Meet Charlie Gunboat! Charlie comes from that section of town no one wants to live in. Just living in this area attaches a bad image to your name. (Charlie doesn’t know this yet.) Charlie’s family doesn’t have much. His dad works hard while mom watches all the kids and tries to keep order in the house. Nonetheless Charlie’s family has a hard time meeting the necessary expenses and there is nothing left for extras. (Charlie doesn’t know what he doesn’t have and can’t have yet.)
Charlie’s parents love each other and him. They provide for him the best they can. Charlie is happy at home and doesn’t realize that all homes aren’t just like his. Charlie’s happy world took a few bumps his first year in school. First he learned that other kids had things he didn’t have. When he asked his parents if he could have some of these things he always got the same answer; maybe later, but we can’t afford them right now. What does afford mean anyway? When is later? School is almost over and later hasn’t arrived yet. It would be neat to have a pair of those new sneakers and an NFL jacket before school was out. Maybe later would come before school was out! Charlie sure hoped later would come soon, he wouldn’t need these things once school was out and there was no one to show them to.
By the third grade Charlie knew later would probably never arrive and that can’t afford meant no. He is much more aware of what he doesn’t have. He has also begun to understand that the “neat” kids wouldn’t want to live where he does. Charlie spent the night with a friend from school this year. Wow! The things this family had in their home. They had carpets on all the floors and two cars. Charlie was impressed. He was also ashamed of who he was and where he came from for the first time in his life. He didn’t accept any more over night invitations for fear he would be expected to invite someone to spend the night at his home. It was never possible for Charlie to go to parties either. He didn’t want to have to invite anyone to his home for a party. Buying even a small present would be impossible too. He never had any money of his own and his parents always told him they couldn’t “afford” extra things.
The fifth grade was one of the hardest for Charlie. He had done well in the other grades but the more he learned the more he resented his home and the more aware he became of the environment his family lived in. It didn’t help that many of his classmates made fun of him. If they weren’t laughing at his clothes, it was his hair. He didn’t have to turn down invitations anymore because no one invited Charlie to anything. Charlie became lonely and depressed.
Charlie found a solution to many of his troubles in the seventh grade. One of the “popular” boys was putting Charlie down after school. Charlie tried to walk away, but this boy wouldn’t back off. Finally Charlie blew up totally. He turned on the other boy who was twice his size and began to pound him with both fists. To Charlie’s surprise the other boy began to cry and run away almost from the first blow. Charlie felt the pride rise in his heart for the first time in many years. He had beaten someone at something. All the way home Charlie runs instant replays of the encounter through his mind.
Charlie has been taught that fighting isn’t the way to solve anything. His Sunday school teacher has taught the lesson about turning the other cheek. His parents will probably punish him when they find out he started a fight. They have told him before that he isn’t to start any fights. They have also explained that words aren’t a reason to hit someone and that Charlie is to walk away rather than hit someone first. Charlie decides he will just keep his episode to himself and stay out of trouble with his parents.
Charlie walks around school a bit taller the next day. At recess two boys tell Charlie that he shouldn’t have hit their friend and they are going to get him after school. Without warning Charlie turns and hits the closest boy with a solid right to the nose. The boy’s face is covered with blood instantly. For just a split second Charlie is afraid he has really hurt the other boy. But, only for a second as he begins to swing at the second boy who is rapidly retreating from the scene.
Our hero finds himself in the principal’s office and he isn’t as bold now. He is scared of what the principal is going to do and even more afraid of what his parents are going to say later. Charlie “lies” about what happened. Charlie tells him one boy was trying to hold him while the other hit him because he had hit one of their friends the day before. He says that he “bumped” the boy holding him with his head while he was trying to get away and didn’t really hit him on purpose. The boy with the bloody nose isn’t hurt and both admit they were out to get Charlie. The principal lets Charlie off with a stern warning about fighting. This time Charlie does tell his parents he was in a fight. However, he tells his version of the event and that the principal didn’t punish him since the other boys “started” the fight and he didn’t mean to hurt the other boy.
We have just witnessed the birth of a bully and the circumstances of life have an effect on the life of a boy for many years to come. The incident with the two boys was the last actual fight Charlie has been in for several years. As with all stories this fight got bigger every time it was told. One version had Charlie taking on six boys at once. Charlie did his part to embellish the details every chance he got. He is far from the biggest boy in school, but he has the reputation of being the meanest. No one is anxious to test his ability against the “lightning speed and deadly accuracy of Charlie’s fists.”
No one laughs at Charlie anymore either (not where he can hear or see them anyway). Charlie always has a chip on his shoulder and loudly proclaims his intent to pulverize someone at the slightest provocation. Charlie has learned that the treat is as good as the deed in most circumstances. He pushes everyone to the limits. He seems to have acquired an uncanny ability to know just who he can push how far with the passing of time. His targets are always smaller than him now and his verbal attacks are in places where others don’t want to cause a scene nor have to defend themselves. Charlie gets his way most of the time.
How do we deal with someone like Charlie?
Can we be friends with him?
Do we want to be his friend?
Can we help Charlie?
Yes, we can be friends with people like Charlie. As Christians we should want to be friends with Charlie, he needs our knowledge of Jesus more than anyone else. We can help Charlie and if we do what God expects us to do in these circumstances. We can make a difference before Charlie ruins his whole life. As one of Charlie’s classmates you can do all these things. You can be a powerful force for change when you allow God to use you to reach the Charlie Gunboats of this world. No other person in the world has the same chance of being an effective witness to Charlie that you have.
What are some ways you can help Charlie?
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