“Some men took a man who was not able to move his body to Jesus. He was carried on a bed. They looked for a way to take the man into the house where Jesus was. But they could not find a way to take him in because of so many people. They made a hole in the roof over where Jesus stood. Then they let the bed with the sick man on it down before Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’.” – Luke 5:17-20
There’s an account in the Bible that describes four friends who drop their ill friend through the roof of a house where Jesus was healing the sick. They cared about him so much that they climbed on top of a roof and dropped him through it to make sure he got his blessing. Don’t you wish you had friends like that?
You know how some kids throw straight up tantrums the first day of school? Especially the first day of pre-school, ripped from the safety and consistency of their home and their parents and thrust into a new unknown world of finger paints and single-file lines?
Yeah, I was never that kid. In fact, as my parents stood in tears outside of the little red Montessori building, I took my teacher’s hand and walked confidently into the beginning of what would be my life as a real-life human being. My mother made flash cards and PBS was a constant in our household. I knew how to share, take turns, and count to at least twenty. I was fully ready to embrace the education system with open arms.
The only uncertainty was whether or not our local school system was ready for me.
It didn’t take long to figure out that it was not. Without much waiting or effort on their part, I immediately became a prime target for schoolyard bullying. Circle time found me without a hand to hold and recess found me without friends to play with. At five years old I discovered the word “lonely.”
Things really came to a head that year when my father ran into some traffic on his way to pick me up, which meant I had to attend the afterschool daycare program. I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone, but the daycare teachers assured me my dad would be there shortly. So, I went with the flow, eating orange Jell-O and heading outside to play on the playground.
I made my way over to the monkey bars where two girls played carefree in the coolness of the Northwest autumn afternoon. I approached the girls in hopes we could play for a bit while I waited for my dad to arrive. But these two girls, both white and bundled in oversized puffy coats, stopped me in my tracks. They told me that I was a dirty boy who sounded and looked like a frog (because of my dark skin, raspy voice, and thick 80s glasses) – and they didn’t play with boys. I, in wisdom far beyond my 5 years, explained that my voice is raspy because I was so sick as a baby that I could have died, I have glasses to help me see better (just like one of the girls before me), and my skin is brown because that is the way God made me.
I hopped off of the playset, eyes bleary with tears, when I saw my father walking towards me clad in his dark gray business suit. I leaped over the wooden border of the play area and ran as fast as my little feet could carry me, crash landing into the pit of my father’s soft yet certain belly.
That was my first encounter with peer abuse. The abuse continued from that point on, seeming to get worse every year. I never really wanted popularity. All I wanted was a few friends. Real friends who I could spend time with and who wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with me.
Eventually, after years of figuring out my worth and discovering my voice, I finally found those friends. My friends are dynamic. They are diverse and represent literally every shape, size, race, color, socioeconomic background, nationality, religion, orientation, and gender identity.
I love my friends. I hope they love me. Some of them may even love me like those friends in the Bible. Of course, having friends like these takes work. You have to be open to making friends in unlikely and unexpected places. Then you have to be willing to sacrifice and acquiesce, or challenge and debate — all with love, kindness, and authenticity — to hold onto those friendships with everything you have. Or let them go. But never allow bitterness to make its home in your heart and never stop fighting for the ones you love.