It’s easy for me to feel lifeless during finals week, so I have to make a real effort to get out by myself and touch the leaves. This afternoon I was doing just this, minding my own business and enjoying the feeling of doing nothing but looking at an empty field of grass when I heard some disturbing comments coming from the playground nearby. I looked far to my left to find the source of these voices and discovered that they were coming from the tallest point of a distant tree. It sounded like junior high-aged kids, which made it even more sickening considering what they were saying. I heard them calling this girl on the playground a “fucking whore,” a “fat and meaningless bitch.” Over and over again they traded off dehumanizing this one single girl on the swings who looked like she was just trying to be by herself. That’s when I packed my backpack and began to walk over to the tree. Initially my plan was to tell these boys to stop talking and get a life, but I immediately realized that they were probably used to being reprimanded and that telling them to shut up would probably do very little at actually getting them to stop. So, I decided I would attempt to simply make conversation with them to relieve this girl of being severely insulted.
I get to the base of the tree. One kid had just come to the bottom and he looks at me mischievously communicating that he knows what he and his friends are doing. I look up the tree and see a group of about six to eight kids sitting on its branches all staring at this girl and taking turns insulting her. I call out to them and ask them how they got up there. They give the obvious answer. I ask them how old they are and what their names are. They respond. I lie about my name and my age when they ask me. I tell them I’m young and the most vocal of the group tells me that it must suck to be me and not know anything about life. I don’t even touch that remark. What I say next probably shocks them. I ask them if they think that girl on the swings is a “fucking whore.” They all say yes. I ask them why they think so and they tell me that she is stupid and has no friends. They proceed to inform me that if I knew what sixth grade girls were like, I would understand how they are justified in putting her down. I’m suddenly saddened and reminded of familiar emotions of my middle school years. Now I tell them my real age. I tell them how when I was their age I disliked most of my peers. I tell them how their immaturity was beyond annoying. The way they thought that the world revolved around them and how whatever they said they just had to say two times louder than necessary bugged me to the point where I didn’t even want to associate with them. All of these kids high up in this tree agreed with me telling me that that’s exactly how they felt. I said, “Somewhere down the line you just learn that saying nothing at all is the most effective way to deal with kids your age.” They didn’t respond this time. Maybe they saw the irony. They just stared down at me not knowing what to say.
A few moments passed. I realized I didn’t have much more to say, so I looked over my shoulder and smiled once at that girl on the swings and when I looked back to my new friends in the tree I said, “Why don’t you give this girl a break.” I let the silence sink in. I let God find them, and after a pause of silence said, “I like you guys.” See you later.” And as I walked away from this tree they all said their good byes to me. You had to be there. It was cool. I prayed that they would remember feeling loved on this afternoon on a Seattle playground. I prayed that they would perceive God’s grace. And as their voices faded out, I soaked in all of the love that God had filled me with. I hadn’t said much to those kids, but I think it was enough.
I don’t know if you know this, but God shows up wherever He wants. He shows up in another person. He shows up in strangers who cross paths with you out of nowhere. He comes to you in your dreams. He comes to you when you’re enjoying the peace of walking by yourself. He even comes to you in the midst of turbulence and sadness. But, being a Christian in disguise helps me cope with feeling empty and alone. When I get back to my room I remember that deep down I feel like that girl on the swing, but I look over my shoulder at myself and smile because I see the virtue of patience in times like this. He doesn’t see it yet, but big things await him on the other side. All he must do is trust and wait. Is it going to be easy? No, not at all. Is it worth it? I’d be willing to bet my life on it.