Get Lost, Unibrow!
He sat down on the wooden bench, resting his elbows on his knees and pressing his shirt sleeve to his bloody lip.
"Listen, man," I said. "I'm sorry this happened. The guys were way outta line."
"And how 'bout you?"
"What about me?" I asked. "What did I do?"
"Forget it," Jackson said, shaking his head. "I guess I'm the idiot here. I thought we could be friends. Clearly, I was wrong."
"Hey, I came looking for you, didn't I?" I said defensively.
"What? You expect me to thank you for being decent to me one day out of the past two months?" Jackson asked.
A jolt of guilt went through me. I was trying to paint myself as the "good guy" by blaming Dylan and Trent for all of Jackson's pain. I may not have slugged him, but every day I beat Jackson down by ignoring him, laughing at him, and calling him names. I suddenly felt so ashamed. God wanted me to love and care for others. And I hadn't once shown an ounce of love or care for Jackson.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I've been acting like a big jerk."
I cleared my throat and continued.
"Maybe sometime you and I can shoot some baskets."
"Yeah, maybe," was all Jackson said. It wasn't exactly like saying "I forgive you." But, at least, he didn't say, "I hate your guts." I left the locker room that day wishing I could push back time and treat Jackson like a human being.
After that day, Jackson and I did hang out a little. We even occasionally played some one-on-one, which helped me get to know him better. It turns out Jackson wasn't as weird as I'd thought. In fact, we had a lot in common. We both played instruments (he played the violin; me, the cello). We also both loved basketball and tennis. I wouldn't have learned these things about Jackson if I never tried to be his friend.
After that experience with Jackson, I tried my best to treat others with greater respect—especially people who were new to school. A few months after the incident with Jackson, I spotted a new student sitting alone in the cafeteria. I sat down next to him and asked him where he was from, which classes he was taking—stuff like that. He seemed really happy that someone had shown some interest in him. It felt good knowing that I made someone's day a little better just by asking a few questions.
At first Dylan and Trent gave me a hard time about what they called my campaign to "be nice to the newbies." But then an amazing thing happened. I started to see changes in the way my friends acted toward people they'd usually ignore or put down. I even caught them giving a head nod or a smile to the "loner" kid they'd pass in the hallway. It blows my mind to think that these are the same guys who once got a kick out of humiliating Jackson. It goes to show that God's love really does make anything possible.
My experience with Jackson was a wake-up call for me. It showed me how important it is not to label others "misfits and losers," but to treat them with kindness and respect. It also demonstrated how much I need to show others the same kind of love God shows me all the time.
Josh loves playing tennis and hanging at the beach with friends. This fall, he began studying medicine at Pennsylvania State University.
* Names have been changed
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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