Wright's Law from Zack Conkle on Vimeo.
He's just a simple guy… a
schoolteacher. A humble, bespectacled man in a humble profession in a humble city somewhere in
On the other hand, you might call him broken. A broken man, with
a broken kid and broken dreams of fatherhood… In a broken profession, ministering to broken
teenagers, in the most broken of postmodern times. But even (or – perhaps – especially) the broken
man can become salt of the earth, light of the world, when he submits himself in duty and in love.
Even the humblest of messengers can herald a miraculous
What makes Mr. Jeffrey Wright such a special teacher?
Mr. Wright is
one of those types of men, rarer gems in these broken times, who have become what they were meant to
be (and, no, I'm not talking about his job, per se). Men who have discovered what Love is and what
it looks like, lived out. Men who become guardians of life and beacons of light to those around
them; all the more attractive in the darkness. All the more heroic in the desolate landscapes of the
disintegrating American family and the broken-down American public school.
Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 1.21.56 AMJeffrey Wright pours his heart and indeed his whole body into
his teaching. Maybe he learned how to do that – the pouring out thing – somewhere else (more on that
later). It's in this complete self-donation that Mr. Wright snares the attention of his troubled and
disinterested students. They're naturally quite unaccustomed to it. Most of them probably need some
time to come around, to warm up to his over-the-topness… (My cup runneth over – psalm
– I think he could tell with me, that I had stuff going on.
So he kind of
reached out to me at first, and at first I was like, dude, you're a teacher. I'm not gonna talk to
you. But I did –
Because, as we know, these teenagers are broken too.
They're coarsened, their innocence shattered long ago. Many would rather be engaging with a screen
of some sort – a video game, a smart phone. They're skeptical – especially of authority figures (and
therefore also of love, itself).
Perhaps they're especially skeptical of men –
or at least this particular species of man… so exotic to them he might as well be a relic, or a
prehistoric sketch in their social studies textbooks. The Self-Giving
It's no wonder – their skepticism. Some of them are fatherless, maybe
motherless, even homeless. Who could blame any of them for being uninspired by a world that – from
most corners – tells them that life is about getting grades and getting into college, buying stuff,
So, chances are, most of Mr. Wright's teenagers aren't used to
real-life encounters with real men who give of themselves so unselfconsciously. It's almost
embarrassing! (Did you see that girl who tried to sneak by him in the hallway, unnoticed? Mr. Wright
noticed her.) In the presence of this real man, they crack a little bit – these teens, so broken on
the inside, but with their carefully constructed protective veneers. First, their disaffection
falters. They're alert – after all, a pumpkin might explode! But soon comes the moment when their
hardened hearts crack too… the lecture – the best story he'll tell all year…
– Do you
love us? – More than you know. –
They let their teacher in. Or, rather, he sneaks in.
Somewhere between the daily eye-to-eye greetings, the explosions and the busted blocks and nails and
magic tricks, Mr. Wright sneaks in. Love sneaks in.
It's then that his students
catch a deeper glimpse of this real man, cracks and wrinkles and sorrows. A real man. With tears.
With his broken heart. Revealed and spilled out. In the most unexpected of places – a science
classroom. A big bear of a man, a scientist, a nerd. His voice cracks once or twice when he tells
The Art of Manliness:
Coming to you Live and in Technicolor (from a
Louisville Male High Science Classroom)
It's not every day that you'll spot a real man in
his natural habitat. They don't make 'em like they used to, but we're also looking in all the wrong
places, like Hollywood and the NFL gridiron. But here is an image of Manliness and Fatherhood who
reveals himself in humility and vulnerability. (Haven't we seen that somewhere
wrights-law-e1358181923246Mr. Wright's lesson on manly love might be
unexpected, the day he's reserved on the syllabus to tell about his son, Adam. This day, Mr.
Wright's faith is explicit. One day is enough. The rest of the time, he just lives it. Holy
icon-meets-high school science teacher, husband and father: a man who found himself by giving
himself completely away.
"Put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" – 1
Cor. 15:28 –
Jeffrey Wright's students know he is an honorable man. A man worth listening
to. A man who does not let people down. An integrated, unselfish man. But is he a superhero? How
does a mere mortal sustain such an unceasing selflessness? The answer is, he
But we don't need to be hit over the head with that lesson. The hints
are there. He may use explosions and sledgehammers in class, but Wright's faith on display is not
like a blow to the sternum. It's more like a constant whisper.
The crucifix on
his bedroom wall, the family's mealtime prayer… these aren't accidental. They are the signs and
symbols and gestures of a home ruled by Christ. Of a family oriented toward God and a man who has
his house in order.
Sometimes the lessons of Love sneak in through cracks in
broken hearts, where – before the break – it might never have been able to penetrate. Mr. Wright
does not win Louisville Male High's popularity contest because of his looks or his clothes or his
gilt-edged public speaking. He is beloved because he is a good man, and his students catch his
sincerity from a mile away. No gimmicks. No protein shakes. No seductive displays of power or
wealth. Just pure, unadulterated, authoritative, manly LOVE.