Saturday, April 29, 2006

Teenagers: A True Test of a Parent’s Values

In 1979 through 1982, our family lived in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, before it was coined the Emerald Coast. We attended a beautiful Episcopal church in Destin, called Saint Andrews by-the-sea. We could see the emerald colored ocean from the steps of the church. This is where I encountered my first cultural (sub-culture) experience with America’s invisible class.

It was a fine Sunday, praise music blaring and then it happened, a homeless person named Richard showed up to attend church. The regular parishioners were a little perturbed at the arrival of Richard, as he was a beach bum, slept in public toilets, and stunk of who knows what, mixed with alcohol, maybe even drugs. This guy was a real mess. What was he doing in church? Was Richard looking for love in all the wrong places or had he stumbled into a place where love abounds and found none? Where do we find love?

How many people really love their neighbor as themselves? How many people actually love them self? In addition, if an individual can’t love them self, how can they love another? My brother and I (two teenagers) saw this as a golden opportunity to test our parent’s faith and their core values. Isn’t this why parents really love teenagers and their continual testing? Life tests are good! God has a great sense of humor. What you sow, you will also reap. We need to sow unconditional love like my parents. We all need to sow unconditional love. Love without condemnation.

Any how, my brother and I moved toward Richard who sat praying in the back row to make Richard feel more welcome and to put our plan into place. After church, we quickly asked my parents to invite Richard home for lunch. Of course, it is after all, the right thing to do when you see someone in need. We could see in our parent’s eyes filled with cognitive distress as the ordeal circled round and round, “If we say, yes…, if we say, no…,” the internal argument.

You see, my folks had just picked up a brand new 1979, Cadillac Seville. Not just any Cadillac, but one with fire engine red paint and snow white leather interior. It was my parents dream car. It was their first Cadillac. If this was your brand new car, can you picture a dirty, smelly stranger sitting on your snow white leather? I have to tell you, my parents were and remain godly and loving. They also made the only decision they could. We knew our parents would not fail the test. In fact, they passed with flying colors. My brother and I were very impressed with our parents, even to this day and forever. It makes me question my own personal ability to make the same decision my parents did.

We actually took Richard home, we allowed him to bathe, rest, clothe and feed. We found out that Richard was not an unintelligent man at all. Richard played the piano with classical perfection. Turns out Richard was, the son of a very wealthy man. Richard was running away from life and its expectations then and is probably still running from his father today. I hope Richard has found peace, a peace that passes all understanding.

In conclusion, my brother and I were only teenagers. Teenagers get bored in every generation. We too were running and operating at light-speed. As our parents and Richard sat, enjoying the music and conversation. My brother and I were on our way out to do what teenagers do. We rushed into the shower one after the other, before our mother could get in and clean it and disinfect it. As a result, we attracted Richard’s skin mites on our bodies from the soap he had used previously and/or possibly drying our hands on the same hand towel. Let me just say, we remembered Richard in more ways than one. My parents live and share Christ’s love with us daily. The Scabies and the itching it caused was an infliction and an embarrassment, but worth it all. My parent’s love God and live for God. Every time I get an itch on my hand, I think warm thoughts for a man running from his father, a man called Richard.


Anonymous said...

fascinating and so funny!

Mike Kline said...

Thanks! I missed this comment way back when. I often wonder what happend to the guy. I hope he found his way.