I sat by Mirror Pond on a park bench, sandwich in one hand a book in the other. I’d been there for some time when load voices behind me distracted me for a moment. Three teenage girls were walking down the grassy hill behind me. Talking loudly. One exclaimed over an item she’d forgotten to bring with her.
As I glanced behind me, I saw they were on their way to meet up with a larger group of teens walking from the other direction. The girl who’d forgotten something, shouted even louder to the other group about how she’d forgotten it. Whatever it was, I’ve since forgotten, it had no significance to me. As the groups met about twenty yards over my left shoulder, I tried to return to my book, but could not concentrate to finish a sentence.
From the moment I first heard them approaching, I could hear their language seasoned with f-bombs. Loud. Purposeful. Every. Other. Word. I could hear the anger and indignation as they talked about their teachers and the assignment they’d been given.
I was startled. I looked around. I didn’t know if I should interject. Ask them politely to speak more kindly. I scanned for children who might be hearing this assault of language, a mother who might step in. Part of me was relieved there were none. I knew these teens, who showed no respect for their teachers, the authority figures in their lives, would simply laugh at me or cuss my out if I stood up and asked them please. So I said nothing.
You might think I’m prudish for being bothered my their harsh language. But I have to tell you, I think cursing has a place. I’d be lying if I told you I never, ever curse. I do. I try to limit it to my internal dialogue, or when no other ears can hear. But sometimes I slip. Just don’t tell Mama. She likes to think that I am still sheltered from the evils of this world. But the reality is that I think curse words can be a valid form of expression. Sometimes “darn-it” and “fiddlesticks” simply aren’t strong enough words to express the depth of emotion.
But these teens, they weren’t using their words to express emotions. Their attitude showed they used these words to make a show. To say, “I can do anything I want. No one else is the boss of me. Just try me.” But they weren’t proving any point to me.
The book I held in my hand was about a teenage girl. Not much older than any of them. A girl who left her home to work in Uganda. A teenage girl who would adopt 14 daughters before she was old enough to drink in the States. And she did all this because she knew Jesus called her to love. To love just one. Each one she met. And every day she strived to say, “Yes” to that call. (You can read about her here.)
The difference between the teenagers in the park and the one I read about were stark. Opposite sides of the same mirror. Long after those angry teens moved on, I put my book down and prayed for the baby that the girl who’d forgotten something pushed in a stroller. I prayed that baby would know more love than anger. More grace than pain. More joy than sorrow.
Each day we have a choice to make. We can choose love or we can choose anger. We can choose joy or we can choose disappointment. Which choice will you make today?