Friday, February 7, 2014

Eyes Open

Today I had Breaking Down the Walls.

If you went on the site, you'll know that Breaking Down the Walls basically works toward cracking and collapsing the barriers between cliques and social groups and stereotypes.  And today, it did something like that.

The morning was pure fun.  I arrived at seven-fifty, got my name tag, sat in the middle of the bleachers in the gym.  The guy shared a couple of stories--he was an engaging, interesting speaker--and had us conduct a couple of activities to get to know just random people throughout the gym.

As a freshman, and having been out of the public school loop for--what?  Six years?--I only knew a couple of people, and even then I don't know them very well.  So everybody was pretty much a complete stranger to me.

There was the bubbly girl who broke the stereotypes of her ethnicity; there was the typical guy that I felt really short next to (he was pushing six feet tall, and you don't really want to know my height); there was the guy who rooted for the 49ers and encouraged me to write my book; there was the guy who smiled wide and helped me play partner-tag (where you hook arms and attempt to tag another partner).  Looking at them just made me feel regular, but when I actually put it down on paper, it's so much more.  And that's the point of Breaking Down the Walls, actually.  Meeting and getting to know new people.

Afterward, we split into groups named after animals--I was a Gator--and a leader conducted a couple of typical activities (Two Truths, One Lie; a straw activity involving a lot of dropped straws and index fingers; etc).  After, we split two pizzas among all ten of us and talked about stuff that felt completely normal, considering we were sharing opinions and thoughts with perfect strangers.

Then we had Cross the Line.

On paper, Cross the Line seems completely boring.  Basically, the man in charge of Breaking Down the Walls called out something like, "If you have an artistic ability, cross the line."  People would come from the crowd and, silently, respectfully, the crowd would watch people they knew and had grown up with cross the line.  After a few moments of soaking in, the man--Phil Boyte--would call out, "Okay, you may go back," or something to that effect.

But it wasn't just about artistic ability.  Mr. Boyte would call out, "Cross the line if you have a parent who passed away," and very, very quietly, kids would cross the line.

It was truly an eye-opening experience.  I'm rather jaded, and sometimes I believe that kids my age can't act mature enough to understand the seriousness of what he was saying.

But in this time, this word, it was amazing.  Eye-opening.  The stuff people have gone through made me wake up and smell the coffee.

Guys, it happens.  People crossed the line on that one, and on the one where he said, "Cross the line if you've ever worried about being homeless," or, "Cross the line if you've ever contemplated suicide."

I thought that just because I lived an amazingly normal life, everybody else had the same opportunity.

But no.

There were kids crossing the line when asked if they'd ever had an addiction.  There were kids crossing the line when asked if they'd ever had a friend who was doing stuff they shouldn't.  They were crossing the line if they'd ever been bullied.  They were crossing the line because they'd been homeless; they couldn't meet their parents' expectations; they had struggled with an eating disorder.  They were crossing the line because their parents had disappointed them; they were crossing the line because they'd lost somebody to cancer; they were crossing the line because they'd struggled with depression.

You know what I did?

I crossed the line, like, three times (out of the hundred scenarios that he reeled off for us).  And that was when he said, "Cross the line if writing is your gift."

Most of the other stuff, I could just stand there and watch.

It made me realize how incredibly blessed, how lucky I am.  God has given me a great life.  I can't help it.  Nothing--and I mean nothing--has ever happened to me.  I haven't been through anything like this.  I've never done anything wrong--he said, "Cross the line if you've ever done something you should've been arrested for but never got caught."  So many people went on that one.  I can't say I've ever done anything truly illegal.  Maybe urging my mom to run a yellow light?  Come and arrest me--that's about it.

There was this one girl who crossed on so many, it was hard to believe.  She went on terrible ones, tragic experiences that no high schooler should ever have to face.

But the one "cross the line" that hit home for me was a question about homicide.

"Cross the line if somebody you loved was murdered," said Mr. Boyte.

More people than I would have expected crossed on that one.


"Raise your hand if you were there when that person was murdered," he said.

The girl raised her hand.  She was fighting back tears.

Words cannot express how awful it would be to be present while somebody was murdered.

I still can't believe it as I'm writing the words.  

Kids my age and a couple years older than I am have gone through multiple things that I can only imagine and shudder and sigh *oh well* about.

They've gone through stuff like that.

And it's terrible.  It really is.  In my safe town.  

There was another one.

"Cross the line if God was once a big part of your life but now isn't," Mr. Boyte said.

There were people crossing that line.

And that settled it, really, for me.

Why am I skipping Bible Club just to hang out with my friends and talk about stuff?  Why am I shrinking back and hiding when Bible Club passed out tracts and candy canes during Christmastime at lunch?  


What's my problem?  Just because I have a sweet life doesn't mean other people do.  Just because everybody seems like they have it all doesn't mean that they do.

Guys, there's a need.  And it's only going to grow.


Afterward, Mr. Boyte invited us to address specific people in the crowd about what we'd just witnessed.

It was amazing.  

Then we got back together with our group and discussed everything over.  

Then came my favorite part.

We wrote sweet, encouraging messages about one another and plastered each other with them.

I only had three, but I made them count.

One went to my friend who was in the Gators with me.

One went to the 49ers-loving partner, who I knew from the line crosses that he'd gone through a rough time.

The other went to a girl in my group who had been really friendly.

If I had more, I would have given one to my other friends.  I would have given it to the girl who had crossed so many times it broke my heart. (Not that I'd know what breaking my heart would feel like).

In exchange, I received four stickers.  vv

I broke down walls today, guys.  And I'm going to keep my pickax and bulldozer, because I'm going to need them later on in life.

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