Friday, February 20, 2009

sticks & stones, broken hearts and bones.

it was trampled, mangled, dirty, and you could even see footprints from size 6 shoes but it didn’t have any words on it so i claimed it as my own. pure gold, that’s what it was worth to any 5th grader in our class. all the boys were going, or the ones that were in the know.

my new found treasure was a bi fold invitation that had been torn in half, but there was no name on it now, so technically it could have been mine.; perhaps at one time it was in an envelope with my first and last name on it, but was dropped, taken out of its envelope, misplaced, ripped, and winded up just feet from my desk as if it was fate that we should end up in each others hands.

it wasn’t mine. and the person who was giving them out made sure to tell me that i wasn’t invited, i know this because i showed it to the others in the class and they relayed the information to its rightful owner, a neglectful caretaker of precious goods.

the birthday party was going to be the next weekend, and all week i had hyped the party to my parents. i told them how everyone was going to attend, the games, the celebration, the cake, the fact that i did indeed have friends in this new city of mine. my parents were proud of their 9 year old and even then i wondered why they never thought to ask why the invitation looked like a post apocalyptic fall out survivor. better for me.
i didn’t have to lie.
again.

that weekend was the first time i second guessed myself, all week i had stood in the face of adversary and pestering by the boy whose birthday it was, who repeatedly told me that i was not invited, but i held fast that regardless destiny had spoke.

i was standing there at ace hardware the day of the party, in the limited toy section that one would expect from a hardware store, and standing there with a remote control fire truck in my hand questioning myself. i told my dad that i didn’t know if i wanted to attend the party, implying i may not feel good, or was unsure as to my confidence level in myself. it felt like hours staring at the gift, then staring at my dad.

my dad took my delay as a lack of confidence in myself in social settings and set out to correct the situation and give me a lesson in networking and poise. little did he know that his son had just invited himself to a birthday party where every participant loathed his attendance.

a belted ‘I DIDN’T EVEN INVITE HIM DAD!’ was waiting to greet us at the door as soon as we walked through the door, it echoed and reverberated above the oversized mechanical animal dolls dancing to the music, and the video games buzzing and beeping in hopes of gathering as many tokens as possible from young patrons. it was then that my dads grip on my arm tightened up and i think i know exactly how a deer must feel and look right before succumbing to a pair of headlights on a dark backwoods road.

the parent of the child calmed the upset child down showing the child that indeed i had brought a gift and it may be it was the best gift of the bunch. with red face and a hand full of tokens and tears the 5th grade boy stormed off, leaving me and my dad and the father of the son to square off. my dad apologized a lot more for the mix up than i would have liked (or at least how it played out in my head). the host gave me tokens and i ran off to play.

the other kids gathered around me as i played a game and began to tell me how i was taking up all their tokens and that how i was not even wanted at the pizza and soda party. i was invading. i was not wanted. but for me their words were overshadowed by the fact that i was accustomed to harsh words from boys and girls who were far better versed in the english language; and besides that the beeping and buzzing coming from this machine was far more intriguing than the gang that encompassed me.

i was use to the insults. i was used to sticks. i was used to stones. broken bones. and names that hurt me...

but when i went back to check on my dad it hit me. my actions didn’t just affect me, they reflected badly on his networking and poise. i made the situation so awkward. much like me, he was alone, standing off to the side, watching patiently perhaps wondering what was going through his young child’s head to make him so lonely that he had to pick up a discarded invitation, then lie to himself to believe it was his own, and go through the motions and ridicule to get him to this point.

my dad didn’t look away, he was not upset, in fact he cracked a smile, and it was at that second that i wondered what he was thinking. he walked over to me asked if he could borrow half of the remaining tokens so we could play together. we walked out unnoticed. not that they didn’t know we were ever there, but that they never cared that we were there.

i can’t remember the ride home, but i do remember we never talked about it again, me because i was embarrassed and my dad because i think he felt guilty because his job moved us so often i never really had friends outside my own family.

sitting at a Cuban restraint just a month or so ago in ybor city, florida my mom begins to tear up as i recount stories like this from my past. ‘what could we have done different? how could we have stopped such cruelty” she asked sincerely. but for me i don’t see my past as a minefield of pain that still enables me to perform physically or psychologically in my current life.
in fact i count it as a blessing. i wouldn’t love people without first being hated.

would you send a soldier into battle without first forcing him to complete boot camp? in the same way i view life as a passive war in which there are dangers and pleasure and dangerous pleasure lurking in each day; if i had not gone through the initial pain of it all who would i be?

how would i have handled even the most fragmented ‘fame’ that i have experienced in my life without small trials such as this? i do NOT believe that i would have the heart for others, the hurting, the poor, or the broken hearted, if it were not for the experiences that God allowed me to have.

maybe in this season of your life you may feel left behind, ostracized, criticized, a 'lesser known';but maybe, just maybe there is a reason for it. you can't see it yet, but you will. you know what sticks, stones, and broken bones are and what a broken heart feels like, but realize that maybe it happened to you now because you know exactly what a broken heart feels like and someday you can help mend someone else's.

there is a reason. just you wait.
-stephen


"The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there."
Henri Nouwen's book, The Wounded Healer.
(thanks darcie)