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Cover Story


The Loser Factory



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Who makes them? Is there a factory somewhere? How come we seem to have so many of them running around? Where do losers come from?

Everywhere you look, there are losers (or loserettes). You know the type: they don’t know when to be quiet, they drop their tray in the cafeteria, and they wear mismatched clothes.

I befriended a real loser a few years ago, and as soon as it seemed safe, I asked him that question. “Where did you come from?”

His reply was typically losery. “From my parents,” he said.

Seeing that I wasn’t getting anywhere, I began relentlessly interrogating the loser in search of some clue to answer my question. I asked about his parents and his clothes Now, in hopes of helping all of us, I will report my findings. I must let you know that I have found, at least in part, the answer to this perplexing question.

Let me tell you his story.

Alan was born young, as many losers are. But he didn’t know that he was destined to be a loser for life, because actually, Alan was very normal at birth. He did things like normal kids do. It wasn’t until later that he began developing loser tendencies.

At first the problem centered on Alan’s parents. They didn’t want him. He was, as they told him many times, an “accident.” A ruining of their lives. At best, he was a major intrusion into their already rocky relationship.

And due to their nomadic existence, he was hard to take care of. They had to be up early to get their trailer into the best slot at the flea market of whatever town they happened to be in. And to stop and feed a baby, or to chase him down as a toddler, was a huge bother . . . sometimes too much of a bother. Mostly he had to go hungry or put up with being locked in a tiny trailer closet most of the day so he wouldn’t wander off. Sometimes when he cried, he got beaten severely. I mean, who was he to get hungry at their busiest time? So what if he was only 1 year old? The kid had to learn patience and obedience.

Alan grew, and as state laws dictated, he had to be put in school. His parents couldn’t afford to pay the fines for keeping him out of school. But putting him in school would restrict their travels and their income.

To make matters worse, they had another “accident” about this time and were having to teach this new one the hard facts of life like they had taught Alan. They finally decided to settle in a community close to a large metropolitan area. At least while Alan was in school, they could lock the younger one in the closet and go sell at the flea market.

Life for Alan was getting more complicated. He tried to do well in school, but he had problems understanding everything. It probably had something to do with the time, at age 3, when his dad knocked him unconscious and fractured his skull. But Alan never thought of that. He only knew that he wasn’t as quick as the other kids. He’d heard his teacher tell his mom and dad that he was very slow, and that’s why he needed to repeat the first grade. On the way home his dad cursed him for being stupid.

Learning wasn’t the only area that caused him problems. Some of the other kids said he smelled funny. Some said that he had a bowl haircut (before it was popular). Others simply laughed and pushed him away whenever he asked to play with them. Sometimes he didn’t mind, but sometimes it made him mad, and soon he was labeled a discipline problem for fighting with the other kids. His dad beat him severely for being so violent with other kids.

By the time Alan reached the third grade, the other kids absolutely despised him, and his teachers simply tolerated him. The other parents talked about him, the principal knew him well, and the cafeteria director was totally disgusted with the way he “snarfed down” his food at lunch. “Why, it’s as if he hadn’t eaten in a week!” she exclaimed.

One day Alan’s dad dropped him off at school (it was kind of embarrassing to climb out of their beat-up motor home) and told him he would pick him up at 3:00 p.m. as usual. Alan said Goodbye and went on into his third grade classroom. At 3:00, he wandered outside and waited for the old “rolling garbage can,” as some of his classmates called the motor home. But it never showed up.

He waited: 4:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m. And he was really getting hungry.

The police caught him digging through the trash dumpster behind a local college cafeteria. They took him to the trailer park where he lived and dropped him off.

His parents’ motor home wasn’t there, so Alan went to the office. “They checked out about 10:00 this morning. Paid their bill up and pulled out. Didn’t say where they were going. They musta left you behind accidental-like.”
Alan crawled underneath another trailer and curled up to sleep. He would look for them in the morning.

Three days and 65 miles later, he found them at a flea market in a neighboring town.

“How did you find us, you little jerk? You were supposed to find somewhere else to go. Don’t you know by now that we don’t want you?” His dad drove him back to school and drove away.

The pattern that had begun three days prior was repeated again and again until Alan’s parents finally gave up.

At school it didn’t go without notice that whenever Alan did come, his clothes were dirty, his hair was uncombed, his face and hands were filthy, and he took unusually large portions in the cafeteria at lunch. Alan learned that society is cruel and vicious to people who don’t look just right. The more his classmates teased and taunted him, the more Alan lashed out at them. Yet he wanted their acceptance more than anything.

By eighth grade, Alan was considered a real loser. He tried to fit in, but his vile mouth and loser-like ways won him more rejection, more lunch hours by himself, and no friends. If anyone did feel sorry for him and show him the least bit of attention, Alan would dog the person’s steps like a puppy gone mad with affection. Of course, this would inevitably end in rejection, because he would drive the person right up the wall.

Upon Alan’s graduation, his dad heard about a school that boarded kids—an academy, they called it. And his dad found out that a kid could work off most of their bill. So he dropped Alan off at the academy in midsummer. That’s where I met him.

Alan was always grinning stupidly or fighting, being either loudmouthed or foulmouthed, always dressing wrong, and always so insanely dumb that he could be nothing but a real-life loser. A case study in the making, I thought. At least that’s what I thought until our conversation.

As we talked, I suddenly began to realize that Alan was the way he was because of the people around him: his parents, his elementary school classmates, and people like me, who are so incredibly blind and insensitive that we heap more rejection on someone who needs so badly the acceptance we could offer. I mean, what would you or I be like if we’d been treated like Alan all of our lives?

My conclusion? There really is a “loser factory.” And its workers are those of us who constantly dole out large or small doses of rejection, those of us who make fun of or play jokes on the losers in our life. When we try to make ourselves look better by climbing high on the broken pieces of those we destroy daily, we are worse off than any loser.

Is it possible that Jesus could have been referring in part to losers as “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)?* Or might Paul have had losers in mind when he wrote, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3, NIV)?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided to quit the “loser factory” and begin working at the “De-Losering Center for Socially Deprived Children of God.” It’s going to be a hard and dirty job, but the way I see it, someone’s got to do it. And from what I hear, they have lots of positions available. Need an application?


* Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Don Keele, Jr., is a pastor and the associate youth director for young adults for the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. He writes from Calhoun, Georgia.
10
JANUARY 30

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