Tears collected in his eyes. One tear escaped, falling down the side of his face. Anyone who has ever fought to hold back tears knows that once the first one falls, the others follow closely behind. His friends told him to do something about it, to tell the teacher so that the bullying would stop. He did nothing.
The tears eventually went away.
The scars remained.
My son’s art class was using cereal boxes to construct a small city. Each box was its own building. Each child’s imagination was free to operate at will. My son’s imagination told him to use triangle shaped boxes for the doors of his building. A few of the people sitting next to him told him that his idea was silly. And then they told the rest of the class. That’s when his tears came.
I wasn’t there when this happened. My son told me about it at dinner. That’s why it’s good to turn the TV off and eat meals together at a table on a regular basis. You get to hear how everyone else in your house is doing. But more than that, you get to teach your kids lessons.
Lessons like why it’s good to get laughed at every now and then.
God didn’t make my son like everyone else. He gave him a unique personality that was perfectly crafted for unique situations that are each a part of God’s unique plan for him. The same is true of every person who has ever lived. We’re all different. And weird. Some of us are just better at hiding our weirdness than others are.
Making triangle doors is a terrible way to hide your uniqueness.
So is standing up when everyone else is bowing (Daniel 3).
And disobeying when everyone else simply falls in line (Acts 5:29).
While we ate our spaghetti, I explained to my son that anything worth doing in life will come with a few critical laughs. Sometimes it’s worse than a few laughs. I told him about the two brothers who had a silly idea that people could fly. There’s also the guy who had the idea that you could carry your entire music library in the palm of your hand. And the group of men who thought that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
History is filled with men and women who weren’t so good at hiding their weirdness. They were laughed at. They were told that it couldn’t be done. They were called terrorists. But still, they kept working on their own little triangle doors. And then one day it worked. And not long after, their crazy dreams became a normal part of life for the rest of us.
To do anything of significance is to become a moving target. A target for ridicule. A target for mean words. But the path of acceptance is the path of least resistance. It is the road of conformity where everyone thinks the same and refuses to try what has never been done for fear of what might happen. It is a dead end street.
A few nights ago I was giving my two sons a bath. I noticed something about them. Both boys had scrapes on their knees. Scraped knees are good. They are the badges of a life well lived. They are reminders of an afternoon spent learning how to slide tackle instead of playing World of Warcraft.
When you live your life the way it’s meant to be lived, taking risks and trying new things, you will earn your share of scrapes. Some of those scrapes will show up on your knees and elbows and some will find their way to your heart.
My son got one on his heart the other day at school. All because of his triangle doors. But he’s healing. And my prayer is that the scar left behind will be a reminder of a life well lived rather than a callous that keeps him on the path of least resistance.
It’s hard to know that your child is being picked on. As parents, we want justice. Some even start national campaigns against bullying. Others take drastic steps to make sure that their kid fits in, no matter the cost. But as bad as bullying is, all of our protection against it may be harming our kids more than we think. Instead of protecting them from mouthy punks, we could just be sheltering our children from learning that it’s better to be unique than to simply conform. These are the lessons that begin on school playgrounds and in art rooms and are processed around family dinner tables.
I’m proud of my son.
Anyone can build rectangular doors.
But it takes a true visionary to build them with triangles.
And it takes a family and a dinner table to remind those little visionaries that getting laughed at is just a small price to pay for refusing to live on the dead end street of conformity.