What is swag? How can I get it? Do I even want it?
Among other things Swag is a public representation and admonition that you are “in the zone”. In every great athletic performance there has been a time where a player or players are obviously in the zone. When Michael Jordan effortlessly scored 55 points in his triumphant return to basketball we could see that he had a swagger about him. He hadn’t played competitive basketball in 2 ½ years but after that game, you would have thought he never left. Swagger is something that is not limited to circumstance, time, or situation. It’s who you are; it’s who you know you are. I was talking to my uncle Harold the other day, and he said, “Justin, have you found your stride yet?” I was a bit puzzled at first but as he began to describe the term more with more detail I could see that he was trying to grasp whether or not I had discovered my swag, my voice, my struggle, my strength. I had and the journey has been both cathartic and euphoric. I believe this happens when you have discovered and responded to your specific calling that all of us have. Not specific plan of action, but a calling. There is a difference and we will touch on that in a later post. You see it doesn’t matter whether you are scoring 55 against the Knicks or about to drop that last order of fries at Mc Donald’s. If you are fully “you” in that moment, you got swag! The dictionary may have a certain way of describing it, but I think swag is an outward expression of the way you think about yourself internally. If you are confident in whom you are and what you have to offer as a person-you got swag. If you are humbly aware that there is a loving God or maybe for you, it’s a just cause which is greater than you such as democracy, justice, service, or compassion- you got swag..If you can support and encourage others – you got swag. If you know who you are, and what your calling is, you absolutely have some serious swag. One of my friends was commenting on a particular rap song the other day, and he was telling me, “man that dude has swag” I thought for a moment, I played the song back and gave attention to the fact that he spent the whole song critiquing someone else’s rap style and flow, and in between that he offered praise to himself. I thought, “that ain’t swag”. Swag is what your calling is, and knowing what you have to offer, and knowing that nobody can do what you do better than you-but there is also a deep humility tied to it, and that’s where the wag comes in.
That’s why I love to look at old pictures of Martin Luther king, Ghandi, and Albert Einstein these souls were very brave, calm and collected…but also, so very cool. Martin dressed in sharp suits, Ghandi often wore nice suits and he could even pull of looking cool in a garment made by his own hand. Einstein looked, and was in his own right insane, but for a moment, if you look long enough he could even make insanity look cool. Beautiful artists like India Arie and Adele have given truth to what it means to feel comfortable in your own skin. Their deep words penetrate our souls and re- arrange our conceptions of love. They have their own sense of fashion, lyrics, and overall artistry. These men and women all have one thing in common-they are liberators. To have swag, you have to be free. Free to make your own reasoning, free to ask the questions, and free to deliver the answers.
Last year, I remember I was walking into work a little late. My confidence was low, I had no encouraging words to give or joke to make. I was sad. I was unsure about who I was, what my calling was, and why I was here at all. As I began to take orders from customers I saw from a distance, Twaine, one of our homeless regulars. At that moment, I thought the worst things, “please not today” “I hook you up everyday bro, why don’t you find a new kick it spot, or better yet get a job!” But here brother Twaine comes walking in with a big smile on his face like always. There was a beautiful woman ordering in front of him and she was taking her time, she told Twaine, “Go ahead I’m still looking” without hesitation Twaine replied, “I’m still looking too” and looked her up and down. This response immediately brought joy to everyone in line, including me. Mind you, Twaine is missing one of his front teeth, has kicks that looks like he was trying to moonwalk over hot coals, and a breathe that would make you forget your thought. She responded with an, “Oh Lord” and laughed it off, Twaine laughed also as he approached the counter. He didn’t care whether or not she was going to curse him or embrace him. This small act spoke volumes to me. How could a man in this situation and predicament be so centered and assured? Twaine hadn’t let sadness, disappointment or despair have the last word in his life. Through it all he still knew who he was. He had swag. Swag doesn’t reside at the job; it doesn’t rest in a new suit from Nordstrom’s or a blouse from Forever 21. Swag is a Godly and universal gift, all you need is a little courage, love, and freedom to access it. God bless