There’s a New Kid in Town

There was a new boy in my fourth grade class.  By that, I don’t mean that each grade progressed with the same students rather that he was new to my elementary school having moved into the area prior to that school year.  He was a large boy.  Taller and heavier than most with a good disposition.  In memory, however, he had difficulty fitting in.  Looking at things from my current perspective, I would blame that largely on the other students in the class although he may have experienced the awkward feeling of being the “new kid,” and such things tend to make one behave unnaturally.  Most people know what I’m talking about.  The way we act can feed on the way we are treated, and most do better when treated kindly and fairly.

I found myself in consort with the new charge though I don’t recall having a lot in common with him or any acquaintance beyond the school day.  Of course, there are many things I don’t remember from those years.  It is passing strange to me in some way that I may have lost significant events, yet this figure has graven itself in my mind.  At any rate, I remember few specifics other than his presence and casual accompaniment. My mind was occupied with other things in fourth grade.  We had a young assistant teacher who all the boys thought was pretty, Nelson Gann and I were considering starting a band (but we couldn’t think of a good name), and there was the “Mr. Good Manners” contest.

He didn’t stay the whole year.  Perhaps, it was that a parent needed to relocate for business or, maybe, the family moved to another part of town.  The reason was not privy to the class, but his last day made an impression on me.  Our teacher gave the young man the opportunity to address our group and relate his future plans.  As the boy stood by his chair to say goodbye to the other students, he began to cry.  He said that ours was the only school he had attended in which he had any friends.  Continuing, he said that I was his best friend.  I didn’t even know it.  It made me feel conspicuous and ashamed.  It’s been nearly fifty years, I still feel the hurt I saw on him that day, and I don’t even remember his name.

I have met that guy a thousand times.  The one that can’t find his place and doesn’t know how to act, in part, because of the input of others.  While we shouldn’t blame outside concerns for all the actions of one, it is true that people can develop and display anti-social behaviors precisely because of their treatment by society and, thus, alienate themselves even more.  They may even get into a situation in which there is no winning and despair becomes the only option.  This construct is seen all around us.  There is a duality in which people are responsible for their actions, and the collective is responsible, as well.  We live in conjunction with others.  Sometimes, affixing blame is not the point.

The church should be a place of acceptance.  While it is true that the group cannot be accountable for every need of each individual, it is hoped that the spiritual house be a comfortable environment for those seeking such.  There is enough responsibility to go around, and each can do their part.  While it is unreasonable to expect others to do what only oneself can do, it is not unacceptable to expect open hands and hearts extended and available to the outsider, newcomer and seeker.  The Bride is to join the Spirit saying, “Come and take freely.”  Any may find themselves in the place of need.  We may not know the consequences of our deeds though their import have repercussions in this life and the next.

Sterl

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