Once upon a time, there existed a small high school in a small farming town of Walnut, Iowa. The 30 member marching band from this little school had been invited to be part of High School Band Day at the Iowa State Fair.
Everyone was excited to go because this invitation included free tickets to the grandstand show which was featuring The Beach Boys that night!
The small band dutifully gave their performance in the late morning, then after packing every instrument safely back into the bus, all the students were free to roam the entire fair grounds, to see and do whatever they chose!
14 year old high school freshmen Donnie, Jay, and Kelly had formed a group of five that also included two older students, Andy and Dennis. They all started off together wandering down the cement pathways curving through the fairgrounds taking in the sights. The other boys all knew that Kelly was a Baptist preacher’s kid, and didn’t cuss, tell dirty jokes, or drink. They decided to get rid of him quickly. So Donnie and Jay started talking with Andy about going to the beer hall, while seeing how Kelly would react.
The sidewalk they were on split in two directions. Kelly, feeling very unwanted and uncomfortable where the conversation was going, told the other guys that he couldn’t go with them, and took the right hand path, walking on by himself. They laughed and walked the other way obviously pleased that he was gone.
The day got pretty long for young Kelly. At one point he decided to take a ride on ‘Ye Olde Mill boat through the Tunnel of Love. There was a fake water wheel churning and splashing water close to the wet wooden loading area where people climbed into the long, wooden boats. These boats would be released, and carried by the water current through two doors into a large, very dark cavernous barn like structure where the water maze carrying the boats traveled. A pretty neat adventure for a 14 year old boy!
Except the operator put him in the back of a boat that had a couple in the front making out. The guy looked back a couple of times at Kelly as they were going through the water maze; it was awkward. The operator thought that was funny.
Later that day, Kelly started feeling lonely. Perhaps it was the feel of wandering through dimly lighted, musty old buildings that seemed to be a long walk from the excitement of the midway. Or it could have been all the old men he saw playing checkers. Perhaps the unique smell of 100 year old buildings with shelves displaying hand crafted blankets, dolls, and carved butter art were boring to him.
As darkness fell, Kelly knew that every teacher and all his school friends would be sitting together in the Grand Stand enjoying a rock and roll show until about midnight. He wasn’t allowed to go, and had nobody with him. Kelly was all alone at the State Fair.
As he slowly meandered alone down the hill from one of the old drafty buildings, he could hear the distant sounds of the music playing. It was getting a little colder as night crept in. Kelly was feeling lonely and a bit sad now because he couldn’t be part of what everyone else was enjoying. All around him were strangers. Nobody talked to him, not even one of his teachers cared enough to find him and see if he was okay.
Halfway down the hill, he happened upon a small little band shell. Inside on stage, a family country band was playing for a small audience of perhaps 8 or 10 people. Kelly found an empty spot on the left side of the two rows of flat cement benches and sat down. The bench was cold and hard. The night was dark. The band was small, and the audience was few, but that was where Kelly spent his next hour. Kelly could still hear the sounds of the Grandstand event floating up to where he was sitting.
And finally, everyone went home and lived ever after. Some lived happier than others.
That boy was me, the story was true.
And to me, this sums up exactly how I see and feel about fundamentalism that I grew up in. I see a lonely boy trying so hard to live up to the heavy expectations that were placed upon him to ‘be a witness and testimony everywhere you go’ and ‘be separated from the world’ and ‘do right, even if the stars fall, do right!’
What this meant to me was that I was rejected, made fun of, and separate from the world equals social isolation. I was a loner in high school. Respected yes, but one of the guys? Not so much. Let me put it this way. . .
We all know who Stephen Hawking was. We respect his intelligence, and either agree or disagree with his conclusions about things, but would you ever seriously invite him to go bowling with you? Would you ever want him to cruise the strip and hang out? Not so much.
So I was respected for my academic abilities, perhaps accepted a bit more because I wrestled reasonably well, and also played a mean trombone in band. At one point, I was on Student Council, Vice-President of National Honor Society, senior class Vice-President, but I was never one of the guys.
Wasn’t allowed to be.
Always, always, I had to carry this banner of ‘be separate from the world’ and ‘your best friends shouldn’t be unsaved.’ Oh now there’s a new idea for another post!!! Anyway. . .
To this day, I have no idea how good it must feel to have a best friend to just do whatever with, to tell anything, to hang with; nor have I experienced just being accepted by the guys because they liked me, without worrying that I would lose their favor if I let down the facade. I find that incredibly sad because at 57 years old, I’m still wishing that I could have something that I think almost every other 12 to 17 year old ‘normal’ kids had.
But no, I had to always have the moat of ‘be separated from the world’ and don’t do just about anything that normal people do around me. And for what??
If God already knows who either He chooses or who will choose Him (depending upon if your theology is Calvinistic or Arminian), then the words or actions of a lonely 14 year old kid are not going to change someone’s eternal choice.
Why couldn’t I have just been allowed to be a normal kid like every other kid??
Damn that hurts a lot even now.