Saturday, July 18, 2009

Doing Unto Others - When They Are Liars or Otherwise "Undesirable"

With our family's move this week, I haven't had much time to consider my resolution for this month. However, I have had an interesting experience since we arrived in our new home town that has made me think about it in an interesting light.

We arrived Wednesday evening and unloaded the car and van, leaving the moving truck to tackle on Thursday. I opened the truck late Thursday morning and started taking out the smaller stuff - the things my kids and I could do before anyone else arrived to help. As we started unloading it, a boy pulled up on his bike and offered to help. He said it was his father's birthday - and that he would like to earn a little money to get him something. I sensed right away that the kid was lying - that it wasn't his dad's birthday, but I also sensed that he was lonely and didn't want to be home. Therefore, I told him he could help - and he pitched in and worked hard for a couple of hours.

He has been back each day since to help some more, and I have become convinced that he is a reflexive liar - and also that he can be mean to kids who cross him. I also have become convinced that his home life is not very good. The interesting thing to me is that despite these feelings, I also am convinced that I don't want to stop him from coming over and associating with us. I sense a goodness in him more fundamental than the other stuff.

I got off the phone a few minutes ago with someone in town we met when we were house hunting, where I explained about this kid. Her immediate response was, "He's a thief and a liar and has a mean streak. Don't let him be around your kids." The conversation confirmed what I had felt, but as she described him I had a sudden flash of insight into my resolution this month to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. My thought was:

"How would I want someone else to treat me if I were this young man? Would I want someone I had just met to shun me because of my reputation? Even more importantly, if I likened this situation to the Gospels, what kind of story would be told of how Jesus would have interacted with this young man?"

I am debating internally exactly what I should do - exactly what I should say to this boy. I am wavering between a couple of options, but I know that I can't shun him and send him away. First, that's not what the DeGraw Hotel is about; second, I can't get past the feeling that this young man is redeemable - that he is a child of God and needs to have someone treat him as such.

In the end, I want to do unto him properly - and I think I know how I am going to do that. I pray I will be inspired - that what I decide to do will help him. At the very least, I am grateful for my resolution this month, as it has prompted me in this case to see the worth of the soul in someone it appears others have written off as undesirable - at the ripe old age of 12.


Nora Ray said...

We have had a 19 yr girl living with us since the middle of May and she will probably be staying until the community college starts up in September. She is the oldest daughter of a family in our Branch; they told her she couldn't live at home anymore when she finished high school unless she got a job. She has lived several places since then, not with church members, and the consensus is that she is lazy and not worth the effort of helping. How can anyone just throw a child away, even an "adult" child?

I really admire ytour willingness to extend yourself to others. Your children are fortunate to have you as an example.

Michaela Stephens said...

It sounds like the boy badly needs love and to feel included. I'd think twice before leaving him alone with the kids though, because you'll want to not just stop meanness, but also do some kind teaching about appropriate behavior.

Isn't it wonderful that the Spirit helped you discern what was going on?

adamf said...

That's really neat Ray.

I think you have done well so far to include him and reach out, but also "sleep with one eye open" so to speak. I think we would be doing kids (and adults) like this a disservice in the long run if we did otherwise. Sometimes kids like him will put the relationship to the test by doing something to push you away (e.g. stealing something, but who knows) because they have a difficult time with too much closeness. The great thing is though, kids like him can certainly have corrective experiences and even re-orient in attachment style over time.

Nathan Bunker said...

The biggest question isn't whether he can change but whether your family can be of help to him without causing too much trouble or damage. If your kids are younger than him and he is likely to lead in activities, then his influence might not be good. But if he is more likely to follow what is going on then this is an excellent opportunity for your family to serve. He may do things you don't tolerate in your family (like lying), but your children need experience associating with people that don't live up to family standards. If he looks up to and follows your family and your children then he will start to modify your behavior to match. I would only limit contact if he starts to pull your family in the wrong direction.

Ryan said...

Our sad experience in Pittsburgh was that these kinds of kids desperately lack parent figures; most often Dad, but also Mom -- it's scary how many kids have neither there! The ones we've dealt with have always learned very quickly that they don't need to act out to be loved and appreciated at our house.

Given the bad habits he seems to have acquired, though, it might be worth making clear to him (gently) the that there are rules at your house and that he can lose your trust if he works hard enough to do so. Our visitors always seemed to understand and adjust accordingly (at least when they were at our house).

Granted, we've only dealt with up to about age 9 (we're a young family), but I think you've got exactly the right idea. Heaven only knows how many lives your kindness will eventually affect.

DJ said...

This post reminds me of a story about Emma Ray Riggs McKay (before she and President McKay were married.)

In her first teaching job, the principal went to the classroom with her to introduce her to the students. He then took her to each student's desk and introduced the student to her. At one desk, he told her the boy was a troublemaker--had been for every teacher he'd ever had--and she needed to be prepared for that. Concerned about how the boy would react to such prediction, she put her hand on the boy's shoulder and told him she knew he was a good boy and assured him that she expected no trouble form him. He responded to her love and acceptance and the "troublemaker" was one of her best students that year.

And a less impressive story with the same message: A man thinking of moving to a new community asked a local what the neighbors would be like if he moved there. The local paused, then asked, "What were you neighbors like where you came from?" "They were unfriendly, some even hostile." "You'll find the same kind of neighbors here."

Generally others behave as we expect them to. They respond to how they are treated.

This boy may indeed be a troublemaker, but he at least deserves a chance to rise above the reputation he has acquired. (That said, I wouldn't give him opportunities to prove his reputation is well-deserved.)