Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Fan Of The Underdog

This past year has blessed our home in more ways than I can articulate.  My views on everything from the global marketplace, to justice and compassion, and even the very nature of Jesus Christ have been challenged and expanded.  It is no longer possible (praise God!) to turn a blind eye to how my decisions and consumer choices impact others and no longer possible to live (by simple inaction) as if somehow Jesus loves me more than his countless other children who suffer and die each day because good people are doing nothing.  He does not love me more.  He does not bless us with material abundance so we stockpile it for ourselves.  He does not bless us with education and knowledge so that we can sit on it.  He never did and never will.  He also does not love me more than 'that kid down the street' who has not had the best upbringing.  The kid, on the cusp of adolescence, who gets into trouble because no one is intentionally raising him up.  Who has been in one shape or form neglected by his parents and guardians.  Who falls into the vague and vast special needs category.  Who does not have the best social skills or coping skills through no fault of his own and therefore has been cut off from many of the neighborhood families and labeled as 'trouble'.

My heart has gone out to this boy for a few years.  He literally hops from house to house looking for something constructive to do with his time.  He is reaching out, arms wide open, looking for someone to scoop him up and claim him.  Someone to take him under their wing and teach him the way.  Without a guiding and nurturing presence, I fear what will become of him.  He has a mother, who also has special needs.  He has a grandmother, who feeds, clothes, and looks after him, but is not readily present in the hour-by-hour activities of the day.  He often finds refuge here and when not completely stressed out by our own family's daily circus act, I am glad to have him.  I have to admit though, I am a little worried.  I know he is not the 'best influence' on our son and I am worried that Sporty may pick up some of our friend's bad attitudes or behaviors.  However, the quiet voice inside of me is telling me exactly what I need to hear: "Do not cut him off.  Just monitor their interactions, guide him as you can, and for the love of Pete, PRAY from him."  

When I asked Sporty if our neighborhood friend was being mean to other children or treating them poorly, he looked up at me and said, "No, mom.  Other kids treat him poorly and make fun of him."  Simple insight and powerful truth.  Isn't that way it often works: the kids who are labeled as troublemakers, often, in one way or another, become that way because no one steps up to help them and instead exasperate their behaviors by name calling, segregating them, or worse.  Our family has to make a choice: do our best of be a positive influence on our friend and include his in play as appropriate, or join the quiet (and some may argue rational) movement against him and be part of of his demise.  

One of Sporty's super special and unique gifts is that other children are drawn to him.  Literally.  He can just be there, and his quiet and peaceful presence acts as open and welcoming arms to others.  I witnessed it in Ethiopia and witness it here in America.  Other adults have noticed and pointed out how there is 'something special' about our son.  It makes me smile, mostly because I know that his unique gift has blessed our family so very much.  Sporty is a fan of the underdog.  He is sensitive, compassionate, forgiving, and welcoming.  He wants to be friends with our neighbor and actively seeks out time to play with him and invite him in.  I could learn a good deal from him.  He doesn't let fear stop him from befriending the underdog.  He is sensitive and aware, so I am certain that he knows what others may say or think.  Certain.  He is empathetic and amazingly accurate at picking up on emotions.  He knows when I am happy, sad, stressed, or frustrated and also knows when others are including or excluding him.  Because he does not like to feel excluded, he includes others, even when it may not be the popular thing to do.  I admire that quality about him and do not want him to lose it.  Therefore, it is our job as parents to help him foster that inclusive attitude while still looking out for his best interests.  It will not be easy, but anything worthwhile and or of value rarely is.  Funny how that works.  

Father God, as we enter a fresh year, ripe with possibilities, I ask that you soften our hearts and open our eyes.  Somewhere along the way, most of us allow our hearts to harden to the underdog, either in our own neighborhood or halfway around the world.  Give us your eyes to see those around us as you see them.  Give us courage to act as you would desire.  Give us energy and perseverance to love the underdog.  As my son, at nearly twelve years of age, begins to wobble in those very precious moments between childhood innocence and adolescent unpredictability, I ask that you guide him and direct him and let your light continue to shine through him and around him.   Father, thank you for trusting us to parent your children and please continue to be with us each and every moment in this year ahead.  We love you!!  

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