The Wolf You Feed

Mean boys

“I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do.”-Ten Years After

Of all the terrible images from Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, this is the one that bothered me most. I look at the young, handsome faces, contorted with rage, lips forever captured spewing hate, and try to see in them the little boys they must have been. As the Mother of sons, I can almost always see in men’s faces the ghost of the boys they were, and I start to see it now. I picture gap toothed smiles, and cowlicks and the peculiar beauty that little boys have. And I wonder how they ever came to this dreadful place, and if their Mothers grieve for the boys they were? Are they proud? Are they crushed? Did they build them into this, brick by brick, or watch helplessly as the tide swept them away. And as I did,  I remembered another Mother’s son from long ago.

James was a boy in my son’s Kindergarten class. On the day of meet and greet we had been asked to bring a picture of our child for the “Getting to Know You Wall”. I stood and looked at picture after picture of smiling faces, obviously taken with love and pride. And then I came to the picture of James. Rather, it was a picture of someone else and James just happened to be in it, in the corner, almost out of the picture. It was all he could find to bring. Something about it troubled my spirit and I began to notice James. He was a beautiful child, with a sweet smile. But he was usually unkempt, his hair always a mess. Not little boy messy, uncared for messy. He was frequently late, and always dropped off, never walked in. The first time I visited the class I noticed that his pants were on backwards. It would be comical except for the fact that he made it all the way to school without anyone even noticing.

Another time, on a field trip to the zoo, I bent to tie his shoe and realized that his shoes were too small. As in two sizes too small. That was the reason he walked so slow and fell behind. The teacher confided to me that he hadn’t brought the money for the field trip, so she paid for him to go. She just couldn’t let him be the only one who didn’t get to go. The next day I sent a pair of new shoes with my son, and from then on when I sent money for my child’s trips and parties I sent it for James too. He was shy and quiet, but affectionate. He responded to attention and kind words like a flower opening up. I never saw any sign that he was physically abused, but every sign that he was neglected. He lived his life present but unnoticed, unimportant, invisible, a spectator in the lives of others. And surely the certain knowledge that you don’t matter feels like blows.  James left our school after the next year and I have never heard another word about him.  I still pray for him every time I think of him, and wonder what became of him.

I wonder if the first time he felt loved and accepted, it was by a gang.

I wonder if the first time the pain stopped it was because of a drug or a drink.

I wonder if the first adult that took notice of him, that he could look up to, indoctrinated him with some ideology of Us vs. Them, and provided an outlet for the rage built up over a lifetime. Showed him how to feed the bad wolf. Used his wounds for their own agenda.

He would have been ripe for all of it.

Oh, I hope I am wrong. I hope instead that he met angels dressed in skin along the way. I hope God sent him people to encourage him, to love him, to lead him. To show him how to feed the good wolf. All these many years I have prayed these things for him every time I think of him.

But if that didn’t happen, I can see how the harshness and indifference of his life could turn that sweet smile into a mask of rage…and underneath rage, pain. How he might find himself in a crowd with a torch, hating people he doesn’t even know. I hope I’m wrong.

The point is, no one is born full of hate, they have to be taught. I can’t do a single thing about Charlottesville, Virginia except go on the record saying it’s wrong, and that they don’t speak for me. And pray. And I can look around me and see what is within my power to affect. What are the needs  in my circle of influence? What is my Divine assignment? I can armor up and head out into the mission field of my life. I can grow where I am planted until the day that God calls me home.

I know one day all things will be made right, and we will understand all that is beyond us now. I cling to that hope. But until then, I will be on lookout  for my next James.

4 thoughts on “The Wolf You Feed

  1. Noah Funderburg

    Sweet, and insightful message, dear friend. You are right that hate is taught, not inherited. When working in Kairos Prison Ministry I heard sad stories about young men wandering the streets. The people who showed them interest, not necessarily love, were drug dealers who gave them a place to say, and food, and a little money, in exchange for running drugs or being a lookout. When others cast you aside, you look for any anchor in life’s storm, and accept your anchorage irrespective of whether it is what you really want. One has to wonder how a few hugs and “I love you” messages could change so many lives.


  2. Marcy Naivar

    Today I will pray for James. I often pray that God will guide me to know what His purpose was for me. As my children have grown I realize it is to. nurture and teach them empathy and kindness. That is my calling, kindness not anger, forgiveness not rage., hope not giving up. As John Lennon said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” We need to.not be so busy planning our lives that we don’t live in the prsent and notice people around us like James who you observed, because you were in the present. Your message today inspired me to look for more James’s in this world of any age and offer random acts of kindness. Often, I realize prayer is the best gift I can give people including myself.


  3. Steve Cole

    Beautifully said, Mary. Thank you. There are Jameses all around us when we’re in public. It takes an effort to step up to help them. The mission field surrounds us. Please continue with your blog. You’re gifted, and write eloquently.


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