The event is fresh in my mind, though it happened many many years ago. I had taken my toddler (now 19) to a Community Easter Celebration. There were baskets of candy and toys, scads of people and wonderful looking grand prizes, namely 4 bikes. A large and a small 2 wheeler for boys drawing and for girls as well. I didn't know it, but early that morning a mother had bowed her head in prayer and asked God for her little girl to win. Her daughter was the youngest of several children and the mom didn't have the money to buy her one. Anyway, as the events of the celebration proceeded they began calling out names for the bikes. When it came time for the girls bikes the mother loudly gasped when they called her daughters name. As they made their way to the front of the auditorium the lady directing the event loudly protested as soon as they were up on the stage. "There's been some mistake - The mother put her daughters name in the wrong drawing." After standing up on stage, in front of all those people, the woman dismissed them without a second thought and drew another name. The mother put her head down, red faced pulling the confused little girl away. Sick with embarrassment for her and angry at the person directing the events, I made my way over to the mother. "I didn't put her name in the wrong drawing" she choked in a strained whisper. "I know, because I made sure of it." With that, the mother gathered up her children and left devastated at the turn of events.
Thoughts of the day plagued me well into the night. Day after day, I just couldn't get over the look on the mother and daughters faces. She was a friend of mine, and I took the event personally. Finally, I could not rest but to make things right as best I could. I approached a few people I knew and gathered up enough money for the little girl to have a brand new bike of her own. I'll never forget bringing the money over to the mothers house because she started crying and told me about how she'd prayed for her daughter to win. The event sickened me even more, but I could finally rest knowing that I'd done what I could to make things right. The mother knew somebody saw and cared enough to do something. The little girl got her bike.
Another unforgettable event happened to me as a teenager. I was the new girl in town and we'd joined a local church. The youth group was going on a ski trip far from where we lived. We didn't have the money for me to go. Then somebody told my mom that one of the girls really wanted me to go so her dad was paying my way. That intrigued me and I kept wondering who this mystery girl was. I was excited about the trip. I had high hopes of making friends with this girl whoever she was. Though I didn't have any money to take along, I had gone baby sitting and my earnings were in the form of a $10 check made out to me.
When the day finally arrived, I noticed that the group of girls didn't talk to me at all. They didn't seem friendly. Only one boy was going, who was an obvious "problem child". Right from the get go, he started acting out and saying strange things. I felt sorry for him. He seemed really messed up. On and on I wondered who my mystery friend was.......
When we got to McDonald's, we all went up to the counter and ordered. It was then that I discovered that the youth leaders weren't going to pay for my meal. I tried to quietly let them know that I was supposed to be paid for but they didn't believe me. Finally they took my $10 check signed over to them and handed over that much cash. I was mortified. How was I going to survive eating out for days on $10? It was only the first of many many humiliating things to happen to me. After we got back in the car, one of the girls explained to me that her dad "felt sorry" for the kids who couldn't pay so he said he'd do it.
Before we got to our destination, the girls had decided that I would stay in a motel room with the youth leaders wife "since I didn't have any money". They would be pitching in for an extra room so they could stay together. This made the youth leaders wife cry because she wanted them to like her. Then the youth leader told them "no" and the girls were mad. I could see by now I was in for a couple days of misery. I kept thinking "if I could only make it to the youth conference" because I was sure somebody I knew would be there and loan me the money I needed to eat.
Each time we ate out, the girls demanded to go to expensive places and the youth leaders said "no" explaining that not everyone could afford it. Then the girls would be mad because they were suffering due to the poor of the group. Each time I would buy a small fries or dollar burger, dollar taco, whatever. Then the leaders would say something like "aren't you hungry?" I would lie and say I'd had enough. Finally one of them said they'd "loan me some money" if I ran out.
I don't remember skiing, except that it wasn't much fun for me because I didn't have any energy. When we got to the youth conference, there was nobody there that I knew. Especially not the lady I felt sure would be there. Again, the sinking feeling came and I knew that I was going to have to conserve what money I had left if I was going to eat anything at all the next day. By now I knew the girls not only didn't want to be my friend, but they didn't want me there at all.
Finally the day came when we would make the long trip home. The girls demanded time at the local mall. They asked for 4 hours, but only got two. They were real mad. One of them had several hundred dollars in her purse and she let everybody know that. Several times she passed by me with lots of bags while I aimlessly wandered around with nothing to do. I felt embarrassed that I couldn't buy anything, so instead of eating with my money, I spent my last dollar on a pair of plastic sunglasses. At least I could pretend that I found something I liked.
When it was all over, on that long ride home, I promised myself I would NEVER NEVER put myself in such a position again. I also made up my mind there was nothing my parents could ever do to get me to go back to that youth group again. The next Sunday in church, the pastor said in real fast words "sorry about the misunderstanding" and handed me back my signed over uncashed check. That was all.
That was the school year that I started hanging out with the "burn out" kids. Though they were the "wrong group" of kids, at least they had some sense of belonging and camaraderie among themselves and they were all too happy for me to join. As a teenager, I was to never again join a youth group.
Now please don't think for a moment that I told you that story to evoke some sympathetic bone. Really, it was not all that unusual. Neither of those events were. Those kinds of things happen to people every day. They just happened to be the times they happened involving me. One individuals self absorption, can cause a world of hurt in another. People can be and are thoughtless, even mean. Some of them just don't care at all who they hurt along the way. Sad thing is that a lot of the hurting going on is right behind the walls of the church. The very place where we are supposed to be helping the hurting, we hurt them worse. Just the other day, another young woman sat down telling me her story of hurt. I see some lonely person, wishing that somebody would notice them and care. We have such a tremendous opportunity to right so very many wrongs going on today. Why not pick just one?
"Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived." Galatians 6:2-3 Message Version