Sunday, June 12, 2016
The day I knew there was meanness in the world
I grew up in a safe place. We knew our neighbors...we rode our bikes all over town...and we knew if we did anything wrong, the news would make it home before we did. Our parents watched Walter Cronkite on television every night to know what was going on in the world--and we trusted him to be objective and speak the truth. We went to school and stood at our desks pledging allegiance to our flag and praying for ourselves and our country. We even kissed our teacher goodbye as we walked out the school door each day. Aubrey Ruff, the neighborhood grocer, knew us and patiently allowed us to choose our penny and nickel candy behind the counter. It was an idyllic childhood in a gentle time.
But one day all of that changed. Two young boys in our neighborhood disappeared. They lived on our block and were only two or three years younger than me. We were all terrified. Apparently, they'd decided to walk to the "little store" together--down the alley where all of us kids walked every few days to choose our candy behind the counter. Only they weren't old enough to be allowed to go alone--and they had no money. Two mothers were panicked; one was hysterical. The adults were organizing a neighborhood search and I just remember feeling scared. Just as everyone was getting in cars to go look for them, the boys came walking down the alley, eating candy. After an initial confrontation of boys vs. mothers, we learned a man had lured them into his car with the offer of candy and they'd gone with him. We never knew if anything had happened to them but they appeared calm and happy. One mother took her son home, hugging and weeping over him; another took her son home, paddling him all the way.
That was the first time my parents warned us that there were bad people in the world and we shouldn't trust everyone--especially if they offered us candy to get in their car. It was a total shift of my paradigm. What had once been happy, became scary. Where I once looked at every adult with trust, I now couldn't. So much has happened in my life to prove the truth of the words my parents shared with me that day. It grieves me that my grandchildren will never know that idyllic world. And it's scary how deeply mankind has fallen--so quickly. I wish we didn't have to warn children about mean people in the world...but we must.
The one thing I believe we can all do to make our world better is to purposefully love others. Oh, how God wants us to love one another! Yes, warn your children...but show them how to love the unlovely. Engage them in helping others--senior adults, single moms, younger siblings, or those with a different skin color. Guide them as they come home with childhood conflicts in conflict resolution instead of fueling their anger. Teach them to pray for others. Take them to churches of other denominations to see how others worship and talk openly about it. Be the example to them of gracing and forgiving others. Speak well of our authorities. Examine what you say on Facebook--think about the message you're giving to our young people. Give generously. There's so much we can do to actively FIGHT the hate!! Let's be a part of the solution to the bigotry, hate, and evil we're seeing. Let's love one another--even our enemies! Maybe...especially our enemies.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:43-48