to send this up to special service. Let me write up a service slip. Hmmm, I can’t seem to do that either. I’ve NEVER seen this!! It’s like it’s completely out of our hands.” 

What? What did he mean by “out of our hands?” He couldn’t even ask for help to see what happened to my blog? 

Instead of calmly thinking that some strange random glitch must have happened, my vivid imagination and I went straight to the worst case scenario. The Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, and Big Brother had procured my blog. I’d used the words Iranian, Muslim, genocide, and run, so naturally I’d been flagged.

I’m being watched. Right. Now. Well, not really, I’m sure it was just a strange random glitch. Kind of like how I get randomly selected for the special screening at airport security. Often. 

So, anyway, as if by magic, my blog is back up and running. I have no idea what actually happened. But just in case, I’d like to give a shout-out to the Homeland Security intern who now has the tedious job of monitoring my blog for the next six months.]

Back to series . . . but first, a quick recap –

part 1: I hurt people with my words and I didn’t mean to.

part 2: I get these e-mails . . . is it a big deal?

part 3: Yeah, it’s a big deal – to me anyway.

part 4: I was a Holly Hobbie loving geek.

Part 5: My SAT Preparation 

faith : joy :: prejudice : pain  

I went to Catholic schools so I had a lot of Catholic friends. These friends introduced me to a deep and rich faith. I don’t know the exact minute when Jesus Christ became my very own, I just know He did.

It happened as I spent time with ordinary folks who lived their faith. Ordinary folks who treated me like one of the family, not like a foreigner or stranger. It happened around Pat and Mary Kilner’s dinner table where the family – numbering in the double digits, the parish priest, both grandmothers, and the awkward teenage friend would all gather on Sunday night. There was always another presence at that table: we would all pray, “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts . . .”

The Kilners’ home wasn’t fancy. Actually, it was the opposite of fancy – it was cozy. There was joy in that home! I’m sure that it was under that roof that I decided I wanted a large family. The warmth, conversation, laughter, and merriment of a crowded dinner table was a balm to me. My parents loved me, of this I’m sure, but my home wasn’t as full of joy as the Kilners’ home. I associated and attributed the joy and peace in that home with their faith.

I would wake up early in the morning on Sundays and go to church by myself while my brother and parents slept. I liked going to church. I liked the smell of Murphy’s oil soap and incense. I liked the peace, tranquility, and regularity of it.

I joined the folk group, which was a group that sang contemporary worship songs at the mass. This may not seem very monumental, but if you’d ever heard me sing you’d know that this was indeed a really big deal. I couldn’t carry a tune, couldn’t read music, and I didn’t know any of the words to the songs. Oh, and at that point I wasn’t even baptized! Gasp! I had no right to be there, but I was warmly welcomed and eventually I learned all the words to the songs. My singing never improved, but the words had meaning and truth and I soaked them up.

At my baptism - with Father Mordino - I was privileged to experience Father Mordino's love and guidance as I learned about my new faith.

On a hot August afternoon, my spiritual mentor, the priest I shared the Kilners’ dinner table with, Father Mordino, baptized me in a special ceremony. My early impressions of Christianity were powerful and life-changing.

Simultaneously, in Iran a revolution was taking place. Then, on November 4th 1979, the Hostage Crisis ensued. About twenty-six years of festering discontent and anger erupted all over the country I had called home.

After some time my father joined us. He had advanced degrees earned here in the states and experience that would certainly impress. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find work worthy of his qualifications. Not even his Ph.D. could cut though the prejudice. I can’t say for certain, since life doesn’t afford the opportunity to have a do-over with cut-and-paste features, but I’ve often wondered if he didn’t have his richly accented (perfect) English, and if he didn’t have his wonderfully interesting, yet Iranian, name, background, and birth certificate would he have been able to get through more interviews. Maybe my skeptical side is speaking too loudly now. Maybe not. It wasn’t (and sometimes isn’t) a lot of fun being Iranian in America.

In my new home I was trying to outgrow my Holly Hobbie phase and figure out how to feather back my frizzy curly hair. At the same time in my new home yellow ribbons adorned trees and prejudice and stereotypes abounded. Bumper sticker manufacturers were having a hard time keeping up with the demand for anti-Iranian slogans. Iranians everywhere were suddenly lumped with hostage-takers and extremists. Iranians became the untouchable caste.

I vividly remember standing in the ambulatory where our lockers were kept in my mixed race Catholic high school and being showered with ugly words: Go home Eye-Rain-Ean! Go home hostage-taker! Who? Me? Hostage-taker? Oh, sure, that’s riiiight! I did do that, didn’t I? Well, wait here. Let me just make a call, I’ll take care of the whole situation. Good grief!

The hurt was multiplied by the fact that the words and hate came from minority students. Those students didn’t see me as an individual. My thirteen-year-old self had just been stereotyped and lumped in a group. I realized on that day that people, all people, had the capacity to hate and to hurt others in the exact same manner that had, perhaps, caused them pain. I guess it is justifiable when it’s not you that is the object of the hate and prejudice. The disillusionment had a bitter taste, one that would occasionally rise up in the back of my throat as a cruel reminder.

I was a stranger and I was welcomed. I was invited to sing and praise even though I was an outsider. What if . . .  instead of being welcomed into the folk group or welcomed at the dinner table I’d only experienced the hurtful words raining down on me at school. Or what if I’d been privy to e-mails from Christians about “those awful Iranians” (me?) or “those Muslims” (my grandmother?) and their plot to whatever . . .  I doubt the lip service given to the Christian faith would have meant anything at all to me.

And yet again, to be continued. (That is, if my blog doesn’t vanish again.)

my baptism


  2 Responses to “The e-mails: My SAT prep — faith : joy :: prejudice : pain (part 5)”

  1. I won’t be surprised, 25 or so years from now, to come across a blog of someone reflecting on the positive impact in their life of spending time during their teen-age years with that large, happy Schuemann family in their cozy, laughter-filled, mountain-top cabin.

    Kian, you and Ken are carrying forth a baton of faith, family, and fun. I’m sure there are more legs in this relay.

    • A positive impact – especially one that points to Christ… gosh, I’d do a jig of happiness!
      (Also, I love the running imagery!!)

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