One can never know how delicately balanced a long-term truce is until its equilibrium is shattered by the weight of a straw. A straw that lands as if it were a ten-pound hammer.

That straw was a few kids wearing ball caps in the worship service.

The church was a hundred years old in a town barely older. Both showed their age. The town and the church stood as landmarks to human determination to beat a living out of poor soil and bad weather. These people were tough. They put up with a lot to live there, and generally they put up with a lot from each other. Their main prejudice was against disingenuousness. The rule was, "Don't act like one of us if you ain't." People who moved in and bought fancy western clothes didn't last long.

One Sunday, a mother of teenage boys, who was also the church pianist, came to me right before the service and said, "I hope you don't mind if the boys wear hats in church today. They got in late from the game last night, and they didn't wake up in time to take showers, so their hair is all messed up."

I shrugged my shoulders. Once, when high school kids took the Sunday morning offering wearing cut-off sweat pants and T-shirts ripped halfway up, no one said a thing. It was football clothing. High school sports is god in little Montana towns, so even though their dress seemed inappropriate, wearing football regalia made cultural sense. It made us feel proud to be so open to high school kids.

Montana schools are so far apart that it is not uncommon for teams to travel six hours to a contest. The boys hadn't gotten in until 3:30 in the morning. A lot of kids in athletics don't make it to church at all during the sports seasons; I figured it was better to have them in church with caps on than not at ...

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Spring 1998: Conflict  | Posted
Conflict  |  Mistakes  |  Youth
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