During my camp week at Myrtle Beach I got to spend a good bit of time with my four-year-old grandson at the pool – and not just any normal pool. It was a near Olympic size pool that was only 12 inches deep and accented by huge animal shaped water slides that were perfect Jim size. He loved the dragon and the whale and the way he could “swim” from one to the other all by himself. The long tube slide was Jim’s favorite and he perfected going down head first.
Jim quickly made friends with other kids a bit older and enjoyed following them around and imitating their every move. One big sister was especially tolerant and helped Jim when he needed it (while I sat in the relative shade of the ginormous mushroom shower in the middle of the pool). Other kids, too, were patient with this little guy who was big enough to do things by himself, but not big enough to always remember to take turns or avoid crashing into someone still in the water at the bottom of a slide.
Several times I thought, “Awww, this is as good as it gets.” The kids were having fun, playing well and totally oblivious to the tragedies and pain in the world. An idyllic scene really.
Until a new little guy waded into the pool. I didn’t pay much attention to him except to notice his shaved head and bright pink Mohawk. He seemed like any other kid, but I soon observed the others seemed wary of him. In turn, he held back from their play. He was freckled face and deathly pale and I hoped someone had been careful to put tons of sunscreen on him.
The other kids weren’t mean to him, but they clearly avoided him. The newcomer looked to his mom often for reassurance and with encouragement seemed to enjoy his trips down the smallest slide. He had some trouble climbing the steps but laughed and beamed on the way down.
Then as he passed me, I saw it: a bright pink surgical scar that zigzagged across the right side of his shaved head. It was huge and nearly matched the color of his Mohawk. Quite scary looking really. I suppose the kids were afraid of his unusual appearance.
I thought of how often I focus on the Mohawks around me. I see the difficult client who is hard to deal with before a workshop or the rude clerk at the store or the angry person who reacts poorly to some perceived slight. I judge the ways someone is different from me and forget these folks are probably carrying painful wounds.
God, help me to welcome all your children. To see beyond their Mohawks to the shocking pink scars that crisscross their souls. And help me to open my heart and invite them to splash and play in the healing waters of a compassionate community.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Eph. 4:2 (NIV).