Seven year old Ricky towered over his kindergarten classmates. His nose was always runny, his glasses were always slightly crooked and his voice was always a tad too loud. I did my best to stay away from Ricky. Quite frankly, he scared me; I was convinced that if his snot got on me, I would literally die. I was able to avoid him on the playground...it's amazing how fast you can run when you're scared for your life. I was able to avoid him in the classroom. And lunch was no problem because, unless you wanted to get cooties or commit social suicide, you didn't sit with the opposite sex while eating. In fact, the mother of all punishments was assigned boy/girl seating during lunch. Our class had managed to avoid the named torture all year, but our luck was bound to run out...and it did. And guess which boy sat right next to me?
There's not much you can do to avoid a person who's sitting smack dab next to you at a lunch table. I did my best to balance on the far left side of my circular plastic seat, while eyeing Ricky suspiciously. If I could make it through the next 20 minutes without touching him, I just might live to see my own children. Ricky was known for stealing food from other people. I knew this, so it came as no surprise to me when he unabashedly reached over and grabbed a chip off of another kid's plate. I, however, was ready. There was no way I was going to let Ricky's snotty fingers touch my food. I clutched the handle of my pink purse tightly (yes, I carried a purse) and took aim. As expected, Ricky turned around and leaned toward my lunch sack. Apparently the term "personal space" didn't exist in his vocabulary, because he plowed right through mine in his quest for my food. Without hesitation, I reared back and swung my "weapon" at his back, nailing him right between the shoulder blades. Quite pleased with my defense tactics, I prepared to strike again. Suddenly, a loud voice yelled, "STOP THAT RIGHT NOW." 'That's right!' I thought, convinced that the lunch lady was yelling at Ricky. I glanced up with a "can you BELIVE him?!?" look on my face, only to be met with a firm reprimand. "We DO NOT hit people with our purses." I could feel the heat immediately rise up my neck, bleed into my face and press behind my eyes. She was getting onto me? I wasn't the one stealing food! I wasn't the one with crooked glasses and a snotty nose! I was simply defending what was rightfully mine! "I...I was just," but before I could finish my sentence, the lunch lady snatched up my lunch sack and motioned for me to follow her. I sat by myself at the front of the lunch room for the rest of the period. I couldn't eat a bite through my tears, which started out at tears of embarrassment but quickly turned to tears of shame. Ricky had no friends, and I knew it. Even at the young age of 6, I knew that I had hurt Ricky. The pain caused by my pink purse went strait from his back and into his heart. How could I have been so cruel?
To this day, I feel guilt over the pain I caused this boy. He was ignored, teased, and rejected day in and day out. I had a chance to show love to a fellow classmate and I blew it. But you know what the real tragedy is? I didn't really learn my lesson. Sure, I have learned how to be friendly the friendless. To smile kindly at those in need. But how often do I really go out of my way to love the Rickys in the world? How often do I stop and invite the woman on the corner to go have coffee with me or eat dinner at my house? It's a tough question that I ask myself often. It's a constant battle between compassion and comfort. Between approaching and avoiding. Between sacrifice and selfishness. Between Jesus and myself. You know what's funny? I don't even remember what I was eating the day I hit Ricky with my purse, but I do remember the look on Ricky's face, and I can' help but wonder, how would Ricky have looked at me had I offered him half my sandwich?