Despite all I’ve been through, I’m still generally a fairly hopeful person. But I woke up this morning thinking of a time when humans just about broke me. And I think this came to mind as it is associated in a similar way with people who call themselves Christians and then blast me for cussing while there are so many other more important things to focus on.
So this true story starts after I set fires at the school when I was a kid. And was sent to the mental hospital.
The next semester I tried to go back to high school. I hadn’t properly finished the previous year. And for some reason I was up at the school on my own trying to get back to finishing instead of dropping out.
Because all along I had been an honor student until recently. So much so that when I went in to confess to setting the fires at the school, the people I was trying to tell didn’t seem to initially believe me. They had been grilling the trouble-makers. Thinking it was them. And I was there confessing and I literally had to convince them that I had done it. Multiple people came in asking questions to make sure before they accepted that I really wasn’t lying.
All to say I was a pretty decent kid before I was broken and had that breakdown.
I cared about school. And I wanted to go back and try to start over. So I was up there by myself. Talking to the head principal, Mrs. Miller.
And although she didn’t play games, respectfully, I will forever be so thankful that instead of tossing me to the side, she was part of the group that initially insisted that I be taken to a mental hospital instead of involving the law. Which probably saved my life from taking a very bad turn.
And likewise when I came back to her, asking to be readmitted, she had another wise plan that also probably saved my life again.
Because I hated the social aspect of this school. Particularly. At least in Lampasas there was a higher affiliation with the military environment I was used to. So much so that when the Luby’s massacre happened, the school was cognizant enough to proactively stop classes and ask whose parents worked on base.
But Belton didn’t have that feel. These people grew up together and everything revolved around football. Which given the environment I was trying to survive at the time, was more of an insult than anything. The part about being forced to participate at pep rallies when I was trying to stay alive. Yeah, the irony was not ever lost on me. And I felt more alone than ever in my first community that really valued very much appearances, material possessions, and social status. Over other things I thought were more pressing and important. As I was just trying to get through each day.
So I was THRILLED when the principal told me I couldn’t come back to the regular high school. Because she had a different, and in my opinion brilliant, plan for me.
She told me that I was going to come to the campus something like an hour after everyone else. And I couldn’t come inside the regular buildings, but I would go directly to a portable building off to the side. And I’d be finishing high school through a self-paced program. Just a few hours a day. Leaving the campus long before the rest.
Music to my ears! I was so happy!
There had been times in my life where I was home-schooled through a correspondence program. So I could do this. Even at that age, I had the discipline and desire. The opportunity was not lost on me.
I was scared they’d change their minds and take the opportunity back. Which I knew would then be so much harder to keep me above waters mentally if I had to deal with all the people back on the regular campus. At least in this portable, I could just focus on my education.
And so I worked my butt off. Completely self-motivated and finished the rest of high school in a month and a half!
The first graduate of that experimental program. Which would later go on to become an official alternative campus for the district. I’m really proud of being a part of that. I don’t know, but hopefully my appreciation of that opportunity had a part to play in them moving forward with officially giving other kids the same chance they gave me.
But all that to say, I wasn’t allowed to go to school on the bus anymore after I set the fires at school. I had to walk to the campus. Which was over two miles away. Along roads that didn’t have any sidewalks. But I was so excited to be done with high school soon that I didn’t even care about the walk. It never bothered me.
Until one day…
I was so scared of getting kicked out of the self-paced program, that I didn’t dare not show up one day even though it was raining outside. I didn’t have an umbrella or a raincoat. But I still left the house like normal and headed to the school.
This was a very small town. With the First Baptist Church displayed prominently downtown. But that day, the people broke my heart even more. Because dozens and dozens of cars passed me by as I made my way to the school that day. Nobody stopped. And I was DRENCHED. Not just rained on a little bit. I was SOAKED through. Every single bit of clothing I had on was not only wet but dripping water. Like I had just jumped in a pool.
And for two miles, adult after adult passed me by. And I knew probably at least half of them would be in church next Sunday. Lifting their hands to Jesus. And giving lip service to helping those in need. While the water from their newer-model cars sprayed up on me as they kept passing me by.
It takes forty minutes to walk two miles. And for forty minutes not one person stopped to ask if I needed a ride.
I arrived to the campus and dipped off into the closest building even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to be in there. But the idea was to go to a restroom and think of what to do next. Because I wasn’t just wet. I was literally leaving pools of water wherever I went.
But me, the one who believe it or not hates to stand out and have any attention on me, was so broken by being rejected over and over that morning. Because I knew if I looked like the kind of person these people valued then they would have stopped for me. But each person who drove by me that day just decided I wasn’t worth helping. And that was a lot to mentally and emotionally overcome in my state back then.
I started cutting my arm while I sat in that cold bathroom. Alone, cold, and soaking wet in a stall. Because I knew what they expected. No matter how much they kicked me down, I was supposed to act like nothing was wrong.
And this was just the precipice of that mentality as it was shoved on me my entire short life. But I didn’t know what to do with all the energy inside me about that and so many other things. It was too much for a kid. No matter how strong I was. Not just being wet. But everything that represented that day. A lifetime of “just shut up and take it”.
It was the biggest cut I ever did before or since. And albeit self-destructive, the chemicals it induced rushed to my brain and recentered me. Pulled me back from an edge. Helped me pull myself up and out of that bathroom to face all the people in the portable building at the campus. Gave me the strength to take a few more steps. The ones I needed to yet again get through another day.
And so I left the bathroom and was walking down a big empty hallway. Trying to leave as quickly as I could before I got in trouble for being there. When out of nowhere, the lady in charge of my program in the portable building was for some reason in the hallway that day. And I will forever be grateful to God for that!!
Because had I encountered someone who looked down on me in disgust after the morning I’d been through, it could have very well been an even worse day.
But no, this teacher, I so wish I could remember her name, we really had no personal interaction up until this point. But thank You Jesus, that despite me not being able to communicate things back then, she took one look at me in the hallway and she had the heart enough to see the humanity in the situation.
Not once did she get on me about being late or being in the wrong building. Not once did she give me anything other than a face full of compassion.
She immediately stopped whatever she was there to do. And she came directly to me and started fixing the problem. Way beyond what I expected!
In situations like this, remember I had just cut myself the deepest I ever would, my brain doesn’t give me everything I need. But three things happened after she saw me. In what order, I’m not 100% sure.
But I know she stopped everything she was doing and took me in her own personal car and drove me back to the house where I lived. And she waited for me as I went inside and changed into dry clothes.
Then at some point even though I know I would never have called attention to the fact, somehow she became aware that I had cut myself. Which in my memory was something she was probably not used to dealing with. But she calmly escorted me to the nurse’s office at the main campus for medical attention. Because the injury was so much that I needed butterfly clips over just a Band-Aid. Probably maybe even really needed stitches also as that scar is much larger than all the rest. But no medical attention was provided outside of school for this.
And then the third thing she did was escort me to the principal’s office to help me so this wouldn’t ever happen again. Calls were made. And the end result is that they convinced an adult to let me drive to school in the future. Because there had been a vehicle available at the house this whole time. I was now allowed to use it. And I was given a special parking permit and allowed to park at the edge of the lot. Way far away from everyone else. But at least I wouldn’t get as soaked again.
That teacher that helped me that day. She showed up when she was given the opportunity. She saved a lot of me that day. Maybe to her it wasn’t that special. But to me, it was everything.
She redeemed what the others had broken that day. With no specific words to the fact, she showed me Jesus. That Someone cared. That even in the face of hundreds who look away, Someone thinks I am deserving enough.
And that’s all it took to restore my hope. Nothing fancy. Just simple, yet critically important, humanity.
She got her hands dirty. She took the time. She let me get her car wet. She opened her heart. She went the extra mile.
And I will forever be grateful! I have never forgotten it. People like that have kept me going all these years. Because there have been other angels along my way.
When you look back on it, funny that the jobs I’ve lasted in most have involved me giving rides to people in need.
One day I was driving by a high school and saw a kid walking when a cold front was blowing in and the weather was freezing. There were hundreds of people around. A very popular and busy school in the district. Cars everywhere. But he was walking alongside of the road just like I had been. No sidewalks. No jacket to keep him warm. Just a t-shirt. Out in the elements. And I couldn’t just drive by.
I pulled over into a parking lot and rolled down my window. I asked him if he needed a ride. It was obvious that I was a professional driver and not just some random creep. I told him the ride was free. And I he accepted and got in.
The trailer he was living in was less than two miles away. But the weather wasn’t anything a kid without a jacket should be walking in. And although I’m sure he appreciated the ride, it really blessed and healed me maybe even more to be able to do that for him. For me. For all the kids out there like I had been.
Another time. Downtown. I saw a kid who I later found out had walked blocks completely barefoot. Again, probably dozens of people passed him by. He didn’t even look old enough to be in high school. But immediately I stopped everything when I saw him. I literally stood in front of him to block his path and said, “What is going on?”
He proceeded to tell me that there was a fight at home. The typical mom’s boyfriend situation. And he had run away. Walking in the dark of night. Downtown in one of the most populated cities in America. No shoes. Bare feet.
This was not acceptable. I insisted he go with me. So I could take him to someone he trusted. He chose a relative like an aunt. And even though he was so young that he didn’t know the street names or the relative’s address, he remembered the way to their house and told me where to turn to get there. I stopped to get him McDonald’s along the way. And made sure the people at the house let him in before I drove away. Giving him my contact information in case they had any questions. And we still stay connected on social media to this day. That was almost ten years ago.
And again, I helped him that day. But it was nothing but a blessing for me also.
Another time. Driving professionally. Leaving the military base. On a super hot day. Sun beating down. And there is an elderly man walking in the grass down Harry Wurzbach. A road with no sidewalks at least back then. Again, dozens and dozens of people passing him by. As he is obviously just trying to get his groceries home. And the closest store was at least a mile away. Even way more if he had come from the base.
Again, I pulled over. Into the grass. And his face was beet red! I was seriously scared he was on the verge of needing medical attention. And again I insisted he get in. The ride was free on me. And you could tell he was strong like I was – not the kind looking for a handout. He knew nobody owed him. But eventually I convinced him that it wasn’t a problem and I was happy to do it. So he accepted and got in. Almost collapsing. His place also less than two miles away. And I didn’t regret doing that at all. What took me five minutes, meant more than I could ever charge.
But this isn’t about money. Or even giving people rides.
This is just about how and why I am so passionate. Why I get so angry. When people judge me for cussing. Or other similar things. When that’s what is so important to them. In the face of all the suffering.
You can change somebody’s life today. For the worst or for the best.
You can see someone in pain. And dismiss them because they are getting their ugly all over what you deem your pretty.
Or you can open your heart and at least keep your mouth shut. At least not do anymore damage.
I hate this saying because it is so trite, but what would your Jesus do? Would He lambaste me for cussing? Or would He see all that is behind it? The big picture.
What are you here for? What is the point?