Growing up, I was an easy target for being picked on. I was a really skinny, quiet, short boy who would have preferred to disappear in the background. I liked to do things my way which was different than most – which brought even more harassment. I wasn’t just picked on by the kids at school…there were those adults who felt that harassing me and calling me names would make me a stronger person. All it really did was make a promise to myself to never be like them. As for the kids, they left a vivid imprint in my memory that shows back up every now and then. I mostly hear their voices when things aren’t going so well. It has taken me a while to quiet those voices and choose to hear voices that remind me that I am who God made me to be and that’s better than okay. And I am thankful for those who were willing to stand up for me, defend me, be my voice and help me when I couldn’t do that for myself. They kept me moving forward when I wasn’t sure I could.
I did eventually grow up and begin to find my own voice. It at first appeared as a harsh, snide sarcasm. That was probably from years of saying nothing at all when I really wanted to punch someone – sorry I was a bit bitter. The problem (as if it needs to be stated) is that I was a really small wimpy kid – and at the core of me, I don’t really believe violence solves anything. I don’t believe it solves anything, not because I am a small guy – but because I haven’t seen it work well for the “stronger” folks either. It just seems to be anger misdirected. And, I am working to curb the sarcasm – that doesn’t always come off well either.
I write this as an adult with many years separating my school days and now. Yet, I hear and see this type of stuff all the time…as I look around, hear the news, or read social media…I still see people “picking on” others. It seems that intimidation, name calling, pointing out weakness… is the name of the game. The way to make it is to belittle someone else so that you can feel better. I’m not even talking about kids…I’m talking about grown folks…people who SHOULD know better. And I’m not talking about uneducated people…I’m talking about educated, intelligent people – some of them we have been elected to represent us in various places. Some of them even claim to follow Jesus or feel they are representing him.
The Jesus I read about and try to follow – he shook up a whole host of “established” institutions – and often shook up those who felt that they were following God but really looking out for themselves. He reminded the religious that they were to be the voice of those who had no voice. He reminded those in power to take care of the widows, the orphans, and those who were being treated unjustly. He took the time to get to know those who were tossed out of the temples and weren’t allowed in the gates of worship. He took the time to heal those who had been long forgotten and were thought to be useless. I see and hear quite a bit of name calling…finger pointing…arguing…fighting…selfish greed (and I bet you see and hear it too). And we wonder why we have trouble with kids picking on other kids?
What I don’t see enough of is people working together…despite their differences. I don’t see enough people loving others, encouraging, lifting up…caring for those who can’t care for themselves. What might happen if some of this energy fighting were put to good use collaborating? Are we so stuck in our own ways and our own ideas that we have lost sight of what is really important?
I’m not a pessimist – all is not lost. There are really good things going on around our world. There are people who are banding together and making a difference. There are people standing up for those who can’t stand. There are those who are being the voice of those who have no voice. But they seem to be too few – or at least not those with the loudest voice…or at least not yet. That’s why I think it is the optimal time for Christians and those of faith to stand up – despite our differences – and be the example of what it means to love, lift up, encourage, stand with, and be the voice of those who have no voice. What kind of example might we be for those who come after us? What are we really showing with our actions, our words, and even our social media posts? How might our voices be heard…the voices of kindness, love, peace…and even collaboration? May our voices be heard loudly, clearly, and with unity.