His name was Matt Hupp, and he was a different sort of kid. He was considered weird by some, and he definitely marched to the beat of his own drummer. According to the standards of the day, he was fashionably unaware. While other kids were sporting their Hang Ten shirts, O.P. shorts and Vans two tones…this 11 year old, bravely committed fashion suicide.
He often wore casual slacks, a crisp, tucked in, freshly ironed, button down shirt, and leather dress loafers. See, this is what his dad wore, and this kid idolized his dad. He even made sure that his hair was parted on the same side as his dads. This was another fashion faux pas on his part. Matt had a lot of bad hair days. You see, a part on the side of a hair style that was basically a cross between a ‘dutch-boy’ haircut and a ‘Dorothy Hamil’ haircut, just did not come out looking too good.
Our friendship, as with most friendships, was one of convenience. He lived a few fourplexes down the street from me. Apart from a mutual love of action figures and Star Wars memorabilia, we had very little in common. Well, except for this one very important factor — we were both children of divorce. I think what drew me to him was his relationship with his dad. His dad was his hero. Now, I don’t know what kind of ugliness Matt had experienced in the events leading up to his folk’s divorce, but from an outsider’s perspective, my guess is that Matt’s dad was the stable one. He was the one that dealt with adversity with his head held high. He seemed to be able to hold it together when his and Matt’s world was falling apart.
I think every kid from a broken home, secretly fantasizes about living with the other parent. In the midst of wrestling with feelings of anger, rejection and separation anxiety… the ‘grass is always greener’ scenario also works its way into the thought processes. Maybe that’s why I hung out at Matt’s so much. It fed my dream to live with my dad. Well, Matt didn’t have a lot of friends. He seemed somewhat content being a loner. He was often the object of ridicule, and like so many ‘underdogs’, Matt was judged on appearance alone — not with righteous judgment. Being a year older than him, I felt compelled to take him under my wing.
Matt and I didn’t go to the same schools. After sixth grade, students in our neighborhood would transition from Haven View Elementary to Harbor View Elementary, because Haven View didn’t go beyond the 6th grade. Matt always got out of school before I did, and periodically he would meet up with me as I was walking home from Junior High.
One particular day, just as I had made my way across the pedestrian bridge over the canal and into our neighborhood; Matt was waiting for me. I could see a big ol’ smile on his face. He was excited because he was sitting on his brand new bike. Man it was a sweet ride — a Huffy ‘Thunder Road’. It was black with orange flames, had awesome motocross style forks, and a big square, padded black seat — not a lame banana seat. I congratulated him as I longingly admired this bicycle. I had wanted one ever since I saw the commercials during the ‘Superfriends’ on Saturday morning cartoons.
Well, I wasn’t the only one admiring it. Right behind us was another seventh grader…red-haired, freckled faced, Bob Wormus. At that time, Wormus was a worm. Actually, he was worse than a worm, he was a weasel — a mean, mouthy, kid who excelled in the art of intimidation. I would find out, just a few moments later, that Bob’s bark was worse than his bite. Bob walked up to me and Matt and immediately demanded that Matt let him ride the bike. Matt’s response was, “No, my dad said no one else can ride it.” Bob fired back, “Just give me the bike.” He proceeded to tear the bike away from Matt, pushing him off at the same time.
I had been scared of Bob in the past, but that fear erupted into rage. As fast as Bob had that bike in his hands, I ripped it back out and put it back in Matt’s. Then with Chuck Norris-like reflexes, I grabbed Bob by the scruff of his shirt in one uninterrupted motion, and threw him onto the grass. I jumped on Bob and started hitting. I was all over him like white on rice.
I felt a little bit like ‘Ralphie’ in “A Christmas Story.” I was tired of people picking on Matt. I was tired of people picking on me. So much pent up rage and energy traveled through my clenched fingers and into Bob’s chest and face. Bob pleaded, protested and cried for me to stop, but there was no stopping me. Finally, one of Bob’s buddies, an eighth grader, picked up a tricycle off the lawn and threatened to throw it on top of me if I didn’t get off of Bob. I slowly peeled myself off Bob and proceeded to escort Matt home. Matt didn’t say a word, but had a look of thanks and admiration in his eyes. Unfortunately, all that emotion within me hadn’t waned, and as we turned the corner toward home, I broke into tears. Embarrassed, I ran to my house.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 tells us that there is a proper time for everything. Well, everything except for sinning, that is. But there is even a time to fight. We who are strong have a responsibility to fight on behalf of those who are not. We must advocate for, defend and fight for those who are vulnerable…those who are at risk to being oppressed… those who are susceptible to being manipulated or abused. There are things in this life worth fighting for!
We can only fight for others, if we first fight for our faith. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” May we lay aside the world’s distractions, diversions, and distortions. Let us take hold of our faith so we can effectively fight for others. Only if we own our faith, can we give it way and bring wholeness into the lives of the lost and the hurting.