When someone says you might die soon, you start thinking about all the things you’ve accomplished and those you didn’t, everything you were brave enough to try and what you put aside for a later date, you think about relationships—new and old—and how you either helped or hurt people. You revel, reminiscent, and regret….
Someone recently told me that when we die God has a scale where He weighs our good deeds on one side and our bad on the other. (This conversation isn’t about grace—it’s about justice.) If the good deeds weigh out, we get to spend eternity with God. But if they don’t, we’ll face an eternity without our creator.
I’m not sure where my scales would rest, truly. I thought about all the good and bad things in my life, and I’m still not sure why, but, I remembered something from grade school. The first bad thing I remember doing.
“You can have a birthday party,” my mom said, and we made invitations for the whole class of over 20. I could hardly wait to attend school that day, and I remember passing Nathan on the way through the doors. He always wore pants that clung too small and shoes that flopped, overly big. Some kids made fun of him, but I always sort of liked Nathan. He had curious, big eyes—and I felt like he saw things the other kids didn’t.
“You have an invitation for everyone?” my teacher asked when I told her about my party. I nodded. “Keep these in your desk,” my teacher said about the invitations. “We’ll pass them out after second recess.” So I placed them in my pencil box and smiled at a couple of girls who had heard the conversation.
Anyway, after lunch, the teacher called my name. “Elisa, you’re having a birthday party, aren’t you?” she said.
I smiled so big. “Yes, I am.” Then she let me hand out all of the invitations. I gave one to every student, everyone except Nathan. “I had one for you, I swear,” I said. But no matter how many times I looked through my backpack or the pencil box, I couldn’t find it. Then the kids were laughing at him—especially two popular girls—and it broke my heart. They’d laughed at him too many times.
“Please come to my party,” I begged. “I think you’re one of the coolest kids in class.”
I wrote down all of the information on a piece of paper, but the damage was done. He didn’t have a “real” invitation and the kids thought it was hilarious.
Nathan had to call his mom after that because he started crying. When the final bell rang, his mom marched into the room as all of the students left. I heard her yelling at my teacher from where I perched in the hallway. “How could you hand out those invitations knowing every kid got one but my son?”
Nathan didn’t come to my party. He didn’t even talk to me after that, not even a few years later. I always felt bad, and I sort of wondered if the popular girls got into my desk and took Nathan’s invitation.
I know it wasn’t intentional, but I feel bad for moments like this and the slew of others where I’ve caused pain whether intentional or not. And I wonder how all of these moments weigh out for or against us, making us better or worse. I just so wish I could’ve helped Nathan instead of hurting him at such a young age.
You see, it wasn’t just the invitation incident that I feel bad about…it’s all the times before. I saw an interesting, wonderful person who I knew was lonely. I should’ve tried to make a positive impact on his life long before. I didn’t truly realize that he didn’t have any friends until the incident with the invitation…. How could I miss something like that?
I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t miss your chance to do good—to make life better for those around you. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own lives that it’s hard to imagine what other people might be going through. That’s what I learned from Nathan. I’m not sure if he even remembers, but to me, he is unforgettable.