Kindness is a language everyone can understand
I sang a few songs, including Howard Grey, at the Belmont Prison Chapel service on Sunday, and then I invited the volunteers who came with me to introduce themselves and share whatever God laid on their hearts. Here is what Atlee Mast shared:
“That song, Howard Grey, sparked a memory. I remember a boy in my third grade class who was very timid; even backward. He was a new kid. He didn’t know any of us. His name was Jr. He got picked on unmercifully by the students. I remember kids kicking and punching him and laughing.
One day Jr. came to school with his shirt inside out. The teacher asked about his shirt. He didn’t answer. (It was probably dirty.) She came back to his desk and asked, and again Jr. didn’t answer. He just sat there. She slapped him on the right cheek. Then with her other hand she slapped him on his left cheek. Then, back and forth in rapid fire she slapped him with her left hand and then her right hand (a third grader!). Left, right, left, right… His cheeks were bright red from the abuse. Jr. didn’t cry. He didn’t say a word. Just sat there.
One day in the boy’s restroom Jr. got kicked and punched and shoved up against the wall as the boys pulled his long hair and banged his head against the wall. I saw all of this, and like the song, Howard Grey, I did nothing. I just stood there and watched. Out in the hallway I remember asking Jr., “Do you like school?” (I don’t know why I asked that.) “Not much,” he mumbled. I guess that was my meager attempt to befriend him.
Jr. was only at my school for one year. I guess he went back to the Amish school. I never saw him again. Then in 1987, I read a story in Reader’s Digest entitled, “Little Boy Blue.” The frozen body of a little boy in blue pajamas was found in a ditch near Chester, Nebraska on Christmas Eve, 1985. No one knew who he was or where he came from or what had happened to him. The community came together and gave the boy a funeral. They buried him under the name Matthew, which means “gift of God,” and referred to him as “Little Boy Blue,” because of his blue pajamas. “The church was completely packed and nobody had any idea who this child was,” said Thayer Co. Attorney, Daniel Werner.
Two years after the article it was discovered that Little Boy Blue was 9 year old Daniel, son of Eli Stutzman, Jr., my third grade classmate! Jr. (Eli) grew up to live a life of deception, crime, homosexuality, and eventually murder. He died a suicide after 13 years in prison.
What if I would have befriended Jr.? What if I would have stuck up for him? What if I would have done something to defend this poor little backward Amish boy? I wonder how different his life and the lives of his wife and child and others might have been? If…”
I sang this song after singing Howard Grey (and before Atlee’s story of Jr.):
“If you see your brother standing by the road, with a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed.
If you see your sister falling by the way, just stop and say, “You’re going the wrong way.
You’ve got to try a little kindness, show a little kindness, shine your light for everyone to see.
And if you try a little kindness, then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the the narrow minded people on the narrow minded street.”
I believe that we are all responsible for our actions, no matter what our background is. Grow up! Be responsible! We make our own choices. BUT, I have to wonder if God will hold that third grade teacher partly responsible for the death of an innocent 9 year old boy, abandoned in a ditch.
“Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Eph. 4:32
“Kindness is a language that the blind can see and the deaf can hear.”