You think your words don't have much power, but they drive into my child's heart like a red hot dagger.
It starts off pretty innocently - you noticed back in the 2nd or 3rd grade (or maybe you caught on even earlier) that my kid was ...different. She looked like all the other girls in class, but there was something about the way she carried herself, the way she talked. It was different. And so you picked out a label and slapped it on her, little knowing how it would stick, how it would burn.
And so this once outgoing child, eager to make friends with everyone, begins to draw away, unsure if the next kid coming up to them on the playground will have learned the label as well. This little girl, who knows all too well she is different, becomes distrustful. She learns to be afraid.
Perhaps middle school will be better for my different child. More kids, more diversity. But her different-ness is more marked now and you have more power. Your words evolve as well, become more sophisticated. You learn the art of wounding and segregating. You pick up on other kids who are different and lump them all together. Losers. Weirdos. Homos.
My child comes home from school exhausted. Classwork is nothing. The labor of keeping it all together, surviving another day being an outsider... it's debilitating.
High school begins and now your vocabulary includes ideology, most of it picked up from your home, your parents, your friends. Kids are no longer just weird or gay, they ruin everything. They ultimately want to turn you into them, God is disgusted with them, their parents are oblivious losers and our country is going to hell because of them. You don't even understand what you're saying, but your parroting is slick and practiced.
My child's situation has a golden ring. She knows you're a puppet; an empty, insecure, misinformed child. She knows love - unconditional and extravagant. From her parents, her family and most importantly of all - God. She knows she's exceptional, not because of who God made her to be, but because God made her. Period.
But I know somewhere there weeps another different child. One whose parents are unwilling to understand, whose faith community condemns them and who feel completely isolated.
To that child, I want to gather you up in my arms and give you rest, assure you that life will get better and you will find many many people who will love you just as you are.
To YOU, the one who began in grade school with simple teasing words and today escalates to more; you who cyberbully, who taunt, who ostracize, who ridicule.... you diminish your humanity with your actions. Break the cycle, do not be your parents, your circle of friends. Be the one who breaks away free from hatred.
Dare to be that radical.