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The Day I Chased a “Bad Guy”

I’ve got a story to tell, and it involves this guy right here:

Last weekend on a whim, I went to my parent’s house with the kids. I had photo shoots in the NJ/NY area, and my mom had an art gallery reception. The reception was on the downtown streets of Blairstown. It reminded me of another time there.

It was 2005:

I was coming out of a very dark time in life (DREADFUL broken heart) and things were made better by my new friendship with my friend, Matt. We didn’t know each other quite well yet and found ourselves seeing Harry Potter with other friends one Friday night. I hadn’t read the books yet and I was completely lost by the movie, but I loved hanging out with a bunch of fun, quirky, open friends. I believe we went to a diner later that night, where I no doubt ate cheese fries and pie. Not together, but one after the other, or half and half and half and half, because sweet and salty deserve each other, but not necessarily in the same mouthful. The next morning we got together for what was soon to be a weekly ritual – Saturday brunch at Perkins.

I don’t know what the fork this is:

Since we kept passing each other’s friendship tests, and we really didn’t want to miss each other should we part, I invited him to my parent’s farm in Blairstown, NJ for dinner that night. We were all in fine form that night. Someone was high. Someone was tipsy. Someone kept giggling at fart jokes. (probably me) The food was great. The country town was hopping that night because the symphony was in town, so all of the shops had open doors and wine and cheese. If you were really lucky, brownies. If you were really, really lucky – my mom’s art in her gallery. Some local horseback rider was showing off by riding his horse drunk, in a tux, and without a saddle. The air was festive and the people were in fine form. Including me. I was fine.

I was either in the art gallery, or in a bookstore, or in some place with wine, cheese, and maybe brownies, when a dark hush fell over the place. Someone inside said, “Oh no. They’re back.” Well, who?? I looked outside to see a tall figure walking down the street in a white robe and hood. He looked so strong and confident and people were whispering on the streets and moving away from him. The shopkeeper closed the shop door and told us that the KKK were still around Pennsylvania and sometimes crossed the border into NJ. I simply couldn’t believe it. I was literally yelling, “This is Jersey! In 2005! Don’t they know the North won the Civil War??? Have they gotten the memo? I’ll…I’ll…kill him. I’m not proud. I’d do it – just you wait.”

Matt and I decided there was only one thing to do. One logical thing. We were going to confront him (or them) and tell him (or them) to leave this beloved town. I was small, but anger made me crazy. Disturbing my mom’s beautiful town like that?

She made this!

The best part of this story is that Matt is a very tall and very strong guy and I’m not. We both stormed out of that store for a confrontation, probably looking like a Boston Terrier excitedly following on the heels of a Great Dane and trying to look tough. In retrospect, were we nuts? This KKK member could be armed and murderous yet we ran down the street after him and yelled out “Hey!” He didn’t around. “Hey, you! You’re not running away from us!” And then he turned around..

Guess what?

It was a young teenage boy (maybe 13 or 14) and he was dressed as Gandalf the White Wizard – on his way to a school play. I still had trouble making sense of NOT fighting him until I saw the tinfoil sword attached to his hips. Yeah. Not a KKK member. We laughed and sent him on his quivering way – telling him to be careful. He was so nervous! I’m not even sure he knew what people thought he was but the relief I felt that my parents’ lovely small town wasn’t being invaded by intolerant, hateful, horrible people was immense. That weekend totally solidified my friendship with Matt in unexpected but awesome ways.

The point is, I was so willing to fight. So willing to fight to WIN. I was 105 pounds but my mouth and my spirit were/are worth 500 pounds at least. I have never really lost a fight and I didn’t intend to that day – had it not been a cute and scared young boy! Sometimes I wait for my moment. My moments. I wait to stand on a desk and recite “O Captain! My Captain!” To lead a peace rally. To lead. There’s no use in waiting, though. Be your big bad self TODAY. Only, be your big GOOD self.

When it comes to the unexpected, do you do the unexpected?

This should totally be two posts, but like last week, I can’t seem to separate the relevant ones. I see connections flowing through this. It’s about the bravest man I ever knew and you can read all about it here, and if that “bravest man I ever knew” title doesn’t intrigue you enough, this is my ex/current friend’s family. There was/is a lot of love there, and respect too.

And they need our help.

Joe Wions took a 2-3 year life expectancy with ALS and turned it into an inspiring 11 year journey of growth, love, and gratitude. “More Time to Love” is the book he wrote in an attempt to pay it forward to his community. I met him during his journey – maybe in the middle of it – and I was struck by his will to live and to spread love. This is the time. In the wake of the election and the way our country feels divided, I’ve decided to go on many missions to spread love in the best ways I know how. And sometimes that means honoring Scarlet’s wish to pay for the person behind us in the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. Sometimes that’s free photo shoots, and blog reviews, because I don’t always have much – but I have words and photos galore. Right now I’m telling you about this incredible Indigogo campaign to bring “More Time to Love” to life.

(These two want you to be the good in the world that they are trying to be!)

I could write 4,000 words on Joe Wions, and I have, but I urge you to go check out his family’s incredible Indigogo campaign and learn all about it. Look at the photos. Read the stories and the history. Read the comments and the backers. Share the link. Share this post. Tell a friend. Tell your mom. Write your own story about ALS. Read about it. This support is so needed.

You can also find out more HERE.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “When it comes to the unexpected or to change…” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

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52 Comments

  1. I think when we respond with love, because no matter the situation, loving is a “win.” Love can take many forms, like standing up for the oppressed, caring for the sick, and even listening to the distressed. Lots of emotions swirling this week, as there are after any election. We are stronger as a nation – which I love to think about on this Veteran’s Day – when we learn to respect each other. I thought the speeches by both candidates and our outgoing President set the right tone for the change ahead, and for that, I am grateful.

    1. I actually didn’t listen to either speech yet, so thank you! I’ll go do that! We attended a parade today and I got hit by the emotions so hard.

  2. I love how you took this week’s upset and channeled it into a greater good here. Truly inspiring and I can’t say that enough, but then again I wouldn’t expect any less from you ever, my dear friend. So much love and hugs and will be checking out Joe Wion’s Indigogo campaign. <3

  3. Oh my gosh Gandalf!? I hope that poor kid made it to the play unscathed! You just can’t make up what happens in real life can you?

    You know I have done that before, lead peacefully, even when it was scary and many were shouting me down. I did it though and I made friends and enemies, but I would still do it all over again.

    1. Luckily I think he was already almost to the school, if I remember correctly. He was cute! And young! But tall! Hence the town’s confusion.
      I’d love to hear more about you leading!!

  4. I am on my way to check out this Indiegogo page. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I remember you mentioning this wonderful man–and this book you contributed to!–in an email. I love how you channel your hurt and frustrations and you make good and beauty and love and light. THAT is always the answer. <3 Love you so much for it. Thank you for sharing your words, sweet friend.

    1. Yes! You have an incredible memory. And it’s totally memorable.
      The whole beauty of this prompt was that it allowed people to channel their hurt. XOXOXO!

  5. Good for you being brave enough to do the right thing! And thank goodness it wasn’t the situation you thought it was going to be!!

    1. Seriously! Because then would it have been the right thing? I might have run straight into a highly dangerous situation!! Not that it would have stopped me.. clearly.

  6. That story touched on a lot of emotions! More pleasant that not.

    By the way, were you referring to the War of Northern Aggression?

    As far as I know, the KKK started in Indiana and plans a large parade in North Carolina in early December.

    1. I’m so glad more pleasant than not!!
      I had no idea about the parade. I wonder if it goes opposed? How it’s allowed to operate? I will have to Google.

  7. OK – you got me with that story! I had an image in my head of a white hooded person walking down the street and you chasing after him. Funny, but not funny. I live in the south and have never seen the KKK in person. I honestly don’t know what I would do. I’d like to think I would be brave enough to chase them out of town, though. Maybe with a good friend by my side (or in front of me).

    1. I’m SO glad you never have! I haven’t either, although I thought I would. They are active in PA – and my parent’s town is only 12 miles from the border.
      I don’t know what I’d do NOW, though. I have kids now! I need you, Matt!!

  8. Well for the first half I literally laughed out loud after being scared for what you were going to write next. I’ve never seen a “hooded” KKK member in real life – don’t want too and don’t think I’d be nearly as brave as you and Matt.

    I’ll definitely share what I read on about ALS.

  9. Whoa! That was so brave of Matt! Happy to hear it was not what you thought it was. I agree that that we all need more love and acceptance in this country now more than ever!

  10. More time to love – that’s such a strong and powerful message. I’m teary-eyed! Learning to see the bright side of things is often challenging to do but it’s as good as it can be.

    I was totally wondering about the KKK because we also had KKK (the meaning is in our language) many many years back or late 1800s and they’re a revolutionary kind of group led by a Filipino who we now consider as of one our heroes.

  11. Oh wow I found myself holding my breath as you chased after the KKK member…..er, kid dressed as Gandalf. Even if it wasn’t what you thought, it was brave. I’ve been thinking a lot lately were I confronted with this type of situation. Would I act and show what I stand for? Like you I want to do everything I can to spread love. And I’m going to check out Joe’s campaign now!

    1. Same here. Especially with the safety pin thing. Which.. I think I do feel like I can wear one. Scarlet wants me to buy her one of your necklaces, so stay tuned!

  12. I wouldn’t mess with you, Tamara! I’m glad it turned out to be just a kid, but I fear it may not be next time. I so appreciate the love and hope in this post, because I’ve been finding it hard to come by. xoxo

  13. I love your bravery, and I love your love. You make the world a better place. And with people like you out there, we’re all going to be okay. Because love always beats hate, every single time. I have a KKK story, from when I was a little girl, living in North Carolina. We were Catholic, and the KKK also does not like Catholics. Very scary. Maybe I’ll share it soon – in the name of bravery and love.

    1. Wow, Lana. I hope to read that some day. That is so scary! Ours was a fake, as you read, but I can’t imagine that they’re real. I know they are but I can’t wrap my head around the hate.
      I love love, as you do!

  14. Hi Tamara, I say good on you. You were prepared to stand up for what you believe knowing full well that you were putting yourself in the firing line. I bet that’s the last time that lad wore a white sheet! I’m not sure what I would do if the unexpected happened, as I see it it’s very much an in the moment reaction and something that cannot be planned… However I would like t think I would do the right thing too.

    xx

  15. First you had me at Perkins… because if it’s the same Perkins we have up here… I die from food coma. And bottomless coffee wakes me back up for more. Then I was almost standing up ready to fight the evil hoods with ya… I got ya back sista!!! There’s nothing I hate more than… well, hatred! (Sorry for mistaken identity Gandalf) But I love this idea of more LOVE. Definitely need it put back out into the world right now. I’m filling shoe boxes, and singing Hallelujah and smiling at strangers and I don’t know if it’s even enough, but I’m never gonna stop.

      1. That’s it!!! *Hallelujah chorus* Do they have the bottomless coffee carafes there? Oh my gosh, Some. Day. I’m bringing my moose slippers to the love in… what else we need? 🙂

  16. How did I miss this one? WHAT a story! I just love you and your fierce strength, Tamara! And my gosh, that’s hilarious too. LOL

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