I was at Walmart with the kiddos at about 9:30 and as I searched for a check out lane, I came across a familiar face: a girl that I have known since 7th grade who was very much an "outsider" back then and made fun of for her quirkiness in school. I remember sitting in English classes with her. She rarely spoke in class and when she did there was a collective tuning in to see what she would say so everyone could snicker.
It was painfully awkward at times and I can say that my heart went out to her on more than one occasion, but there were many other occasions when I rolled my eyes and giggled with the best of them. She was very socially awkward and withdrawn from the rest of us. I remember keeping her and others like her at arm's distance because I guess I didn't want their awkward cooties rubbing off on me.
Stupid teenage need to be accepted.
So I deliberately went to her check out line tonight. I looked her in the eyes and asked if her last name was the last name of the girl I knew. She said it was. I told her who I was and smiled. She had a vague sense of remembering and I told her it was good to see her. Her response to me, monotone, flat was, "At least someone is glad to see me."
I felt punched in the gut. Tears are welling in my eyes even as I type this.
Why didn't we try to draw her out? Why didn't we try to be her friend? Why were we so selfish? Why was I so selfish? She needed a friend. She likely needs a friend now. I saw the darkness in her eyes of the life of someone who feels invisible. And I surely have felt invisible, but not during the broad expanse of my existence. And maybe I'm making too much of it. And maybe she was having a bad night, but the whole point of this is:
People need to be loved.
People need to be accepted.
People need us to be Jesus to them.
So I guess my plea is, if you went to school with me and this resounds with you, perhaps you even know who I'm talking about, let's pray for this friend tonight. I prayed all the way home that somehow my recognition of her would lift her, that she would see me now, not me that was selfish and chasing popularity back then. Mostly I prayed that Jesus would surround her and hold her and show her that SHE MEANS SOMETHING TO HIM.
Teens, know that this will be you in 10 years. Know that these relationships you have now matter in the grand scheme of things and that the way you treat people sticks with them.
What these mass shooters have done could never be placed solely on the back of bullying or social awkwardness, but I wonder what would have happened if one person would have pulled them in, determined to keep them from being outside the spectrum. If one person would have refused to let their "nerdiness" offput them. If one person would have truly prayed for them and been the hands and feet of Christ...