Although it was a decade ago, nothing can blur the memory of the school parking lot lit up with police lights. A little over half-way into my first year teaching, a 12-year-old had committed suicide. I was never the same. I taught him music. I held his silver folder in my hand – with his name on it. I didn’t quite know what to do. Throwing away the folder seemed wrong. I saved it for years as a reminder that labels matter.
We say our peace, but the words live, breathe, and ripple in the mind of the hearer. What words did that boy hear? Nerd? Loser? This week another student died in my town, allegedly from bullying. A broken, lost world. More labels, more ripples.
Is the faith community sad? Are we outraged? Apathetic? Is it someone else’s problem?
How do we contribute to the labels of the world? Maybe we haven’t whispered “geek” or “jock” but we have our own labels. We have “divorced”, “single”, “working mom”, “homeschool family”, “married without kids”, “influencer”, “poor”….The broken world hurts and we huddle together tired and weary with those in our “group”, with those who “get us.” Those outside the group become their label, not individual, priceless works of art created by God. Labels make it is easier to stereotype, ignore, or bully. We have dehumanized precious souls.
Recently a new friend asked us, “So what’s your story?” Refreshing water. Ripples.
God help us see the story, see the person, and forgive us for the way we mistreat each other.