I had my nose pressed up against a brick wall during recess. It wasn’t pressed up against a brick wall because some bully was pushing on the back of my head. My nose was pressed up against a brick wall during recess, because that was the only way that I could kiss the wall. And kiss the wall is exactly what I was instructed to do.
On this day I, along with a friend named Ray, had the wonderful idea to run around the playground, during recess, kissing all the girls. It didn’t take long for us to get caught. The teacher that caught us, whose name escapes me right now, felt that kissing a brick wall for the rest of recess was an adequate punishment.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, Ray was very popular and I was simply thrilled that he asked me to accompany him on this kissing bandit rampage. Of all of the classmates that Ray could have chosen on that day, he chose me. I didn’t give it a second thought. If Ray was doing it, I was going to do it. Afterall, this just might be my ticket to popularity. And to this third grader, popularity was very important.
Fast forward a couple of years and I am once again back out on that very same playground. Yet, instead of running around kissing girls, I am standing on a white line that is painted from the corner of the school building out to the grass. This line separated the two playgrounds in our elementary school. The two fifth grade classes recessed at the same time, but on opposite playgrounds. This white line that was painted from the corner of the school building, across the playground to the grass, served as the border. Nobody from either playground could cross that white line.
This border created a natural territory and, as boys usually do, both fifth grade classes got very territorial. So much so that each class had a gang that would meet at the line during every recess and taunt each other. We would call each other names and occasionally get into a fight with each other. I say “we” because I was a part of our classroom gang.
Brian was the leader of our classroom gang and nobody could simply show up at the line and be part of the gang without Brian’s permission. He was the Godfather. I desperately wanted to be a part of our classroom gang. So, I figured out how I was going to get Brian’s blessing.
Brian brought a bag lunch every day. I, on the other hand, bought my lunch every day. One of the benefits of buying your lunch was the ability to get chocolate milk. And I had heard, through a reliable source, that Brian was a chocolate milk fan.
So, one day I bought two chocolate milks and sat across the table from Brian. I saw him eyeing up the cold, creamy chocolate goodness on my lunch tray. I then offered him one of my chocolate milks, in exchange for membership in the gang. On that day Brian enjoyed a carton of chocolate milk with his bag lunch and I took my position on the white line with the rest of the classroom gang.
I didn’t give the risks of being in a classroom gang that stood toe-to-toe with another classroom gang at recess a second thought. I didn’t consider the potential for violence. It never once dawned on me that I would have to actually do something as a member of this gang. I just wanted to be accepted as part of the gang. And to this fifth grader acceptance was very important.
Later, as a junior in high school, I had the occasion to hang out down the street from my house, at the house of a very attractive senior named Missy. Several of us called Missy’s house our home away from home. We would pop in at any time and Missy’s mom, who was always in a bath robe, carrying around a frosted glass filled with something, (Yes, naïve I was) was always very welcoming.
I had a crush on Missy and one night the limits of that crush were called into question. Apparently, Missy’s mother had had some kind of beef with her neighbor, over what I do not know or at least do not remember. Because of this dispute Missy’s mother wanted me to do something. She wanted me to egg the neighbor’s house.
This bathrobe clothed, frosted glass drink carrying woman promised to provide the eggs and the cover, just in case I got caught. I seized this opportunity because I thought it might be my ticket to Missy’s heart. And to this junior in high school getting the key to Missy’s heart was very important. I was going to accept this challenge to be the one to egg the neighbor’s house. And, in turn, win Missy’s heart.
Missy’s mother gave me a dozen eggs, assured me that the neighbors were not home and sent me off. I stood in the front yard and started to throw the eggs. They were crashing off of the front porch and hitting the front door, when the outside lights came on and the front door burst open, revealing a very upset homeowner.
I dropped the carton of eggs and ran back to Missy’s house. Only to find that everyone had gone inside, locked the front door and turned off the lights. I was quickly apprehended by the neighbor who had already called the police.
There I was, in my own neighborhood, being questioned by a police officer who refused to turn off the red and blue colored lights on his squad car. I quickly confessed that Missy’s mom had put me up to it all and had even given me the eggs. To which, when questioned by the police officer to corroborate my story, Missy’s mother denied knowing who I was. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning that neighbor’s house. And that was the last time I hung out with Missy and her mother.
I share these stories of seeking popularity, acceptance and love from my youth, because of a quote that I saw today: “The older I get…the less I feel the need to be included, understood or accepted.” In other words, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)