A group of friends from high school gathered recently, and the topic soon turned to a classmate who had died unexpectedly a few months ago. He was the kind of guy who everybody liked, even if we didn't know him well. He had a kind, gentle spirit, and was always thoughtful and polite.
Someone brought up the fact that the name we had known him by in high school was not the name he had always had. He had actually changed both his first and last names - as well as his school - when we were still in grade school. I had first known him at the first school, when he went by the original name.
The person telling this story said he had hated that name because kids in our class had come up with a rhyme to make fun of him. While I don't remember that, it didn't surprise me. I clearly remember the day in 7th grade when I realized he was the same guy I had once known by another name. We were in our French class, and I guess the teacher had left the room for a couple of minutes because one of the girls yelled at him across the room, asking why he had changed his name. At first, he looked kind of stunned, then I realized the expression was one of pain. The girl who was questioning him was relentless, but he did not respond in anger or even defensiveness. He tried to avoid answering her at first, but when it soon became evident that she would not let it go, he graciously gave her an explanation that satisfied her. I don't remember the subject ever coming up again.
Back to the recent gathering of friends, naturally the conversation turned towards the cruelty of children, and the names they can come up with. I found myself wondering if name-calling is something we really outgrow. Does it just take on a new form?
I keep wondering where the grownups are. When will we get past this period where we fight over everything?
It's going to take people who are willing to discuss our problems calmly and respectfully, even with those with whom they disagree. It's going to take people who are willing to hear each other's views, not just shout over them. It's going to take people with the courage of that 7th grade boy to graciously respond to an attack instead of striking back. It's going to take people who are willing to act like adults, and not children.
Until next time,
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. ~ I Corinthians 13:11