The other day, for some reason, I clicked on one of those viral videos that people like to share on Facebook. I very rarely do this, so I’m not quite sure why I clicked on this one. It was a staged scenario, where everyone but one person is acting a part. In this particular video, two tween girls verbally insulted, picked on, and generally made life unpleasant for a third girl. The scene took place at a bus stop, where unsuspecting adults would overhear them. The point of the experiment, of course, was to see how the adults would react to the two “bullies.” Happily, the adults invariably stood up for the poor girl, berating the mean girls and telling them to cut it out. I was about to stop the video, figuring the rest was just more of the same, when one man reacted just differently enough to make me stop and think.
As before, the mean girls start right in with insults like, “Everyone thinks you’re weird because you read so much,” “Why do you use that backpack? It’s so ugly.” That sort of thing. Here’s where I caught my breath, though. The man, without saying a single word, motioned for the girl to move next to him. And then, again, without a word to the bullies, pulled a harmonica out his pocket and began playing a song for the girl. It was as if, with that offering of a song, he said to her, “I see the ugliness you’re enduring. I can’t fix it, I can’t undo it, but I can give you this small gift of beauty and comfort.”
Tears filled my eyes because that bus stop scene has been playing out in real life for so many girls that I know – my daughter, my niece, my friends’ kids. They’re hearing things from their peers that are breaking their hearts. “You’re so fat.” “We don’t want you to play with us.” “I don’t like you.”
Like most of the adults at that bus stop, our first instinct is often to focus on the mean girls – yell at them, make them pay, change their attitudes. That might make us, as parents, feel better, but it doesn’t really do anything for our kids’ hurting hearts.
What if, like the man who offered a gift of beauty to the hurting girl, we resolve to do the same? What if we make our homes and our families a place of such comfort and safety and beauty, that simply walking in the front door is an act of healing. Our homes, and the people in them, can be agents of restoration for our kids with hurting souls.
In real, everyday, chaotic life, I think this looks like celebrating our kid’s quirky sense of fashion, encouraging their “uncool” hobbies and interests, and affirming who God made them to be. It means really stopping and listening to their hurts, hopes, and dreams. It might mean protecting them from routine sibling rivalry; from the words that even siblings who love each other often hurl out of frustration or anger. It means reiterating again and again that this is the place and we are the people who love you no matter what anyone else says. It means creating such a safe environment, that the comfort of it causes hurtful words to fade away.
Our families can be a place where the unfailing love of God is played out and demonstrated every single day. A gift of beauty and comfort to the one who is hurting.