Friday, May 27, 2011


Our first Sunday with our son back at church was maddening.  We have always gone to church every Sunday, unless we are out of town.  Our religion is a big part of our lives.  (We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).  We go to church for 3 hours.  First we go to a meeting for the entire congregation for 1 hour.  Then, we go to Sunday School for 1 hour.  After that we separate into men’s and women’s meetings for the last hour.  Our son attended Sunday School with us and the men’s meeting with my husband instead of going to his own youth classes, since he has to be in our line of sight all of the time right now. 
During those three hours, even though he didn’t go to the youth classes, we saw many of the young men that he has known at church, in the neighborhood, and at school for years. 
In those three hours NOT ONE YOUNG MAN said “hi” or “hey, you’re back” or acknowledged him in any way.  It was as if they didn't even see him. 
He was gone for two months and then when he comes back, no one notices or cares?
Did they just not know what to say to him? 
I guess “hi” is a hard word to say sometimes.
Or, had they been warned by their parents previously to keep their distance from him since he could be a bad influence?
As a parent, what would I have done?
If some other kid in our neighborhood or church had gone to rehab, would I have encouraged my son to welcome him back and befriend him again?  Or, would I have told him to keep his distance, afraid that the kid would drag my son down and try to get him to use drugs, too?  Would I have recognized the fact that the kid didn’t come back as a using drug addict, he came back as a recovering addict? 
I don’t know what I would have done, in the past.
But, I know what I would do now.
I wondered how my son felt.  He didn’t say.  I didn’t bring the subject up because I didn’t want to make him feel bad.  He probably would have said that he didn’t care and that none of those guys are his friends, anyway.  
Right after that, I got this story in an email.  It didn’t say who wrote it.  It was just one of those emails that circulate around.
But, it made me wish that the young men and their parents at our church had read it before my son came back.
One day, when I was a freshman in high school,
I saw a kid from my class walking home from school.
His name was Kyle.
It looked like he was carrying all of his books.
I thought to myself, ‘why would anyone bring home all of his books on a Friday?  He must really be a nerd.’
I was thinking about the weekend I had planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so shrugged my shoulders and went on.
As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.
They ran at him, knocking all of his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt.
His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.
He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.
My heart went out to him, so I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses.  I saw a tear in his eye.
As I handed him his glasses, I said, ‘those guys are jerks.  They really should get lives.’
He looked at me and said, ‘hey thanks!’
There was a big smile on his face.
It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
I helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived.
As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before.
He said he had gone to private school before now.
I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.
We talked all the way home and I carried some of his books.
He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.
I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends tomorrow.
He said yes.
We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends liked him, too.
Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.
I stopped him and said, ‘boy, you are going to really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!’
He just laughed and handed me half of the books.
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.
When we were seniors we began to think about college.
Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke.
I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.
He was going to be a doctor and I was majoring in business on a football scholarship.
Kyle was valedictorian of the senior class.
He had to prepare a speech for graduation.
I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.
Graduation day, Kyle looked great.
He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.
He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.
He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.
Boy, sometimes I was jealous!
Today was one of those days.
I could see that he was nervous about his speech.
So, I smacked him on the back and said, ‘hey, big guy, you’ll be great!’
He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled…
‘Thanks,’ he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began,
‘Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.  Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your friends….
I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.
I am going to tell you a story.’
I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told about the first day we met.
He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.
He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.
He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.
‘Thankfully, I was saved.  My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable…’
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.
I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.
Not until that moment did I realize its depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions.
With one small gesture you can change a person’s life.
For better or for worse.
God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way.
Look for god in others.
Maybe, if they had read that story or thought about the Savior that we worship every Sunday, they would have acted differently.
Jesus would have welcomed him back.  He would have given my son a big hug and would have told him that He loved him and was so happy to see him. 
He knows that my son is NOT his mistakes.  He is NOT the drugs.
He is a great person.  He can be a good friend. 
He needs good friends.
I hope he can find some, soon.
I hope he will remember that Jesus is his greatest friend.  
And He was glad to see him at church that Sunday.

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