September 22, 2021 by DC
As we begin another school year in a pandemic, there are many questions still unanswered. Angry voices and fists thrown into the air. Words used to attack, instead of unite. However, one child dared to extend a hand of friendship, instead of clinching it, looking for a fight. Just before Fall classes began, I read an article about a young boy, Blake, about to start his first grade year of elementary school. Blake’s mom designs t-shirts, and she asked her son what he would want on his shirt. Blake could have anything he wanted on it. Batman, his favorite basketball team, you name it. So what did he ask to have printed on his shirt?
“I will be your friend”
The 6-year-old chose a bright orange shirt with green lettering, and what a statement he made. A message of friendship and anti-bullying. His mother said, “It is his heart that made him want to reach out in this way. He wants to meet people right where they are, just like Jesus does.”
Young Blake wanted to start the school year, with an act of kindness towards anyone who needed a friend. As I read this story, one thing that stood out to me wasn’t what the shirt said, but rather, what it didn’t say. It didn’t say was, “I will be your friend IF…” Blake didn’t put conditions on his invitation for a friendship. He didn’t say, “I will be your friend IF you’re the same color as me”, or “I will be your friend IF you’re a boy, not a girl”, or “I will be your friend IF you aren’t too socially awkward.”
I was reminded of how Jesus often met with outcasts. Remember the woman at the well? When Jesus spoke with her, the woman reminded Jesus that he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. That he wasn’t supposed to be talking to her. Jesus wasn’t going to let a cultural difference stand in the way of him showing God’s love to her. Do we?
What kinds of conditions do we place on our willingness to show God’s lovingkindness to others? If we wore a t-shirt that said, “I will be your friend IF…” what would those conditions be? “I will be your friend IF you you’re a good Christian”, “I will be your friend IF you believe the same as I do about politics”, “I will be your friend IF you believe the same as I do about the pandemic”, “I will be your friend IF you don’t have any hangups or addictions”… you fill in the blank.
I’m not saying we have to allow unhealthy, abusive relationships to drag us down or into places where we know we shouldn’t go. I am, however, suggesting we take a deeper look within and ask ourselves what conditions we might place on people to be considered worthy of us pouring out God’s love on. Maybe we should take a page from Blake’s playbook, and be willing to be led by a child, challenging the message we put on our chest. Because, even if we don’t have the words proclaimed on our shirts, people are still able to read us as if we did.
Let’s each find a way to begin a revolution with kindness, and that might start by making a new friend today, in an unexpected place or two.