As we wrap up Lent and head into Easter, my church is also wrapping up a series called “7 Things You Don’t Want to Hear,” in which we have discussed the seeming oxymorons of the Christian message. To live you must die. To win you must lose. To finish, you must start over. As I have considered these things, the messages of the media have come into stark view. Happy endings, everything working out in the end, poetic justice, and satisfyingly ironic twists are the standard, whether the narratives come in the forms of TV shows, movies, commercials, or even blogs. We craft our tales in a way that gives everyone a good feeling at the end, or if we don’t it is to send a strong message on the need for change. Very rare is the “true” story told, and when it is told, it is powerful art. I’m not claiming to be telling powerful tales of art on this Good Friday, but, in keeping more inline with what I have experienced in the real world, here are seven stories that you don’t want to read.
1) Jason and Sarah met in college. He had just been broken up with by a long-time girlfriend and was warned not to marry the first girl that he “rebounded” with, but it was love at first sight. They were married straight out of college and eventually settled down in Sarah’s hometown where they raised two children and ate at Chili’s every year for their anniversary. Then, when he was 61, Jason got sick. He fought for almost two years, but eventually he died. Sarah was heartbroken and nine months later she followed Jason’s lead and passed away quietly in her sleep. The end.
2) Every morning as he walked to school, Mike passed Jeff on the corner. Mike knew that Jeff was selling drugs to the other students, but he never said anything because he was afraid. Mike was afraid that Jeff might come after him, or that the guy Jeff was working for might come after him. All of Mike’s information on this subject came from movies and television, and he really had no idea what would happen if he reported Jeff, but still he was afraid and stayed silent. One day, as he walked by with his eyes down, Jeff offered to give him something for free. Jeff was very friendly, and Mike thought about taking it, but just kept walking. All day long Mike thought about the drugs. Some of Mike’s friends had bought stuff from Jeff before, and they all seemed to really like it, but Mike was still scared. He was scared to report Jeff, and he was scared to take what was offered. All night long Mike thought about what he should have done. What would have happened if he had taken something from Jeff? The curiosity was overwhelming. The next day, as Mike walked to school, Jeff once again spoke to him and held out a small baggie, and Mike took it. The end.
3) Ann’s older sister Julie was always getting all of the attention. She was smarter, prettier, and more athletic than Ann, and her whole wall was filled with trophies, ribbons, medals, and signed yearbooks. Ann was tired of feeling invisible in her own home and school, so she decided to make a difference. Ann looked up state sports and found one that her school didn’t have a team for, which is how she ended up founding the GRHS girls’ wool making team. She pulled together a group of girls, determined to just once bring home a trophy that said “Ann” on it. Her team made the state finals by default, as there were no other wool making teams in her county, and when the big day finally arrived she was ready to go. Having not practiced much until very recently, Ann came in 4th in the individual competition and received no trophy. Her team, on the other hand, ended up coming in 3rd overall and there is a now a large trophy in the school’s trophy case that says “3rd Place Girls Varsity Wool Making Team,” which Ann glares at every time she walks by. The end.
4) William grew up very poor and saw firsthand the devastation that poverty can inflict on families and communities. Overcoming many personal obstacles, he distanced himself from his family and graduated high school with top honors. William got a full ride to a prestigious university where he earned a law degree and married an E.M.T. After working harder than ever, William was promoted to partner in record time and bought a large house outside of the city. He bought the car he had dreamed of owning all of those years ago, when life was hard and the dream seemed impossible. Every bit of security that had been denied to him in his youth, William purchased as an adult, and he was never, not even once, truly happy. The end.
5) Lily rushed home from class and whipped her laptop out of its case, desperate to begin writing the paper that she should have started a week ago. With books piled around her and dozens of browser tabs open, she started what she knew would be an all-nighter. It was 7 pm and her class was at 10 the next morning, when the paper had to be handed in. Making good progress, Lily finally felt that she was getting into a good creative flow around 1 am when she stopped to take a break. With an empty bladder and full stomach, Lily sat back down at her computer, only to find that the screen was blue. The machine had crashed, hard. “No, no , no, NO, NOOOOOO!” she screamed, waking her disgruntled roommate. She hadn’t saved anything. Lily restarted the computer, but when she opened the program again the autosave had recovered only the first paragragh. Nine pages of work had disappeared. She was going to have to start over. With less than 9 hours left to write a 20 page paper, Lily dropped her head onto the table and wept bitterly. The end.
6) Coach Joe looked at his team and spoke to them for the first time. “Look, I know I’m your third coach this season, and I know that you haven’t won any games, but I believe that you are all capable of something greater than what we’ve seen from you so far. Each of you has the potential to be a star out there, and I’m here to help you achieve that potential. So let’s get out there and play some soccer!” The girls cheered and raced out to the field, pumped up and ready to win. Inspired by their new coach, the Saddle River Pugdogs practiced longer and harder than they ever had before. When their parents came to pick them up, they found the girls still on the field, running drills and begging to stay a few more minutes. Every stumbling block hat they faced was overcome with the help of Coach Joe. The improvements could be seen by the coach, the parents, their friends, and, most importantly of all, themselves. The girls, for the first time ever, found themselves excited for an upcoming game, the last game of the season. The played harder and better than they ever had before, and they lost miserably, 5-0. The end.
7) Tyler walked out of the school with a spring in his step. It was the first afternoon of summer vacation, and Sophie had just agreed to be his girlfriend, officially. His parents had promised him a car that summer, since he had just turned 16, and he was looking at, by his calculations, what were going to be the best three months of his life. He couldn’t wait to get started. He texted a couple of his friends to ask what they were doing that evening, because Tyler felt like celebrating. It had taken him years to feel like he fit in with any group of people, but now his friends were his life. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people on your side. When he got home, Tyler threw his backpack onto the ground in the entryway and was about to run upstairs to his room when he heard his father say, “Tyler, could you come into the kitchen for a minute please?” He sounded serious, so Tyler walked in to see both his parents sitting at the table. His mother had obviously been crying.
“Tyler,” she began, “this is not going to be easy. I think you should sit down.”
“I’m fine standing,” he said gruffly, realizing that whatever was about to happen, it wasn’t going to be good news.
“Tyler, your father and I, well, you know that things haven’t been great at home lately, and, well, we’ve decided to end our marriage.”
“WHAT?!” Tyler shouted angrily. “You’re getting a divorce?! What the hell?!”
“We didn’t want to tell you before finals,” his father said evenly, “so that you could finish the school year without any distractions. But this is happening, now.”
“What do you mean, now?” asked Tyler desperately, his mind reeling.
“Tyler, honey, neither one of us can afford to buy the house from the other, so we have to sell it,” said his mother softly. “We hadn’t put it on the market officially, but we have a private buyer and we’re moving out in two weeks.”
“Moving out?! Moving WHERE?!” shouted Tyler.
“You and your mother are going to go back to New Hampshire near your grandmother,” his father interrupted, “and I’m going to get an apartment closer to my job in the city.”
“NEW HAMPSHIRE?! Are you KIDDING ME?!” screamed Tyler, not wanting to believe any of what he was hearing. “NO WAY! I’m not GOING! Why are you DOING this to me?!” he sobbed. “YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE! I HATE YOU!”
With that, Tyler ran upstairs and slammed his bedroom door as hard as he could, falling onto his bed and crying. Two weeks later he moved to New Hampshire with his mother. The end.