The other day, my boys and I went for a nice bike ride and we eventually landed at the park. I love going to the park. It’s such simple fun, free from the distraction of technology and it invites physical activity and/or goofing around, which is always good.
As usual, I pushed them on the tire swing until they found a friend to play tag with. So, I just plopped down on a curb, inhaled the fresh air and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the kiddos running, playing and using their imaginations.
A few minutes later, a group of 4 girls showed up, probably around 11 years old or so. They were swinging and chatting like normal friends. I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to hear the conversation shift a little. It was apparent that 3 of the girls were pretty close and the 4th girl was an acquaintance or something….maybe even considered an “outsider.”
Basically, the girls started proclaiming that they didn’t know this girl, but the girl was sure that they did know each other. She asked why they were being mean and not including her in a game and they sarcastically called her a stranger (being sure to note that their parents didn’t let them play with strangers) and started to leave, their noses pointing super high in the air. In a last-ditch effort to defend herself, the “outsider” threatened to slap them in the face, they mocked her and then they all rode off on their bikes.
It was a gut-wrenching thing to witness, it really was. Being someone who was bullied as a kid, I wanted to intercede, I wanted to yell at them, I wanted to give the “outsider” a big hug, but my gut told me to hang back.
As the girls rode away, leaving this young lady standing defeated and alone, my oldest son did something that made my blood boil…..he told the 3 girls “good job,” congratulating them on their “victory” (luckily the “outsider” didn’t hear him say that). He had assumed that the girl was being a troublemaker.
I quickly pulled Ben aside and explained to him what had happened to that poor girl…..that it’s always good to know the full story before jumping on board and following the crowd. He felt pretty bad about it and I explained that he had an opportunity to make things better. That he should go over and tell her something like “I’m sorry for how they treated you” and invite her to play with them.
So, with determination and without hesitation, he headed over to her and proceeded to chat with her…he showed her love…I was so proud of him. They all ended up playing and laughing for a bit and it made this dad’s heart smile. Honestly, it chokes me up just writing about it.
Kids are pretty brutal to each other at times, it’s true. Adults can be pretty brutal to each other as well and it’s sad. Here’s the thing though, we all have the opportunity to shine light, to show love and to avoid the temptation of excluding those who are different.
Our judgments of others can be intoxicating and ego-inflating, they really can. Let us not forget that we all have a story and we’ve all come from somewhere….and guess what, we’re all not perfect either.
Let’s extend our olive branches friends. Let’s put aside our assumptions. Let’s walk alongside those who are ignored, marginalized and different. I was once that lonely, insecure kid who desired someone to walk alongside me.
I WAS THAT KID.
The desperation for acceptance was real and it influenced every decision that I made. Luckily, I’ve had loving folks in my life embrace me and love me for who I am.
THEIR LOVE SAVED ME.
Like literally, the love of others SAVED me from doing something really stupid (that’s for another post.)
Will you be that person friends? I really hope that you will.