They said one to another, “Behold, here cometh the dreamer…Let us slay him…and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” –Genesis 37:19-20
Note: There are times when a stranger flashes a familiar smile. Their eyes survey my right forearm moments before pointing and asking “Did that hurt?”
Those are the days when I almost forget it’s there. I almost forget about the raised skin on my right forearm, which is very visible to everyone else-My fraternity brand.
The fact is…I’m branded in four places: The right forearm, the left bicep, on the back over the right shoulder and over the heart. Some see the brands and want to know all about the crazy things they’ve heard one must do to be initiated into a fraternity. Some ask why a man of African American decent would be willing to let others brand him-primarily because our ancestors were branded by Slave masters and similarly marked as property.
Some profess their fascination with Greek life and ask me questions in a state of awe. They hear about this renowned society of collegiate men, who do great things in their respective communities, network and create opportunities for one another. They hear about the massive amounts of fun that we have and the brotherhood that results. They hear of an unbreakable bond that we share- a bond in which one brother would actually be willing to sacrifice his life for another. But no one speaks on the ones who are selfish. What about those who choose to lie and attempt to ruin the name and reputation of another brother? What about those who attempt to hurt their brother or are fueled by jealousy? What about those who witness wrongdoings and instead of speaking out against them, choose instead to go with whatever the majority does, simply because of their insatiable need to fit in at any cost? We as Greeks never talk about them. We just act as though they don’t exist. The fraternity member, much like the used car salesman, sells the public the façade of unconditional love and unbreakable bonds, when the reality is true friends are chosen…frat brothers are forced upon you. In a fraternity, one can be surrounded by just as many parasites as he is great men. I look at it like the biblical verse in St. Matthew 7:18-20 stating: “A Good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown down into the fire. Really then, by their fruits you will recognize those men.”
When speaking on the subject of my fraternity, I speak with unbiased honesty and tell all who listen that sometimes I feel like a modern day Joseph The Dreamer (who’s story is my favorite of all documented in the Bible- the book of Genesis).
No one knows more about hardships than the biblical character Joseph, who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Joseph was the 11th of the twelve sons, but Joseph was the favored child. He stood out because he obeyed his father. He also had a close walk with God and he was in turn blessed to interpret the dreams of others. One day Joseph was in the fields with his brothers Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher, when he sees them doing something they shouldn’t have been and decides to tell his father about it. As a younger brother who’s already viewed as the favorite, this was bound to not go over well with his brothers. Jacob the father, loved Joseph more than the rest of his sons, because he had been born while he was old, and Jacob made a richly ornamented robe of many colors for Joseph. When his brothers saw that the father loved him more…they hated him. Not only did Jacob love him more, but choose to give him a robe-which advertised it. In greekdom, I’ve seen people often endure the same thing, whether in positions earned, line-names individual talents or just overall status or lack of status. Some become envious of others because of their appearance or their perceived disposition. I’ve seen jealousy arise from mutual attraction to a female and the female’s interest in one, leaving the other with the unrequited heart. But anyway…
One day Joseph tells his brothers about a dream he has, where they were all binding sheaves of grain in the field and suddenly Joseph’s sheaf rose and stood upright, while his brother’s sheaf’s bowed to his. His brothers asked, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And now they hated him even more because of a dream that he had. Joseph has another dream and tells his brothers of it. “Listen,” he says, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven starts were bowing down to me.” When he told his father, as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your Mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” He had brothers who hated him and were jealous but his father kept it in mind, though he found it offensive. Joseph was a dreamer. He was simply using the gift that God had given him. He was being blessed with the ability to interpret dreams, but his gift aroused the jealousy of others. Joseph made the mistake of telling his dreams to the only brothers he had-the same brothers who were already jealous of him and the brothers who further hated him because of his favoritism in the family. The brothers had gone to graze near their father’s flocks near Shechem, and Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers and bring word back to him. Joseph travels from the Valley of Hebron 30 miles north to find his brothers. The last time Joseph was sent to check on his brothers, he came back with a bad report. The bad report, mixed with two dreams of superiority, didn’t exactly make Joseph a favorite with his brothers.
Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. Before Joseph reached them, they saw him in the distance and plotted to kill him. Their tones were now mocking and sarcastic: They said one to another, “Behold, here cometh the dreamer…Let us slay him…and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”
One suggested killing him, throwing his body in one of the cisterns and saying that a wild animal devoured him. One brother heard this and tried to show some mercy. He suggested not to take his life, but instead to throw him in the cistern in the desert. When Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his colorful robe and threw him into the cistern. Then they left to eat. Damn. While they’re eating, a huge caravan of Ishmaelites passes by and one brother gets the idea to sell Joseph to them for twenty shekels of silver, which was the price for a handicapped slave in that day.
The brother returns to the cistern and notices that Joseph isn’t there. They needed an explanation for their father, so they tore a piece from Joseph’s robe, killed a goat and dipped the robe in goat’s blood so they could show it to their father. Jacob recognized the robe and cried because he thought his favorite son was dead. Meanwhile, Joseph had been sold by the Midianites-to a government official in Egypt named Potiphar. But God never stopped watching over Joseph. He still prospered as he lived in the house of his Egyptian Master. Joseph found favor in his master and became his attendant. Because God was with Joseph, he blessed that house and in turn the blessing was on everything that the Egyptian Potiphar had. Joseph was abandoned by his family, abused and left for dead by his brothers, sold into slavery and winded up in foreign land and was still prospering.
But the hating didn’t end there. Joseph was also described in the Bible as well built and handsome, and it didn’t take long for the master’s wife to take notice of Joseph. She came to him one day and said, “Come to bed with me” but Joseph refused. Joseph said, “With me in charge, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a thing and sin against God?” And even though she approached Joseph day after day, he refused to sleep with her or be with her.
Joseph was a man who prolly had every reason to do it. He was a single man, who was away from his family and away from his friends, nobody would know, nobody would even care, and did I mention…he’s a slave?!? I can’t lie. I likely would have been knocking her off! (laughing) Joseph continued to avoid the whorish wife because of the immerse respect that he had for his master and his fear and belief in God. One day, while Joseph attended to his daily duties, she approached him once more. None of the household servants were inside the home. She grabbed him by the cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” Joseph left his cloak in her hand and ran off.
I guess she felt pretty stupid after she was refused once again and in typical refuted female fashion, she decided to create a lie to save face. When she saw Joseph had left his cloak behind, she grabbed it and held onto it until the master came back home. She then told her story: She told him that the Hebrew slave that he brought came to make sport of her. She said that she screamed for help and Joseph ran off, leaving his cloak behind. Joseph does everything right and shit still goes wrong for him. Potiphar is angry with Joseph, but is more angered by the fact that his wife tried to seduce him. He has to do something, so he throws his most trusted slave in prison. Even in prison, the Lord was still looking out for him. Joseph received favor in the eyes of the prison warden. Joseph winded up in charge of all that was done there. But Joseph had to face more hardship. The Pharoah had became upset with two of his officers, the chief of the butlers and the chief of the bakers-and those two ended up in the same prison as Joseph. Both were given a spiritual dream they didn’t understand, whereas Joseph had the power to understand their dreams. The interpretations both came true. Soon after, the Pharaoh called for those two men. He gave the chief butler his position back, but executed the chief baker-just as Joseph had predicted accorded to the dream they had.
The Pharaoh had two dreams himself. He called magicians and the wisest men in Egypt, but no one could make sense of the dreams. Pharaoh desperately wanted to know what these dreams meant, and the chief butler (who’s life was spared because of Joseph) told Pharaoh of a Hebrew who was able to interpret dreams. Joseph interpreted the dreams. He predicted 7 years of plenty in Egypt followed by 7 years of great famine. Joseph said that someone should be appointed overseer in Egypt to ensure that all the grain & food would be stored over the next 7 years and managed carefully to prepare for the famine. Pharaoh was pleased and made Joseph the overseer over the land. Somehow this Hebrew came up from the depths of slavery and became second in command over all of Egypt.
When the land of Canaan began to experience the great drought, Jacob, Joseph’s father, sent his sons (Joseph’s brothers) to Egypt to buy grain because they were going to eventually die of starvation. Joseph, being second in command now…eventually came face to face with his brothers, the same ones who plotted his downfall and left him for dead-though he did not reveal who he was to them right away. The brothers had no idea this great ruler of Egypt was the same brother that they sold into slavery years ago.
The brothers returned home eventually with the grain, but after a while, found themselves once again in need of grain. Joseph told them that they must return with their brother, Benjamin, or else he’s be pissed, and would not allow them to get any more food again. Benjamin was Joseph’s full brother (remember…there were 12 brothers) so Benjamin was also very special to Jacob. Joseph also wanted to see his brother again. Jacob eventually allowed Benjamin to go with his brothers to Egypt to buy grain, although he knew in his heart, if anything were to happen to his special son (like he was informed happened to Joseph many years ago) he’s be devastated.
When the brothers returned, Joseph finally told everyone who he really was. Everyone was scared out of their minds because of what they had done to him, and the lie that they had been living for so long. Crazy thing is, Joseph wasn’t angry. He was full of forgiveness in his heart. Joseph embraced his brothers and wept; he sent them to Canaan and they brought back their father, their families and everything they owned back to Egypt in a place that Joseph set up for all of them to live. Pharaoh was happy because Joseph was reunited with his family; Jacob was beside himself that his long lost son was alive! After a while, Jacob eventually died, and Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph would want to do them harm, but Joseph still wasn’t bitter or angry. The children of Israel were preserved as an entire nation in Egypt until much later as they went forth in search of a promised land.
Sometimes in life, we have those who are close to us (some just like brothers) who don’t exhibit the ideals of friendship or brotherhood, but instead do harm. I was someone who grew up with family thousands of miles away in Jamaica. The family that I had in America could give a shit less about bonding and getting to know each other. I had a sister who was eight years older, and growing up it appeared as though we shared very little in common. I created a rock-solid bond with friends from the neighborhood. They were my brothers. Some of them I am still extremely close with to this day. Aaron, whom I’ve been close with since I was 5, and Lee-who’s been one of my closest confidants since I was 7. I had childhood friends-many whom I’ve reconnected with recently via facebook or various journeys in life. I searched for a bond and I sought the family structure that I lacked in things like college friends and fraternity membership. In many cases, I was exposed to brothers that were like Joseph’s. I was blessed to have met some in my fraternity who have altered my life and truly personified friendship. Some…not so much. (laughing)
My father wasn’t a well-educated man by society’s standards, but like many older adults, every now and then…from time to time…my father would say some profound shit. He used to say something about friends since I was a youth that never made any sense to me until now. He used to observe how close I was to my friends, and I think he secretly knew how badly I envied not having a good family structure. He’d say, “Ron…I know you love ya friends…I know you guys have fun, like to hang out and they’re always been around, but you gotta understand…they’re just…friends.”
Even as a teen, when he would say that, I’d stand there with a perplexed look and think, What…the hell…is he talkin’ bout?!?
But at thirty years old, it makes so much sense to me now. Friends come and go. Many friends will continually disappoint you. Many friends will not have the profound appreciation for the bond you share or once shared the same way you do. I remember how dumb I felt reuniting with several child-hood friends recently, even on facebook. In many cases, I was overjoyed to have been reunited with a person who played such an intricate part in shaping who I am today. To some of them, it was like Cool…good to see you’re doing well and you’re alive...on to the next one.
We put our faith in fratbrothers and we put our faith in friends, but no amount of years known can ensure that a person truly gives a shit. Some people are parasites. They feed off of you, until they’ve used their resources or find another host who they can feed off of. Many people go about their relationships the same way. No fraternity of sorority process guarantees a genuine bond between strangers. Anyone who dares to argue that point is brainwashed. Period. I don’t care if you were on line for 1,911 weeks and you share every detail of your life. I was told as a youth In order to make friends, one must first himself be friendly. I’ve had friends and fratbrothers accuse me unjustly of things-like Joseph. I myself am a dreamer who interprets life’s situations and dares to dream. I’ve never been a slave, but I know what’s it’s like to attract the jealousy of others around me. I know how it feels to be spoken bad about and to endure hardship. I know how it feels to be forsaken by family. I’ve refused the advances of women who belonged to another and had false things said about me. Shit, I’ve even had females who felt as though they were rejected, and afterwards question my sexual orientation! (laughing)
But there has always been one consistent. God has always been blessing me. He’s blessed me with intelligence, strength, health and undeniable talents. Life’s hardships don’t last forever and God has a funny way of raising us from prisons in foreign lands to a place of prominence and blessings. I’ve been motivated to chase Dreams and chase history…not to chase the concept of making friends. The people who you are intended to know and interact with will be placed in your life. There is no about of pledging that can bond you with someone who naturally doesn’t give a fuck. Some will read this and wear that blank expression of a dullard because they don’t get it. Some will become enraged that the words of a dreamer strike deep in their hearts, but who cares? I walk with God…and he keeps blessing me…despite what happens. And I’ll continue to dream…until I receive my kingdom. Keep Dreaming, y’all.
“Behold, I sent you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” –Matthew 10:16
…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…(for all those that get it)