Laughter, Tears, and Our Teen Years

By McKennaugh Kelley, 15

We’ve all had someone be cruel to us. It’s probably not too long ago that you felt angry and down because of what someone said, whether it was a good friend or the person that checked out your groceries. Although lots of times it’s really no big deal, we let our whole day be ruined by some nasty comment—even if the actual comment only took up less than a minute!

As soon as someone bites our heads off or gives us a not-so-nice stare, we usually automatically think that they’re a “horrible person.” Ever heard of someone besides you having a bad day? Well, if you haven’t, maybe you’d better start seeing that grumpy cashier lady in a different light!

Almost three years ago, when I was thirteen, my family went to a Natural Building Colloquium (where you learn how to build stuff naturally—like houses out of straw bales and cob)!! We stayed a week. We had been to it before and Mom loved it, but this time, Tivon, who was just a baby then, was keeping my mom REALLY busy while she washed cloth diapers (organic, of course) in a bucket and hoped that they would dry next to our tent. My brothers and I, on the other hand, were having a blast being involved in a ton of muddy, clay-ey, sod-ish, projects!

Just about everyone there weren’t Christians—including a friend of mine, Rachel. Rachel was a little bit younger than me, but she had a brother, Ivan, who was my age. Rachel was fun to hang out with and her two little siblings were real sweet, but Ivan was—well, horrid. He was the very picture of a bully. From the second I met him, I knew he was rotten to the core—at least that’s how he seemed. He taunted us (me, Rachel, and our other friends) & yelled at us until it got to the point where we would dread it when we saw him coming.

However, I felt like God would want me to be nice to him, even though I knew he’d never return the favor. When my friends shouted insults back at him, (which he sure deserved), I didn’t. Instead I told them, “Hey, let’s not pick on anybody.”

I know that I annoyed them, because they couldn’t understand why I would be kind to Ivan—it’s not like he was kind to us!

My friends, thought it was only fair—I mean, if he could taunt us, why couldn’t we have our little jokes? They all laughed and drew a geeky picture of Ivan on a hunk of cardstock, wrote his name at the top of it so everyone knew it was supposed to be of him and left if out for everyone to see. Also, they snapped back at him, and when he was away, they (including his sister), gossiped about how awful he was.

I didn’t take part in any of their jokes, though, because even if it didn’t make a difference to Ivan, it made a difference to me—and I felt God was watching, too.

One day, we found a game of Monopoly in the kids’ tent and tidied it up and started to play. After a while, Ivan stormed in and yelled at us for ruining the Monopoly game he was playing. While everyone else rolled their eyes and groaned, I struggled to apologize, even though I knew he shouldn’t be treating us like this.

The week went on, I hardly even saw Ivan that much, but when I did, I’d say “Hi,” or just not join in the teasing. And although I didn’t realize, he was noticing.

I was the only kid there who couldn’t swim (which is pretty embarrassing, if you’re 13). But they had a (huge) pond there that I learned at. Something that really helped me learn, was Rachel’s father’s flippers. I loved them! For the first time, I went into water that was over my head (if you don’t count floating in the “fishy device” when I was five). Everyday Rachel (Ivan’s sister) would let me use the flippers, but she warned me that if Ivan ever came swimming with us, I couldn’t have them, because he always used them. However, he hardly ever went swimming, & they didn’t fit any of my friends (yeah, I have big feet) so I pretty much got them whenever I wanted. At last, Ivan finally came. I was disappointed, because I knew that I wouldn’t get to use the flippers. He goofed around with them for a while, then took them off and walked around with them in his hand. Gathering up my courage and knowing that I was in for a certain, “No!” I walked up to him and said, “I can’t swim very well, and Rachel’s been letting me swim with those. Could I use them?”

To my disbelief, he handed them to me. “Sure,” he said, “you’re the nicest kid my age that I know—including me.” And then he walked away.

From him, those words weren’t to be taken lightly… and the words made me sad. I just showed a little more respect than everyone else by not picking on him and stuff and it made a difference to him. It just shows me how little kindness he was ever given. It’s not like I did anything great for him, I just gave him a smile and said “Hi!”

I could have very well looked back on that week and remembered Ivan as a cruel, heartless boy. Instead, he’s my favorite memory of the week, and whenever I think of him, I think of how easy it is to make a difference, no matter how small.

Perhaps next time you meet someone who has no kind words for you, you can have kind words for them. Even if no one else notices, God did. And you’ll know that despite how much easier it could have been to follow everybody else, you tried to follow God.

Try it… today when someone gives you a hard time, give them a smile. It may not be as hard as you think.

McKennaugh Kelley is fifteen years old. She lives in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.

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