Table GraceFeatured — By Guest Author on October 31, 2012 at 3:00 am
Editor’s note: We normally run shorter pieces under our blog, but this story is so powerful we chose to feature it. Written by Doug Worgul, this was originally posted on www.aliciabessette.com. Doug is the author of Thin Blue Smoke.
Levi is the coolest kid in the fifth grade. So my daughter, Halla, tells me. Tall, good-looking, funny, athletic, popular, and self-confident; all the other boys want to be like Levi.
So do I.
A few weeks ago Halla came home from school with this story: at lunch that day, Levi strolled into the cafeteria as usual, his posse trailing behind, when he noticed one of his classmates sitting by himself at a table in the corner. Halla says that it’s not unusual for this boy to eat alone. He’s mildly autistic and doesn’t interact well with others.
Levi and his gang sat in their usual place in the middle of the room. The cool kids’ table. Where the twin objectives—to see and be seen—were mostly effectively achieved. But that day, something clicked inside Levi. He found himself repeatedly looking over at his classmate in the corner. He didn’t like seeing the boy alone, off by himself. There was something not right about it.
Levi called over to the boy and invited him to come sit at his table. The boy shook his head and looked away.
Levi called to him again. “Come on!” he said. “Come sit with us. If we don’t fill this table up with boys, some gross girls might sit here.” Levi made a face indicating that he might vomit if a classmate of the female persuasion were to pull up a chair and take a seat. The boy avoided eye contact and pretended not to hear.
Levi’s friends were quiet and fidgety, unsure of where this was coming from and where it was headed.
But Levi wouldn’t let it be. He stood up, picked up his tray, and without the slightest shade of self-consciousness went over and sat next to the other boy. Levi’s bewildered friends followed along.
“Hope you don’t mind,” Levi said. “But we weren’t having any fun over there by ourselves. We thought it’d be more fun over here with you. Besides, like I said, we were worried about a girl invasion.”
The other boy smiled and nodded. They all ate their sandwiches and potato chips, and that was that. End of story.
Except that everything is different now. Levi’s friends are changed. They participated in a rare act of school lunchroom kindness from which they may never recover. The boy they befriended is changed. Lacking social grace himself, grace was extended to him. And my daughter Halla was changed by what she witnessed and by telling the story of it to us and to others. And I was reminded that it is in telling and retelling stories of grace and kindness that we come to understand their redemptive power. The stories themselves have the power to save.