A couple of months ago I wrote about my son James and how I wished people would want to know and love him too. With ever word I typed, tears streamed down my face. It seemed, his life, was destined to be filled with loneliness and rejection. I hurt so deeply for James – and while I was so incredibly thankful for his one friend Ryan – I knew if new friends didn’t come soon he would again spiral into the world of depression and hopelessness where he is almost impossible to reach.
In a somewhat desperate attempt to provide social interactions with kids his age, a little over two weeks ago, I “forced” James to volunteer with Faith’s high school band. My hope was, he would connect with one or two boys and that he would enjoy listening to the music. In my wildest dreams though, I never imagined what would happen…
His main job was providing water for the kids in the hot afternoons. Each day, he’d fill coolers with water bottles and ice and then refill as necessary. Day after day James said hello and smiled at everyone who came by but instead of the kids just giving a polite hello back, often they stayed and chat with him for a moment or two. For the first time in many, many years, James was not invisible in the midst of his peers. It seemed the kids didn’t care that he didn’t always understand what they were saying or, that his answers sometimes didn’t make sense. They were just kind, and grateful and it made a huge difference in his life.
The more time James spent with the band, I noticed he was standing a bit taller, smiling a lot broader and was far more independent in his job too. Sometimes James ventured away from my side to go and say hi to the kids when they were on break and instead of coming back frustrated he came back excited. One time he even commented, “Mom, these kids are different. They notice me.”
During our second week at band camp more and more kids talked to James and asked him about being part of the band. They thanked him for his hard work. They knew his name….they made him feel like part of them. Interestingly enough, the more accepted James felt, the more calm he became at home. Our nights at home were far more peaceful, his relationship with his sister became far more relaxed and our family time filled with more laughter.
Yesterday, James started high school…with confidence. For the first time in his life, when he arrived at school he didn’t hesitate to get out of the car. He instead looked at me and said, “Mom, I’ve got this. I’m going to do what I did at band camp and I’m going to make friends.” He then stood tall and walked into the school without looking back. When I picked him up, he was with four other kids laughing, smiling and having the time of his life. HE WAS SMILING…I cried…
In a world where status seems to be everything and ignoring people who aren’t like us seems to be ok… in a world where everyone seems to in it for themselves…in this world where slowing down and seeing, hearing, understanding those around us is far less important than getting ahead I am so touched, impressed and moved by these incredible band kids. They changed a life. They changed James life. It is not too much to say they may have even saved James life by taking a moment to care about him.
We can all learn from these kids and do the same when the James’ of the world enter our lives… can’t we? Ambition is great. Accomplishment is wonderful. However, I’d say recognizing the needy, loving the lost, and helping the hopeless are much higher callings and profoundly greater purposes. We have to grab hold of this and change this very broken world.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I’m in…how about you?