Category Archives: Family

Celebrating 55 Years of Navigating Pits

OK, this year I want to take a minute to give a shout-out to a few people that mean a lot to me and keep affecting my life in positive ways.  So, in no particular order here they are:

  • My Mom
  • Donald High
  • Berlenda Hubbard
  • Cindy Fredericks Reed
  • Carla Jo Howlett
  • Edgelle Pettigrew
  • Tumi Johnson
  • Olivia Chase
  • Maurice C. Blaustein
  • Brian Mcgowan
  • Dave Andre
  • Garth Rose
  • Kevin Lee
  • Charles Fraizer
  • Richard Swift
  • Kanti Chakrabarti
  • Mikie Boone
  • Steve Grevious

In this list are a mom, dad, doctor, mentors, aunts, sisters, brothers, counselors, colleagues, confidants and dear, close friends.

With all of you, I can be my true, nerdy self, and you love me for it.  With you, I can contemplate, speculate, pontificate, joke, laugh, cry, share deep thoughts about anything from politics, work, metaphysics, diet, life and my favorite past time, biking.

The community of spirits in my life is by no means defined by this finite list of people. I just want to take the time, in this 55th year of my life, to point out a few people for whom my life has been made richer because they are in it.

I am grateful for everyone I have met in this life thus far; even the person I pass on the street and simply give a polite smile to.  Or the lady I met at the restaurant the other day while picking up an order; we spoke for only five minutes but gave each other a big hug at the end of our conversation.  Or the fellow biker a met on my ride the other day; we chatted for a mile or two, shook hands and road our separate ways; a brief, but enriching encounter.

All encounters, all interactions, all experiences good and bad, I am grateful for all of them.  And I am grateful for all of you, every spirit that comes into my experience every single day; for you, all of you…, you help to shape and make me a better person each and every day of my life.  To all of you, I have nothing but humble praise and gratitude and I say, THANK YOU!

DadAndMeJun1st1970On this day, I’m reminded of the many pieces of advice my father gave me over the years; much of which I didn’t listen well to or understand fully until now.  Of his key pieces of advice, one was about pits; in fact, this was a piece of advice he had given me many times; I’m just hardheaded or a very slow learner.

I would tell my dad about something I wanted to do or be, someplace I was planning to go, some girl I wanted to date, something I wanted to buy; you know, things like that.  Dad would sit and calmly listen to my ramblings for a time; I was wise enough to be brief. Then, at the end of my conversation, if he felt I may be going down the wrong path or a difficult path, he would stand up, look right into my eyes and say, in a very loud voice, “Pit Here!”.  I would frown right back at him and say, “Come on Dad! What do you mean, Pit Here?”

Then dad would sit back down and calmly say to me, you’re about to fall into a pit; so, you have two choices; you can listen to the advice I’m about to give you and avoid falling into the pit, or you can discard my advice and most likely fall into the pit.

I would take a huffy, half-hearted deep breath, to impart my discomfort in having to take his advice, and then I’d say, “Oh… O right… What’s the pit I’m about to fall into? A hint of a very small smile would appear on dad’s face, and then he would give me some very sound advice.

Now, when I look back over the many events of my life, I must honestly tell you, I did not always follow his advice; and sure enough, over these past 55 years, I have fallen into more than a few pits; some very deep ones I might add.

Now Dad, knew that I wasn’t always going to listen to some of his advice; in fact, I think he knew that I wasn’t going to listen to most of his advice.  So, dad would always end his advisory pit conversation, with “how to get out of the pit advice, when you have fallen into the pit”.  Now, this advice I had listened to very well and memorized; it has come in handy more than a few times and got me out of some pretty deep pits.

Dad always concluded his pit advice with the following summary statement.  “It’s not such a bad thing that you fall into a pit; that’s what life is all about, the journey through pitted and smooth experiences.  What’s most important, is how you see yourself once you’re in the pit, that you forgive yourself for falling into the pit, and that you pull yourself out of the pit, dust yourself off, move on to the next experience and try to avoid falling into the same pit again.”

I’m pointing to this story because, during my 55 years, when I have fallen into a pit, many of you have been there to reach down into the pit, extend your hand to help me out of the pit and dust me off so that I could continue on my way.  So, again, I say, THANK YOU!  For had it not been for your helping hand, in those times that I had fallen into a pit, I don’t know for sure if I could have made it out of the pit on my own.

No one can walk this life alone.  We are all made better by the spirits and angels that surround us; the people who are our moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, teachers, counselors, advisors, confidants, lovers and dear, dear friends.

What advice can I share from my 55 years?  If there are people in your life who have in the past or are now making a positive impact in your life, find the time to let them know simply by saying, THANK YOU!  You may never fully realize how positive an impact that simple statement may affect a person and you, and how much joy, love and positive energy it creates by sincerely saying, THANK YOU!

And lastly, as my father would often say, from the pulpit, at Second Baptist Church, on Sunday afternoons, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Now, go and sin no more”.  Amen.


Good and sound advice, Dad.  Thank you 🙂

Hycel B. Taylor III

Dear Chandra

chandra2017My Dear Friends,

It is with deep sorrow that I must inform you of the passing of my sister Rev. Dr. Chandra Taylor Smith.

For several months, Chandra had been battling stage four liver cancer. Fourteen days ago, complications from her radiation treatment took a turn for the worse. I sent a friend to Philadelphia, to the hotel where she was staying near her hospital, to bring her to Ojai California. Chandra has been with me here in Ojai California, staying at a lovely home where she was being cared for around the clock.

At 10:00 PM Monday evening, Chandra ended her battle with stage four liver cancer. I want you all to know that Chandra was at peace, she was not in pain and she was not alone, she was loved. Chandra had time to get her thoughts together, she had time to receive lots of love from so many people (angels) who came by to sit with her and care for her, but most of all Chandra found peace.

There are so many people I want to thank, for a thousand miracles that took place over the last thirteen days.  To Sabine, Christina, Olivia, Alarra, Steven, Kimya and so many other angels who blessed Chandra and showered her with love, I cannot thank you enough.

To Chandra’s husband Benny, I thank you for loving my sister and playing such a major role in Chandra’s life experience.

To Mom, I cannot fully fathom the loss that you are feeling having now lost your first born daughter; I can only empathize a little having just lost my best friend.

To my sister Audreanna, again I cannot fully fathom your pain either because you have known and loved Chandra longer than me.

To her son, Benny III, she loved you most of all; you are bone of her bones and flesh of her flesh.  You are the light of her heart, the center of her joy and her greatest accomplishment. I take great solace in knowing that at the moment of her passing you heard Chandra shout your name.  She’s telling you that she’s OK, she loves you and she will always be with you.

To all who knew and loved Chandra, I thank you for providing her such a rich and wonderful life experience.

Please know that Chandra is OK now.  She’s back home, she’s with the elders, her guardian angels, with Dad and with God.

Dear Chandra,

I love you
I already miss you so very much
You got me through so much in life and you taught me so much about life
My life has been made so much better and richer because of you
You were such a beautiful and wonderful person
You are such a sweet and wonderful spirit
Right now, I cannot imagine the world without your voice, the world without your smile, the world without your love
But, I rejoice in this physical life that you lived, a life so well lived
I rejoice in your transition back to pure spirit and light
And I rejoice, for I know that I will see you again.

Love forever and always, your baby brother,

I and my father and my sister are one.

The Talk I Wish I Didn’t Have To Give

25 Years ago, early one morning while rushing to work in my car, I was pulled over by a police officer for speeding. I put my car in park, rolled down my window, put both hands on my steering wheel and waited for the officer to approach my door. When he reached my window, the police officer politely asked, “Do you know why I’ve pulled you over?” “No officer”, I replied. “I’ve pulled you over because you were going 10 miles over the speed limit”, said the officer, to which I replied, “OK”.

The officer then asked me for my driver’s license and it was at this moment that our encounter almost became fatal for me. With my left hand still on the steering wheel, I reached with my right hand into the left hand pocket of my suit jacket to retrieve my wallet and in the same second that it took me to perform that action, I observed the police officer reaching for his gun, so I froze.

I politely and calmly looked directly into the police officer’s eyes and said, “Officer, you did ask me to show you my driver’s license, yes?” “Yes!” the officer replied. “Well, it’s here in my wallet and I am attempting to get it for you. What would you like me to do?” From that moment on, the rest of my encounter with this police officer went fairly smoothly; however, I do think he became slightly annoyed by my repeating each of his requests and asking him to confirm before taking any action.

That experience happened to me 25 years ago. But, if I had that same encounter today, I am highly concerned and in great fear that this same white police officer would have pulled his weapon from his holster and shot me three or more times before ever giving me the chance to prevent such a fatal escalation. Am I exaggerating? Absolutely not! Are my fears warranted? They absolutely are! We have all borne witness to such a fatal outcome less than one week ago.

The truth of the matter is that I can ride my bicycle 50 miles deep into valleys and up 5000-foot mountains with only two water bottles, one inner tube, a CO2 cartridge and a cell phone that hardly works in the mountains and valleys most of the time and not have a single worry for my health and safety.

And yet when I get in my car to leave my home and drive less than two miles to my favorite restaurant, in that five-minute trip, my physical and mental experience is quite different from that of my bicycle rides; it is stressful because I’m a black man in a car. I know that if I’m pulled over for any reason, for any reason whatsoever, in that next five minutes my life can very possibly come to an end.

I must live with this concern every single time I get into my car. Every man and woman of color must live with this concern each time they drive their car.

When I spoke with my son on his birthday only a month or so ago, he told me that his mother bought him a car; so, after congratulating him, I had to give him THE TALK, the same talk that my father didn’t want to give but had to give to me.

Son, now that you have a car, I must tell you these three things and ask you to take them to heart.

One, never ever, ever drive your car intoxicated.

Two, please know that in your early experience driving your car, you do not fully understand the laws of physics, centrifugal force, laws of inertia and the energy present when driving your car. So, please observe and follow all speed limits especially around curves for your safety as well as the safety of others.

Son, this third one is the most important; listen very carefully. When driving your car, if you are ever pulled over by a police officer for any reason, any reason at all, even if you think you’re in the right and there was no good reason for the police officer pulling you over, I want you to take the following steps:

  • Pull your car over to the curb
  • Turn your car off
  • Place your car in park
  • Turn on your hazard lights
  • If it is dark out, turn on the ceiling lights in your car
  • Roll down your driver side window and if you have electric windows, roll them all down
  • Place your hands on your steering wheel
  • When the officer speaks to you, always respond with “Yes officer” and “No officer”
  • When the officer asks you to do something, before doing it, repeat back to the officer what he or she has asked you to do and ask for their confirmation; doing this may annoy them, but it should keep them basically calm and you safe.

Son, at all times you must be in control of your interaction with the police officer. Even if the officer is disrespectful to you, calls you outside of your name, raises his voice to you or tries to provoke you into conflict do not, I repeat, do not lose your composure; do not raise your voice to the police officer and do not argue with the police officer; remain calm, at all times remain calm and in control of your environment.

Son, please remember this; if a police officer is being disrespectful to you in any way, shape or form, but you are continuing to converse with the police officer calmly and respectfully, at no time should you ever consider or feel that you are having to compromise or to swallow your pride.

Son, please hear me on this; if you are walking alone in the woods and you happen upon a wild or injured animal, what do you do? You freeze and calmly assess the situation; for you know if you’re not in control of your encounter with this wild or injured animal, it may attack you because it is weak, in fear of you and in fear for its life. Thus, if you ever have such an encounter with a wild or weak animal, you know the actions you’re taking have no effect on denigrating your pride; on the contrary, it is your pride and your survival instincts that will kick in so that you can take charge of your situation allowing you and the wild or injured animal to survive your encounter with each other.

Son, not all police officers are weak and dishonorable, not all police officers that you may encounter during your lifetime will treat you dishonorably, but you must be prepared for the ones that are and the ones that do.

Son, please comprehend this; if you are ever in a situation where you are being victimized by a police officer, you are NOT the victim; the police officer is the victim. The police officer is a victim of his or her own fears and prejudices that have been drummed into them from others and by a societal set of ill-fated norms and incorrect beliefs systems that have yet to be fully dispelled and dissipated, but have permeated the mind of the police officer and restricted his or her ability to think correctly, function responsibly and to see you as a human being equal in all rights and respect, honor and sovereignty equally afforded to them. Even if the police officer is taller than you, is larger than you, weighs more than you, is wearing body armor and carries a weapon that can maim or kill you, that police officer is more afraid of you than you are of that police officer.

Son, your goal in all encounters with any police officer is to be respectful as humanly possible, always remain calm, present, in control of the situation and to the best of your ability, stay alive.

To all men, women and children of color I implore you to remain calm, present and in control of your situation; stay alive and come home to your children and your parents each evening; live to see another day.

Though you may be victimized by a police officer, you are not the victim; the police officer is the victim.

Though you may be being mistreated by a police officer, cursed at, spat upon, beat down, shot at and brought to your knees, you are not the weaker vessel in your situation; the police officer is the weaker vessel.

Though you may not see justice done to the police officer who has persecuted you or done worse to you and is set free by a judicial system that is unbalanced, unconcerned and slated in the officer’s favor, judge not lest ye be judged.

You are already exalted by the creator, the one who transcends all religions, race, sex, color, creed and knows and loves you even as equally as the misguided, feeble minded police officer who has wrongly harmed you; your pride has not been altered nor shaken and your spirit cannot be broken; it is the pathetic police officer who has no pride, whose spirit is lost and in great need of rescue and the one we must pray for even as we deal with our own pain and anger and pray for our own dead and wounded.

Hycel B. Taylor III
I and My Father Are One