The Avengers, Poison Ivy, Leprosy, and Middle Schoolers

Just another day at the office.

I’ve had poison ivy for two weeks now. I’ve never had poison ivy before. Some people can roll in poison ivy and never get it. Apparently, I’m not one of those people.

I’ve been on Prednisone (a steroid) to take care of it. One common side-effect of this happy drug is an inability to sleep. Apparently, I get this side effect.

Between the incessant scratching and the not sleeping, this has been the Best. Time. Ever.

Nighttime has been weird. I sleep for a couple hours, but not well. I’ve had a couple strange dreams.

Four nights ago, I had a dream I was a samurai fighting other samurais. We were fighting normal until I “realized” I could easily defeat them by scratching myself.

I woke up ripping my claws into my arms and chest.

A few nights before that, I had an even better dream. It was about the Avengers. I’m not sure if I was one of the Avengers or not, but they were in an epic battle. They were keeping the bad guy from destroying the world and of course sharing witty dialogue all throughout, when they somehow got tricked into thinking if they scratched themselves in strategic places victory was theirs.

Bad idea, Avengers. As soon as one started in (I’m pretty sure it was the Hulk: “Hulk, Scratch!”) there was a domino effect, and it was quickly all over.

They had not won, and I was fully awake and feverishly scratching all over my body.

When I first realized I had contracted poison ivy, we did not know if it was contagious. We heard conflicting reports from different people, and Dr. Google wasn’t extremely helpful, not to mention that each day the itchy bumps showed up in a new place on me.

So for those first few days, I was a leper. Since we were unsure if it could spread, we played it safe.

And I got a taste of what life would have been like for those with leprosy in Bible times. Diagnosis of leprosy was a social death sentence. Not only were you cut off from human touch, you had to actually leave your family and live outside of town. And leprosy doesn’t go away after a couple weeks.

We don’t realize how important something is until it’s taken away. Not being able to hug Dad was especially hard on my kids. To the point of being willing to take a chance.

A few days in, Levi had had enough. I was sitting on the couch, and he came and sat beside me, scooted right up, put his little arm around my arm and nestled in.

I didn’t mind one bit.

One of my favorite stories from the Gospels is in Mark when a leper asks Jesus to heal him. Jesus responds by touching him first, then healing him. Jesus’ action is an illustration of God’s reckless love and odd commitment to humanity. That, through the incarnation, He would willingly put aside His personal well-being in His pursuit of us, His beloved.

It gets me every time.

Life is messy, and getting involved in someone else’s life is messy. But we do it anyway, because people are most important.

However there are still certain segments of society that for all practical purposes could be classified as untouchable. Whether it’s the homeless or the homosexual, we tend to keep our distance. Because it’s safer.

Do you know who else tends to be overlooked?

Middle schoolers. Do you remember your middle school years? You might not because you’ve worked so hard to block those memories out. For 99% of us, they were probably not the most pleasant years of our lives.

Middle school is rough, and for some reason (okay, maybe there are legit reasons) most adults tend to keep their distance from middle schoolers.

When they need us the most we are not making ourselves available to them.

They need more than their parents, teachers, coaches, and pastors. They need adults, with no agenda, making an investment in them. Adults who know their names and are taking an interest in their lives.

They need our encouragement and support. They need to know we are beside them and not going anywhere no matter what. They need to know we believe in them.

If the next generation fails to be the kind of doctors, lawyers, parents, and Christians we need them to be, it will not be because they are failures. It will be because we have failed them.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.