Last night I spoke to about 400 teenagers and youth workers at a Baptist conference in West Virginia. In the middle of my talk, an inebriated gentleman staggered in the back and started making a lot of noise.
I was speaking about the subject of bullying, preaching out of Philippians 2, a subject that is close to my heart (most of you have already seen the Youth Culture Window article I just wrote on the subject, a little different perspective on the whole Bullying issue).
Meanwhile, the guy wanders in and sits in the back pew.
As I shared some of my story and my son’s story of being bullied, this guy started crying… loud! It was an interesting time in the talk. I was challenging them to think how they treat others that are different than them. Each time I gave an example (not gossiping about that person that’s different from us), he started crying louder.
It was so distracting, not only to me, but to all the kids in the room (kind of funny thinking back on it. Oh man. I’m laughing now.) But more and more kids started staring over at this guy, right while I’m saying, “Don’t look down on others who are different or awkward.”
The situation just spiraled. Every time I said something, his crying got louder. The guy was literally bawling! Some of the event leaders were trying to sit by him and comfort him. I felt sorry for them. I could tell they wanted to bring him outside to talk with him, but they didn’t want him to feel like he was being removed.
By now half the room is just staring at the guy. So I start trying to speak “in code” to them about the guy to try to not make him feel bad. I said, “Often, there are people who we’re tempted to look at differently, but we need to remember to treat them as Christ would treat them, not making them feel in any way like they don’t belong!”
When I said that, the guy started bawling uncontrollably. I literally had to say to the crowd, “Eyes up here!” Finally he got up and left with some of the event leaders who talked with him in the back room.
I was so distracted, I don’t know half of what I said for about a 10-minute period, not that anyone was listening to me at this point anyway!
Anyway… I finally got their attention back and it seemed like the kids really connected with it. And the distraught gentlemen got to talk with some of the leaders before going home to sleep it off.
Hilarious experience… NOW! Not then.