I sat in our youth center and watched the teens wander in and out the main room. They talked to each other, played on their phones, sipped on soda, so on and so forth. I watched as about eight sixth grade girls entered the room and sat in the middle of the room. They carried expensive purses, held the latest smartphone, and wore the trendiest styles.
Except one. We'll call her girl #1.
She wore a homemade dress with blue and yellow sunflowers on it. Underneath, she wore a turtleneck sweater and striped tights, topped off with a neon pick and black bulky parka. Okay, so she wasn't that fashionable, but that was no reason to be treated like dirt.
As her peers sat down, Girl # 1 slid past most of them and stopped to talk with one of the other girls. The recipient of her attention, girl # 2, put her hands on her head, stared at the floor, and groaned in an annoyed voice: "Please, just sit down and stop talking to me." So the girl obeyed, sitting next to the annoyed one, who turned her whole body away and complained to the other girls how annoyed she was. A few minutes later, girl # 3 walked through the doors, over to the group, and demanded that girl # 1 move so she could sit next to girl # 2. Flustered, Girl #1 moved, getting up and leaving the whole row, moving to another section where other 6th graders sat.
To my amazement, they also got up and moved several chairs down, and picked up their phones, completely ignoring this heartbroken girl. She sat there with her head down, probably embarrassed and ashamed that she had been rejected.
As I sat, about two rows back from her, I was puzzled, not really sure what my role was in this story. I watched this episode play out and although I felt pity for girl #1, I wasn't sure if I should do anything. I had talked with girl # 1 on a few occasions as strictly aquaintinces, and I knew that she could get... a bit long winded over random things. It could, and often did, get annoying and awkward.
But that didn't excuse me from not doing anything, right? I mean, Jesus probably talked to annoying people with not much social discernment, right in between the prostitutes and tax collectors, right?
After a few minutes of inner debating, I felt myself rise up out of my chair and start walking toward her. Woah! What are you doing? Where are you going? Do you really want to do this? A voice in my head screamed at me as I was walking toward this poor girl. Nevertheless, I pushed the voice out and sat down next to her, saying, Hi Girl #1! The sunflowers on your dress are super cool... and straightened my skirt, while everyone in the three surround rows turned and looked at me like I was so weird for talking to her.
I ignored them and listened to her chatter on about her classmates at church who had broken their phones and blamed it on her, and stole her stuff. And then about parakeets, weird brothers, and oysters.
It got awkward.
But afterwords, I was glad I went and sat with her. I just couldn't help but feel like the thing that happened to her had happened to me.
Because it had.
Although I wasn't blamed for vandalism and made fun of for my attire, I have been socially ostracized for our family's stance as strict conservative homeschoolers. Although I am not ashamed of my upbringing, it is especially discouraging when the people in your church judge and discriminate against you for little things, like a habit of talking, or why in the world you don't really watch reality tv.
Even though it was an awkward situation, I had a feeling that I might have made an impact on her life. If an older girl had come up and complimented me on my hair, or asked how my thanksgiving was when I was in a similar situation, it probably would have made my week. But, no one did that for me, so, I want to do it for her.
Maybe when she is a sophomore, and sees her younger sister, biological or biblical, struggling in a situation concerning her beliefs, she will have the courage to stand up and say a kind word.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the salvation of everyone who believes.