Last night, Junior High Kid asked, “if you had a friend who swore a lot, what would you say to get them to stop?” Personally, I thought, “please don’t talk like that around me” was a good choice, but he’s already tried that, and the friend doesn’t see what the big deal is. “They’re just words.” Yeah, but certain words can make you sound uneducated and crass, which this kid really isn’t.
I don’t know…I can’t help but find it interesting that the NON-church-going-kid in this relationship is offended by the vocabulary that the CHURCH-going-kid chooses to use! I know, I know…I shouldn’t be so judgmental. And in this particular case, I REALLY shouldn’t be so judgmental because I do actually like this kid a lot. (There are many ways in which he is a good influence on my kid.) And I like his parents a lot. And I seriously doubt his parents are sitting in their house judging ME.
But do you know what? My reaction really isn’t about them, or the swearing, or “church-going-folk” in general. It’s about neighbors we had when we lived in a community in which they were not the only ones to ask us, “So…what church do you go to?” almost right away after meeting us and then based on our response to that one question, made a decision on whether or not to get to know us further.
“We are not church-goers” was NOT the correct response when that family asked.
This was when College Student was much younger and was at a point in his life where he really needed friends…and their younger son (let’s call him Adam because that was his name) was into the same things College Student was and had a similar temperament etc. But we were not church-goers. This was a BIG DEAL. And apparently it meant we were “a bad influence” on Adam (or so he told me…he also told College Student that he would “burn in Hell for all eternity” when they were six. Nice, huh?) Adams’s parents didn’t forbid him from playing with College Student, but they severely limited the amount of time the two could spend together. One hour was the limit. So if Adam was at our house, they would come and get him (or send Big Brother to get him) after one hour. And if College Student was at their house, he would be sent home after one hour. Even if they, and the rest of the neighborhood kids were playing OUTSIDE, they would send my College Student home after one hour (even though he was probably the quietest, shyest and most sensitive kid in the group) to sit in his own front yard and watch the rest of the kids playing all afternoon across the street.
Adam’s brother…(let’s call him Eric, since that was HIS name) was three or four years older than College Student. And I think he had a hard time accepting the fact that College Student would go to HIS class for math every day, so he started bullying College Student! There was one winter day when College Student was playing alone in our back yard and all the kids were next door (which was NOT where Adam and Eric lived) and Eric got all those kids to collect these big chunks of ice, and all of a sudden they started POUNDING College Student with them. I was SO mad! I never said anything to Adam and Eric’s mom…it’s been ten years and I’m still mad at myself for not speaking up. Why DIDN’T I say something? My child came in battered at bruised from that…and he had done NOTHING to provoke it…except come from a non-church-going family. Church or no, which of us was really raising more civilized children? Her or me? (See, I like to think I’m not judgmental, but I can be just as judgmental as anyone else.)
Bullying is a theme I keep coming back to again and again in my writing. I really should write about bullying and religion someday…I wonder if I could do it without being judgmental? Too bad I can’t name the bully in my story Eric…but I would never do that because one of my dearest friends has a son named Erik. Even though he spells it differently, I could never name a bully in one of my stories Eric or Erik. Or even Erica or Erika.