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Cover Story


Words That Heal



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Addison sits in the backseat of the Honda as she stares out at the world passing by. She prefers to quietly process what she takes in and only talk about it when she has given herself time to consider what it all means. Seated next to Addison is her friend Holly whose personality is much more outgoing. Holly has an opinion about everything and isn’t shy about saying what she thinks. Addison’s two sisters and one brother are also in the car, while the driver is Mr. Chad. They are going fast because that’s how Mr. Chad always drives. 

The group is on their weekly run to get candy at a store owned by one of Mr. Chad’s friends. Addison enjoys these trips. She may not show it as much on the outside, but she likes candy, and it’s fun to wildly ride through the streets. Everything is right on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, but that will soon change as the car stops at a light and a tired-looking old man in clothing little more than rags appears near the intersection. He holds a sign requesting help. 

“What a bum. He looks like a hobo. He should get a job.”

The words rush out of Holly’s mouth as easily as water flowing down a slide. Her tone is harsh and contrasts sharply with her normally bubbly voice. Immediately, Addison’s stomach begins to hurt. The man didn’t hear the harsh words, but Addison did, and they made her feel very bad. Her sisters laugh. Thankfully, her brother is still too young to understand. 

The confusing part is that Mr. Chad remains silent. He doesn’t say anything, and as the light turns green, he speeds off. Shouldn’t he, as an adult, correct Holly for her harsh words? Addison thinks about saying something, but she doesn’t want to hurt her friendship with Holly. Addison doesn’t want to be thought of as someone who’s always critical of others, but she also believes that Holly shouldn’t say such things about other people, especially an adult whom she doesn’t know. Addison has learned in church that judging others is wrong. 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” (Matthew 7:1, 2, NIV).* 

Addison believes that what Holly has just said is wrong, but Mr. Chad didn’t correct Holly, and this is confusing for Addison. Isn’t that what adults are supposed to do? Aren’t they supposed to help us see when we are going the wrong way? Why isn’t Mr. Chad saying anything? 

Addison begins to wonder if maybe she’s wrong. Maybe what Holly has just said is OK. Maybe the man should get a job. When they finally make it to the store, Addison gets her candy and enjoys it, but something still doesn’t feel right. Her stomach still bothers her, and she’s even quieter than usual on the ride back to back home. 

Later in the day, after all the busyness of Sunday is over, Addison sits by herself, continuing to be bothered by what happened earlier but unable to figure out what to do about it. She still believes Holly was wrong, but Addison doesn’t want to snitch on her friend. She likes Holly, even if she doesn’t like everything that she does. 

Suddenly, Addison’s dad appears and sits down next to her. Addison isn’t sure how she feels about this, either. She loves her dad, but dads can be hard to talk to at her age. 

“What’s up, Addi?”

Addison stills responds to the name, even though it’s beginning to feel a little too childish. She’s getting older, and Addison is more of a grown-up name. She thinks about pouring out everything, but doesn’t know where to begin.

“Nothing.”

The reply makes her feel like a little kid, which she isn’t anymore, but she isn’t all grown up yet, and she knows it.

“Did something happen today?”

“Yeah . . .”

“Want to talk about it?”

“Yes.”

Addison feels overwhelmed and fights to keep from crying. She feels weak until her dad puts his arm around her. It makes her feel safe and gives her the courage to expose her feelings. She gathers herself before replying.

“Holly said some mean things about a man with a sign at one of the intersections on our way to the store.”

Addison feels better just letting out the words. She has been holding on to them, and that has made her feel sick. All of a sudden, she can breathe easier.

“How did that make you feel?”

“I got sick to my stomach.”

“Those are your feelings. You knew something was wrong. Did you say anything to Holly?”“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to be that person.”

“What person?”

“Someone who criticizes their friends. People don’t hang around with you if you’re like that.”

“I understand.”

“You do?” 

Addison searches her dad’s face to see if he’s being honest with her, and she decides that he is. She isn’t sure what to think about that.

“I was your age once . . . a long time ago.”

Addison’s dad laughs, and she’s finally able to smile. 

“So I did the right thing?”

“I think so.”

“Then why do I feel so bad?”

“Why do you think?”

Addison thinks for a while. She recalls everything that happened, and then she remembers when the pain began in her gut. 

“Mr. Chad should have said something to Holly.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He’s an adult.”

“I see. You’re right. Sometimes adults aren’t sure what to say when it’s someone else’s child.”

“But you do.”

“I’m the pastor.”

“So it’s different.”

“Adult life can get complicated. The best thing you can do is be a good friend to Holly and help her see how God sees all people.”

“How does God see people?”

“The Bible says that, ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).

“What does that mean?”

“God loves everyone and wants all of them to be with Him forever, even that man you saw at the intersection.”

“So I should tell Holly she was wrong?”

“Why don’t you tell Holly how what she said made you feel and how God loves everyone, and see where it goes? Remember, be a friend. Show that you care. It isn’t your job to police her life.”

“That makes sense.”

Addison hugs her dad and walks away. She feels better, but the idea of talking to Holly isn’t something that she’s comfortable with. Can she really do this? She knows she needs wisdom to not lose a friend, and she knows that God promises wisdom to those who ask Him. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5, NIV).

Addison waits for the right time, and eventually it comes. She’s walking at school and sees Holly sitting by herself. Addison waves as she walks over. She’s nervous, but she trusts that God will give her the right words to say. 

“Hey, Addison.”

“Hi, Holly,” Addison replies as she sits down next to Holly.

“What’s up?” Holly asks.

“Not much,” Addison replies.

The time is now, but suddenly fear makes it hard to talk. Addison takes a deep breath and says, “I want to talk to you about what you said when we were driving to the store to get candy last Sunday.”

“What about it?”

“What you said didn’t make me feel good.”

“What did I say?”

“You called that man at the intersection a hobo.”

“He is a hobo!”

“He’s also created by God, and God loves him.”

“Are you judging me, Addison?”

“I’m trying not to.”

Addison’s heart is beating so fast inside her chest that she thinks she’ll pass out! She has to keep remembering to breathe.

“Are you OK, Addison?”

“I don’t want to lose you as a friend.”

“You won’t. I’m sorry I made you feel bad. I suppose I shouldn’t have talked about that man like that. Our family calls people like that hobos. To be honest with you, I never thought about how God feels about them.”

“Just think about it next time, OK?”

“Sure.”

“I have to go. Bye, Holly.”

“See you later, Addison.”

Addison gets up on shaky legs and walks away. She has done the right thing, but has also kept a friend. It has been hard and scary, but worth it. As she walks across the school campus, a small smile crosses her face. Others don’t understand, but Addison knows that God does, and that means everything. 

 

* 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.

Ken Grant is a freelance writer from Santa Ana, California.

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