Sunday, September 24, 2006
What I am learning from Michael
Michael, my beloved son, is different from other people. He is a troubled boy and right now is in trouble. He simply refuses to become what we want him to be. Since he wants to rebel, he will, and since his personality is so big and so dynamic, his rebellion is of billboard-size and "shout it from the rooftop" proportions.
We don't do a good job of containing him; we never have been able to. He is the kind of person who won't be browbeat or physically disciplined into submission. We have not been consistent with him, nor been good at nipping small things in the bud. That is our sin and our shame.
We have been chastised in public for our failures, but we hereby refuse to take responsibility, nor can we claim any credit for his persistent optimism, his cheerfulness in disappointment, his own emotional depth and pain when he sympathizes with another's sad plight, be they his friend or just a stranger with hands so worn that the sight of them nearly brought him to tears. We disavow ourselves of any culpability in his heroic acts of mercy and generosity.
The court and others acting in an official capacity with Michael will speak of his poor impulse control, his risk-taking and perseverating behavior.
I would like to add to the reports already given, a few more examples of these behaviors.
His brother's school bus driver reported last year that as she was rounding a corner by Walmart she observed the following: a little dog, having obviously escaped from his house and was now disoriented and terrified, ran out into the road in front of oncoming traffic. All of a sudden, a young, risk-taking passerby leaped from the curb and with lightning speed grabbed the little dog and jumped back to safety. That passerby was Michael, who was sneaky enough not to even mention his "acting out" behavior at home that day.
On a summer Sunday morning a family visiting Wilmington, NC were accompanying their grandfather to his lovely downtown church. On the way in, one of the teenage sons noticed an obviously homeless man walking past the church and up the street. The boy said to his mother, "That guy is a street person, isn't he?" "Yes, he is", the mother returned as she also noticed the beautifully dressed churchgoers walking ahead of them. Then in a fit of impulsivity and with a grin, the boy said, "I'll be right back, Mom, I'm going to go talk to that guy and give him all my money!" He was off running before the mother could answer. All she could do was watch Michael talking to the man as they walked together for about half a block. Then Michael shook the man's hand and came running back to his family.
Perhaps some of the most outrageous acts of perseveration I can mention involve Michael's relentless empathy and encouragement when counseling other young people. I have witnessed him talking to friends who were extremely upset and ready to despair. He does not give up. In fact, when he was hospitalized last year in the psychiatric ward, he met a girl who was hell-bent on committing suicide. Attempts by staff were going nowhere, but Michael talked and reasoned and encouraged her and must have come up with something that got through to her, because she changed her mind and said that yes, he was probably right and she would likely leave there and decide to re-enter life.
So indeed, I will agree with others that Michael is ridiculous, he is entirely too much, he is way off the chart of normal behavior. He drinks, he smokes, he has a foul mouth a lot of the time. He reminds me of two men I heard about; they might have been as intelligent as Michael. They certainly were heavy drinkers and smokers who cussed a blue-streak, and at least one of them was rumored to be an adulterer.
Their names were Roosevelt and Churchill, and they quite probably saved the world.
Our son Michael surely must be held accountable for his behavior.
My point is simply that we ourselves might see only the sins and often write off those whose hearts are the very thing that God can use and to whom society itself owes a debt.