I will never step foot on that side of the street. Jason thought as he sauntered into Mrs. Stevens’ classroom, looking irritatedly through the bulletproof windows to the church on the other side. He threw his books askew on his assigned desk in the front of the classroom, basically asking for someone to knock them over. He then sat down carelessly, waiting to get the day over with.
Meanwhile in the back of the classroom, Phoebe peered out the grimy windows of the jail cell as she waited for Mrs. Stevens to enter the room. Right across the main street of Mitchell, Oregon was the city’s only community church. When looking down Main Street, the school was on the right opposing the church on the left. It was almost hysterical how different the two buildings were next to each other -- the dirty, poorly built school rested alone, longing to surrender. The shiny, stain glass windows of the church reflected the sun’s rays into the puddles of gasoline in the school’s parking lot across the street. The bell tower stood proudly, waiting to be rung once at the start of every week. Phoebe gazed at the cross planted on the wall above the altar through two incompatible windows. Then she turned to the clock ticking on the wall above Mrs. Stevens’ desk and suddenly saw a fight break out between Jason and the new kid, Matt. Jason went off on the scrawny boy after he accidentally bumped into Jason’s belongings scattered on his desk while walking by. The scene quickly escalated.
“Get off me, bro!” yelled the kid from under the desks of the classroom.
“Why should I?” argued the boy with flailing arms.
“It was an accident!” Matt pleaded as he was thrown into a chair.
“Alright class --” Mrs. Stevens started as she ran into the room, two minutes late for class. She was surprised to find two of her 8th graders now tangled between a chair, fist fighting. “JASON,” Mrs. Stevens was a yeller. “GET OFF OF MATT IMMEDIATELY!” The bellows echoed off of the thick brick walls of the cramped classroom.
As the scene quickly deflated and the mood tensed, Jason released Matt from his grip out of fear of more wrath from his no nonsense teacher.
Teeth clenched, the cross teacher ordered, “I want to see you two out in the hallway. NOW.” Mrs. Stevens pointed to the door. The class stared at their shoes, not daring to make a peep. People froze where they stood crowded around the desks in the middle of the room.
The two boys walked through the door, using it as a passageway to cool themselves down.
The class quickly clambered back to their seats and got back to work on the paper found at the door minutes before -- all except Phoebe. The class modeled perfect students, yet how could one not pay attention to a spectacle that amounted to such extremes? Some would say the scrupulous teacher frightened the scholars back into their work. Yet Phoebe was the one person who didn’t hide their interest in the situation.
Silently, with open eyes glancing through the soul of the previous dilemma, she prayed for Jason.
After class as the boy walked to his filthy locker, the saved girl watched him silently.
It took a few moments of convincing, but she jogged over to Jason’s side.
“Hey,” she breathed. Cooly, she received a glance through her soul. From inner motivation, she continued.
“I was wondering, if, um, you wanted to come to Youth Group at my church tonight.”
“Are you serious?” the boy rudely snorted. “Church is for weirdos.”
“Well, it’s not church. It’s Youth Group,” replied Phoebe.
“Same difference,” Jason gave another soul-spinning glance.
“Ya sure? There’s donuts.” Who could resist the donuts? Phoebe thought. Well, they were the store bought ones, but donuts are donuts.
“Thanks but no thanks. I’m more of a loner, I guess.” The boy sailed his own way while Phoebe walked on, praying for the sailing boy.
She knew he had to come. So the chance was given again. By Him.
After school, Phoebe saw him walking across the street to the trailer park towards a 6th grader walking in the opposite direction. Head down, Jason meandered right into the helpless kid and knocked him and his textbooks down to the sidewalk. Scrambling for his books, the boy received a splash of rainwater in the face from the impact of Jason’s foot stomp on the wet pavement and a “Watch where you’re going, kid!” from above him. Phoebe ran to the 6th grader, helped him up, and handed him his remaining books. Jason trailed ahead, growing smaller with each step. Phoebe looked up in his direction. A split second later, she got up and ran to his side.
“You can’t just do that to an innocent boy and walk away!” Phoebe lectured. “What were you thinking?”
“What do you care. Just go to your perfect little church building and pray to your perfect little god, or whatever you pray to anyway,” shot Jason.
That stung. Phoebe’s mind simmered like a pot of water about to boil over. “Well, speaking of that, you need to come to Youth Group tonight.”
I’ll give her something to pray for. “I’ll think about it.” Jason strutted away like he owned the conversation, as if he won the battle.
I wasn’t expecting that, Phoebe thought. At least I got something out of him.
Jason stepped onto the curb. The sidewalk felt the pressure of his foot on the church’s side of the street. It took moments of deep thought, but a strange force that he hadn’t felt before spoke through the praise music coming from the doors of the sanctuary. He was repeatedly reminded of Phoebe’s strong will each time he couldn’t move toward the doors. Miraculously, he still didn’t turn around before making it to the welcoming entrance. Yet finally, he achieved the mind workout of getting into the building. Now he just had to make it downstairs.
Meanwhile, Phoebe sat in the basement of the church, waiting patiently for the leader to come and the middle school youth group to start. Her heart felt as if it were to beat out of her chest, anxious to see if Jason would come. The bright walls accented each other with the sun’s rays glowing in from the basement windows. The small amount of light in the room cast shadows of the illuminated cross onto the dull tile floor. Phoebe watched the shadow slowly progress across the tiles, but didn’t notice them moving. It was like watching the last few seconds of a sunset where you can’t tell that the radiant ball of light moved, but you think back to where it was a few seconds ago and all at once you can clearly see the difference.
Suddenly, a figure stood on the shadow and Phoebe looked up.
It was Jason.
“May I sit down?” he asked, waiting for approval.
In awe, Phoebe scrambled across the cushions to make room. “Oh, yeah, sure.”
The two walked out of Phoebe’s church that night, with a response pleading for a smile:
“Phoebe, that place changed my life.” This time, they shared a smile rather than a cruel glance.
After Youth Group that night as the girl walked home from the church, the saved boy watched her silently.
Just before she became a speck in the distance, Jason spoke, “Phoebe.”
She turned around.
“I’m sorry if I ever offended you,” Jason apologized. “You helped me, and I’m really grateful.”
Phoebe thought for a moment about what had happened that day and what good had come out of the situation. How would a Christian react? She reminded herself.
“I forgive you, Jason. And I’m glad I could help you. Friends?”
“Friends.” He smiled.
Yeah, I’m glad I helped him. Phoebe prayed.