“Are you a Christian, Jay teacher?”
“What?” She caught me off guard, “What makes you say that?”
“Well my mom said that Christians are good people who care about others and help people, so you have to be Christian.”
I didn’t know how to respond. This was clearly meant to be a sweet compliment. But right now, I couldn’t have an in-depth conversation about how people of different religious backgrounds can also help and care about others. At least not here.
I got this tutoring job by a friend’s recommendation, so I had to make a good impression; becoming the Camp’s controversial math tutor wouldn’t be the way to do it. That summer, my friend’s Christian Leadership Camp was short on math teachers. I needed the money and I was great at what I did: teaching math to middle-schoolers. I couldn’t imagine many scenarios where Jesus would come up when teaching algebraic foil methods. All things considered, I accepted the job.
But here we were. Did this student see me as a Christian for staying late to help with homework? Did she see me as Christian for empathizing when she told me her friends thought she was “dumb” and stopped being friends? Did encouraging her to continue art classes (after seeing her amazing sketches on the margins of their math homework) make me a Christian?
I’m not sure about many of those things. But I do know that this was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my life. Being a decent human has no religious boundaries.
The first stand-up special I ever saw was a day I came home early from school. It was also the beginning of my school suspension from the Assistant Principal for retaliating against a bully. I felt so much anger, resentment and unfairness that day, especially because the person who caused me so much hurt for making racist comments went undisciplined. I flopped onto the couch, flipped on the TV, and started watching a guy on stage with multiple water bottles behind him, sweating like a maniac, making an entire theater roar with laughter. The more I watched, the more I laughed and the less I felt anger and rage. “This is fucking crazy!” I thought. How is a person able to give laughter and kindness to millions of people he didn’t even know, in that theater and on TV combined? There is something magical and powerful about that.
Robin Williams is one of my life’s greatest inspirations and reasons why I enjoy doing comedy so much. He is one of the few people who inspired me to believe in myself and be courageous. Thank you for giving me the courage to pursue my dream, my friend.
I am very grateful to have met the super-talented Anjelah Johnson recently at a church here in Southern California! She is a super sweet and kind individual who shared her story about success and how spirituality played an important part in her life! It definitely gave me a lot of inspiration and fuel to finish up my college degree and pursue this path of stand-up comedy and bringing positivity and happiness to others!