The Wisdom of JIVE

Mr Murphy Darden and I

There’s a language that is rooted in the English language that is spoken fluently in pockets of American culture called “Jive.”  I am blessed not only to be fairly fluent in the language, I get to speak it with many of my friends, particularly within my inter-generational friendships.  I cherish these moments whereby I get the opportunity hear from and banter with these men who have outlived and out-learned me.  I count on and cherish their wisdom and the fellowship we have from time to time.  These interactions have no agenda, no goals to meet, no deals to close and no budgetary limitations.  These are precious, unscripted and unplanned interactions where we, as my dear friend Chuck Warfield would say,  “laugh and lie to one another.” During these conversations, I am often struck by a jive statement that at first listen sounds like foolery!  However, after I take a moment and let the statement swirl around my mind; I find these wonderful nuggets of wisdom for life.   I’d like to share a few of them with you.

Moses, Chuck and Tim

  1. “Amen, lights all by myself.”  – Dr. Charles Warfield  Those in the greater Kalamazoo area know this great man and if you know me well, you know that he and I are good friends. I admire him and love his presence in my life.  We have many Jive conversations, and from time to time, in the middle of a conversation, he would lift his and and say “amen lights, all by myself.”  Finally, I asked him; “Doc, what in the world does that mean?”  He replied with a story of a Pastor years ago in Chicago who was preaching the sermon of his life (or so he thought).  As he looked out into the congregation for a little ‘help’ from the amen corner, he received none.  So the preacher hollers out “Amen, lights all by myself! If you all won’t help me out, me and the lights will say amen!”  HI-LAR-IOUS!  After I wiped my eyes from laughter, I realized that sometimes in life, you have be your own amen corner.  Sometimes when we are doing our life’s work, people will not be supportive, not because they don’t want to be, they just don’t know how or they just don’t have it in them.  It’s alright!  Amen Lights!   You and I have a voice and a choice. Some days, it will be just you and the lights…but AMEN!


2. “Ain’t nothin’ cookin’ but the peas in the pot, and the peas wouldn’t be cookin’ if the water wasn’t hot.” – Author Unknown (and forgotten).  This statement has been a part of my memory since I was a kid.  I remember hearing it from different older men and loving the rhyme, yet not understanding the reason.  This jive statement is all about gratitude.  Everything that is ‘cooking’ in my life life is a direct result of another choice or gift or kindness of someone else.  It takes hot water to cook peas.  It takes blessings and grace to make a successful life.  And with jive statements like this, I am less likely to forget that truth.


3. “Give it what it’s worth.”  Dr. Von Washington, Sr.  In the jive dialogue, I often find myself asking these men questions about life and some of the nuanced struggles that come with attempting to make a difference in the world. One statement in particular, blew me away. It was simple, but it helps me everyday, literally.  Dr. Washington reminded me one day while sitting on his family porch to “give it what it’s worth.”  This reminder to put things in context and prioritize the activities and people that increase my energy. I should never give energy zapping interactions more than what they are worth, and on the flip side, the people and interactions that are “worth” my energy, I should freely give it!  This truth helps me when i’m tempted to give away energy where I should be preserving it.

Those are just a few nuggets of wisdom found in ‘jive-talkin’.”  I hope that you find the wisdom in these statements, and seek out your own JIVE relationships.  They are worth their weight in GOLD!

Peace and Blessings,


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