I have sought many things. Friends, safety, security, attention, jobs, to go the extra mile, to keep my candy stash hidden from my kids, to evade people I didn’t want to be nice to, quiet and solitude to drink my coffee, sleep, you get the point and you may have even sought to do some things listed there. (To be fair, it’s not a complete list and not necessarily in the correct order.)
As I said in the beginning, I have faced life, though sometimes life got thrown at me in ways I was ill-prepared to handle. Again, true and relatable for pretty much anyone who’s breathing. My posts here and honesty are not meant to be seeking attention or sympathy, but to share how I came to find myself being a woman who seeks peace, not just in big situations but every single day.
I remember a class Valentine’s Day party when I was in 7th grade. I was not the nicest 7th grader you could meet, especially at school. (I was the only one at school from a “liberal” Mennonite church. Looking back, that is absolutely laughable because it’s not something kids our age should have even dreamed making into the big deal that it ended up becoming. Nevertheless, I was labelled because my church allowed radio, stringed instruments, better dress material and patterns, smaller coverings, and did not require knee high black or grey socks and dark shoes. Oh yes, these churches took the “Do not be conformed to this world” verse so seriously and made every attempt to do the opposite of the world!)
Back to the original point: I was invited to the party and briefly I was excited. But ultimately, I decided to have a “who cares” attitude about it. After all this was to be hosted by one of the popular girls in school and while we were friendly, she was not my type of friend. My mom spouted that Bible verse about if you want friends, you need to be a friend so off I went. The boys and girls in attendance were all from our combined 7th and 8th grade class. I do not remember everything about the evening. I know I could have had a much better attitude about the whole affair but I was a teenage girl and there were other factors that we’ll discuss later. My class was big and the cliques were made up of popular kids, boys, girls, outlaws. I will let you go ahead and assume who made up the last category. This party was about all the couples in the cliques, boys and girls who just knew that they’d get married when they were older and wanted to find a way, any way they could, to spend this romantic day together. They schemed and planned, and by week’s end they handed me a life lesson I will never forget. Towards the end of the evening, the others were playing a game. I am not a game player so I was sitting on the freezer eating candy. And at a party like this, the candy was conversation hearts. The coupled ones would read each other’s hearts before eating it and giggle together. Really it was quite nauseating but amusing to mock to my partner in crime on the freezer with me. The hostess’s younger sister and her friend were there with us, and we were talking and having fun with the two young girls. The time arrived for my dad to pick me up and I was quite happy to leave.
I arrived home that night and felt quite happy. I felt I had behaved myself quite well and there would be no backlash over anything I had done. The next morning, I went to school and I felt immediately by the attitude of some, that others did not share my opinion that the evening before had gone well. I forget all the details but I remember one of the popular boys that I sat next to and was pretty good friends with during class was very upset. He slipped me a note to meet him during chores, but I sought out his “girlfriend” instead. Her response was “You know what you did.” I didn’t but I also did not want to risk trouble with the principal to find out from the boy.
I wasn’t one to go to my mom over little things, but this felt uncomfortable enough that I did. She called the hostesses mother, who after some time let us know exactly what I had done to make most of the class mad at me. I had, in fact, shared a candy conversation heart with a boy that said something romantic and had told him I liked him. Now there were two major flaws with this fact: 1) it wasn’t true. At all. And 2) this boy was “dating” the hostess. My mom was upset, so upset. As was I! Turns out we were upset for opposite reasons, but I told her the truth and she called the other mother back. The next day, a group of girls met me at the steps to go into school and issued their pathetic apology. I responded with, “you wear those coverings and you are always so self-righteous but you made up an absolute lie just to hurt someone for the fun of it!” I did forgive but my young heart never did forget the impact that had.
I was seeking examples of every day Christians during those years. Boys and girls my age who truly “got it” and lived the way God commanded. I so badly needed an example, someone I could look at and trust. I realize now as an adult that was unnecessary, but I also know those other factors played a big part.
I lived the remainder of my school years waiting for the other shoe to drop in every and all situations surrounding school. More things happened and more pain entered my heart. Each incident pushed me to a point of not wanting anything to do with the conservative churches. It was not just school, there were other big hurts for my young heart.
I try to laugh off these incidents but I still feel the pain. Especially from that Valentine’s Day party. I saw the girl who started that mess a few years ago. She and the boy ended up getting married and living out their happily ever after. I am polite but always make an escape. I have forgiven her, but the lessons I learned during the 10 years I attended that small Mennonite school will be taught to my children. To be that beacon of kindness, that ray of sunshine, that patient friend to the ones who are hard to love. Kindness costs nothing, I often tell my oldest, A. I remind myself of the same lesson as I settle yet another squabble between my two boys, I remind my husband when we are required to be social and he’d rather be not at a family gathering, or picnic, or whatever the event may be.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Go, be kind to your friends, your family, and even an old school mate today!