Conversations often take unexpected turns; especially when the subject is one’s life story. Predictable left the building long ago. Some things do not change. Listening to parents talk about their children brings few surprises. Our children are grown, at least they think they are. We learned not to be too surprised by anything when they were younger. Growing up meant adjustments and not just on the part of the children in the family. Hearing stories today reminds us of experiences shared not long ago. Despite the lack of surprise when it comes to young people, I am still occasionally taken back by the stories I hear from adults.
A series of recent stories reminded me of an incident Patty and me encountered in Colorado late last summer. We grabbed dinner before we would take in a play. Nearing the end of our meal a young family came into the restaurant. They seemed to be enjoying their meal as we left. Overcast and cool we decided to sit in the car and read as we waited for time to enter the theater. Not long the young mother and her youngest son emerged from the restaurant. The young boy was obviously in trouble. He shouted as his mother. He threw rocks. A number of people walked up and down the sidewalks and witnessed the manner in which this young boy treated his mother. She exercised incredible patience.
An older gentleman had been observing the incident. He may well have been a grandpa. Evidently he endured enough of the public spectacle. He spoke from across the street telling the mother she allowed unacceptable behavior. Many parents prefer not to spank their children. Parents must still decide how to provide discipline and enforce acceptable behavior. Methodologies may well be diverse but at some point a child must learn what is acceptable. Clearly this behavior was not.
Rather than focus on the behavior of the child the connection to these recent stories centered on the one who accepts the unacceptable behavior. Somewhere along the way someone in authority or power likely convinced another their behavior, the one in power, was somehow acceptable. Sadly in the narratives I listened to the behavior that had been accepted left the person accepting treatment less than human. The effects have been devastating.
The bright spot in these stories have been the experience of redemptive relationships. A husband, a friend, another family member, a church committed to cultivating these redemptive relationships alter the narrative; the stories are changing. Slowly but surely unacceptable behavior is shunned in favor of the experience of being fully human.
We who follow Jesus must advocate for redemptive relationships where people are treated as human beings, never less.