by Garrett Andrew
I shared this story once in a sermon, but I was reminded of it again when I saw someone being hurt by another.
I recall the kid I met in summer camp when I was young who had Down Syndrome. He had that wonderfully infections loving way about him that is common among those who share that extra chromosome. He was often smiling, and waving, and wanting to give the counselors hugs. The summer camp was populated by kids not quite teenagers yet, but things were already starting to happen to our bodies. I think it was the summer I went from being skinny to overhearing someone call me “pleasantly plump.” Things were happening to our minds and maybe even our souls too, if we can believe that a soul grows.
And we can all remember those days well enough to know that we were awkward, all of us really. Yet by that point many kinds know enough of the world to know that strong survive, and it is hard to survive at that time. How many of us kept silent at home about what really happened at school? I know I did, and I think I did in an effort to not have to live it at home too. Home was safe. It did not need to be filed with the worries with which my days were filled. Home could not be filled with them if I any chance of making it.
Some choose strength then because they are trying to make their way in the world and the world favors the strong. But strength and bullying is a fine line, and difficult to discern at any age, even more so at that young age. Some of the stronger kids saw it fit to pick on the awkwardly loving big lug with his extra chromosome. The counselors kept it in check, but the kids were trying to be strong, and part of being strong is overcoming obstacles. I recall the day we were on a hike and we stopped somewhere along the trail and the strongest kid approached the differently abled kid. One was trying to prove himself, one was simply smiling. And then I saw the one trying to prove himself push the loving one, the more helpless one, the weak one. There it was, an example of the world that favors the strong for my adolescent eyes to see for themselves. The strong kid pushed the weak kid down with a laugh, and laughter from two of his friends too. As that big lug of love tried to get up the strong kid took his foot and pushed him back down with a kick.
I suppose I recall that event because I am ashamed of it. I am ashamed of it because such things happen, the world works in that way. I am ashamed of the kid who did it, that he would do such a thing to someone else simply because he could. I supposed however, I am most ashamed of myself for having not done anything. Being a sensitive child I found myself crying at the sight of it all, crying with the poor child on the ground. So it could be said that I felt his pain, but I left him alone in it. I am ashamed that I did not try to stop it. I could not have of course. I would have gotten some, and maybe even worse, had I tried to stop it, but I am ashamed I did not try anyway.
Perhaps I would have gotten beat up for stepping into that mess, but then at least those young bullies would have had to beat up two of us, and that is something. Maybe I would have been hit, but then at least the poor kid would not have been alone, and maybe in that simple way it would have been better for him. But I did not have the courage then, and quite honestly, I am not sure I have the courage now to do such a thing.
But that’s what Jesus did over and over again. He went to people who are beat up by the world and stood with them when no one else would. He stood up with a woman caught in adultery, and some blind fool along a road. He sat down with grimy children, and had a conversation with some woman at a well. I am convinced he still stands with the beat up, the beat down, the beat around, and the simply beat, and if I am there to witness it he is still inviting me to stand with them.
God was with that little boy with an extra chromosome so many years ago, getting beat up too. God was inviting me to sit with them, to take a lick or two but to make sure that poor kid had a friend in it all. The world may favor the strong, but I wonder if God favors the weak. What I know for sure is that we are all being invited to stand up with the weak. By God’s grace we will do so.