Sometimes an artist is affected by something so much, she resorts to the comfort of her favorite art form. Such is the case for me, pertaining to a brief encounter I had just today. When I stop to remember it, I feel sick for a moment…
A beautiful young man walked up behind me with his mom, as I stood at a fast food counter, at a busy restaurant near the shore. He only asked her for fries, and she yelled at him, “no, we are not getting a meal.” This immediately got my attention. He was only allowed a burger but could not get what he was hungry for and wasn’t even allowed to ask. I turned to see who this was, and as is usual for me, assess the situation.
The boy was tall and looked to be about 14. He was taller than his mom. I thought he could be a basketball player, and wondered if he was into sports. I wondered if he had friends at all. As his mom in her very brass and controlling manner put the order in, she quickly turned and yelled at the boy, “get your hands off the counter.“ He immediately complied, snapping his hands to his side and standing awkwardly tall. This seemed normal for him.
I was upset, but not quite horrified until she walked passed him and said “you have a very weird personality.” He turned and looked into my eyes for a moment, as if he was reaching for support, and perhaps asking for help. I was so deeply affected that I turned away, unsure what I could do to help. I hoped he could somehow see I was on his side, and that I was upset on his behalf. As the boy stood emotionless waiting for the order, I tried hard to think of something to say, but could only pray to God without words.
I didn’t know what to do, and could think of nothing other than to pray that God would send angels to protect him, and so I did. I wanted to buy him french fries, or ask him about what was important to him. I thought later I could have said “it’s your mom who is the weird one, not you!” He was a gorgeous kid, and seemed special to me, reminding me of men I’ve known who were exceptional, but awkward. I remembered a saying I picked up somewhere along the way, “kids who are not popular at home, are not popular at school.” I wanted him to be popular. I wanted his friends to save him. I kept praying someone would come along beside him, some caring teacher, a coach, the choir instructor. I prayed he would not be bullied for being what his mom called, weird. I wanted him to not turn to drugs, to suicide, to illicit online relationships.
I thought of all the artists I’ve known, and considered that the more one’s strangeness as an artist is successfully snuffed out, the more troubled and lost he will be. Truly that unusual giftedness will stir inside, and the artist will be eaten alive if he doesn’t find some kind of an outlet.
I considered different men I’ve known who were troubled by something in their past which they could not identify. I saw them each in this boy. These men had learned not to relate. Instead they took comfort in rising to a place above what others could touch, in order to maintain enough distance to keep from being hurt.
When I reflect on the look in this boys eyes, which I cannot forget, I can’t help but wonder what all the abuse is he is enduring behind closed doors. With no choice but prayer at my disposal, I keep praying, as I have been perhaps, commissioned to do. I will always hold in my memory a snapshot of the boys eyes, when I meet a troubled soul. I will no doubt have more to offer as a friend, minister, or counselor, now harboring a more vivid illustration of the place where all the craziness originates from.