He arrived 15 minutes late, bloated with reluctance. He made no eye contact, and refused to respond to my casual greeting. He simply slouched into the chair opposite mine. He reminded me of the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. He was gangly and his appendages each had a will of their own. His sneakers were enormous, as was his nose. His face was pocked, with many zits, and his hair covered his eyes. He wore army fatigues and denim. He was a classic, unhappy esteem-free adolescent.
I spoke earlier with his mother, who whimpered through the entire conversation. She spoke of her seventeen year old son as if he were ten, and had just fallen from a tree. She sighed incessantly, which drove me nuts, and she gave me no input which could help me understand the true emotional or spiritual status of her son. It was obvious she cared, but didn't have a clue who her son was, or what was causing his anguish.
His father also called me. He spoke in a sharp staccato tone. He sounded perpetually fed up. He basically told me his son needed a good dose of tough love, and that his mother spoiled him rotten. I doubted he had ever shown his son an ounce of unconditional love. Lazy. Shiftless. Druggie. These words were littered about his rant. He wished me luck. I told him I had no tricks up my sleeve, but I would do my best.
Then the Holy Spirit intervened. The kid farted. It caught him off guard, and was clearly an accident. It also caught me off guard, and we both erupted into laughter. I thanked him for the greeting, and told him it was all uphill from here. He sat up and looked me in the eye and spoke for about fifteen full minutes.
He was lost. Had few real friends. Mediocre grades. Was a joke as an athlete. Basically, he was the presence of an absence at his school. He smoked dope. Drank on an occasion. He loved his parents, but he hated how they treated one another. His father was a real bully to his mother, and his little brother. Neither parent seemed happy. They complained incessantly, and enjoyed nothing. The trouble he gave them, from his perspective, was not being who they wanted him to be.
Holy Spirit again.
His eyes filled. I was able to look deep inside. I could at last see him as Christ would see him. His innards were indeed filled with tears. At his core there was a pond of them – tears that is. He was so sad. He longed for a good friend. He wanted to find his niche. He yearned for his family to be a family. He was dying for someone to believe in him, or care about him, as is. Life, for Orin, was simply overwhelming. Each day swarmed with a blistering sense of inadequacy. Each day began with knowing he was not enough. Each day was coated in the awareness that he was invisible.
I took a risk. I simply said. “Aside from the fart, I like you.” Orin smiled. I told him the truth. He was honest and insightful. He then told me he wrote poetry, but shared it with nobody, because he did not want anyone to call him a fag – especially his father. I asked him to please bring some of his writing in, and that I would love to read his poetry. The rest, as they say, is history.
Orin got into a small college in Vermont, and continued to write poetry. He was a good poet. He wrote sweetly and kindly of nature and skies and seas and seasons. He was a most gentle soul. His sophomore year he wrote to tell me he had discovered farming at his college, and planned that for a career. It seemed a wise and excellent choice. I wrote back to tell him that from what I remembered, he would have the fertilizer factor well covered.
He lives in Vermont now. This tall lanky pimply kid, poet, beloved child of God. He was always there. Or in there. We just needed to see him through Christ’s eyes. Maybe this is the lens through which we must see one another and ourselves as well.
He sent me a photo this past Christmas. He and his wife and their new son, Orin Jr. The trio stood before a battered barn. They looked happy. At home. Orin had become handsome. One might even say swarthy. He cut quite a figure. He was the very presence of a country gentleman.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.