by Tom Pappas
Because of a thrilling experience I had last Friday I want to report it and also try an experiment. But to start, I must go back 15 years. At Lincoln High where as a teacher, I got to be around Troy, a remarkable young man who I will tell more about shortly.
Now I will go back one month to a seminar for adults at my church where we put together a series on Bullying which literally included a nationally known expert. During one of the sessions the topic included bystander behavior. The most common bystander behavior is to watch without intervening.
While this discussion was taking place, most of the examples conjured memories of Troy. He was a good kid; but he was more. He was an athlete. He was popular with all groups. He related well with adults. He was NOT a common bystander. I have distinct recollections of him stepping between adversaries and cooling everyone’s jets. Over the years, I have thought about him often and when the leader said, “Most young people don’t have the confidence to step into a bullying situation.” I thought, Troy does. Leader: Most young people don’t have the expertise to diffuse the tension of bullying in progress. Me: Troy does. Leader: Most young people are concerned about the future consequences of intervention. Me: Troy’s sense of justice and fairness trumped all that.
During these sessions I couldn’t get Troy off my mind; not that I wanted to, I have such respect for him it was fun to reminisce.
Then, last Thursday, as my wife, Laurel, was preparing to lead a meditation with the Lumunos Board she asked for help with an idea for a sharing question - like what we do at Lumunos events. The topic was “standing by the door”. I told her that I had long been touched by the question Larson and Miller asked in the Taste of New Wine small group guide. After decades I paraphrase: “Name a person who was important in your faith experience. What did they do for you and if it was so powerful, can you do that for someone else?”
The Lumunos Board is a wonderful and atypical entity. I went along to Chicago to hang out in the big city and was welcome to attend different parts of the meeting. I went to Laurel’s relational time. She asked us a variation of the Larson/Miller question and we counted off to get into random groups. There were just two in my group and after I spoke, Dave began what would be a like a very complimentary introduction of a guest of honor. I felt tears well up when he disclosed that he was talking about me as the person who stood by the door for him in his Lumunos experience. Wow! I am still reeling – in a good way.
Admiration becomes affirmation when it is lovingly presented to the other person. Since Lincoln High days I have admired Troy Hassebroek and followed his career as a college player, often named as the best downfield blocker on the team. Never a bystander he was active in student life and was honored as homecoming king. Unusual for a big university, I think.
The experiment? I would love for Troy to have the empowerment of affirmation that I felt from Dave last weekend. Through the grapevine qualities of the world wide web, I wonder if my high regard for him will reach him? God willing.