Story by Jaye Lewis
I remember Nancy Flurrie.
It was 1953 and we were both in second grade. I was the “smart” one and she was the “dumb” one, or so I thought.
I made life a living hell for that poor girl, and she just took it! Gentle and shy, Nancy was about eleven years old, and it had taken her years to reach second grade. She had difficulty reading and writing. All the kids made fun of her, especially me.
Nancy would just stand there, avoiding my eyes, and the tears would roll down her cheeks. Cruel and clever, I was able to manipulate the crowd, so that the taunts of the audience would increase Nancy’s misery and shame. We called her stupid, ugly, smelly, dirty — Nancy never fought back, which was a riot to her tormentors.
Then, one day, something changed.
I went to a Bible class and Nancy was there, sitting by herself, in the back. The Bible story was about the trial of Jesus, who had been sent to King Herod. The story went on, and Father McKeever, who taught the class, became quite animated in his wonderful Irish fashion. He told us how the Son of God was spat on, beaten and kicked.
Father McKeever made us wince as he described the crown of thorns being pushed and pounded into the flesh and bone of our Lord’s skull. I could feel the nails, piercing His wrists and feet.
Then Father repeated the mocking words that had been hurled at the “Holy Innocent”. Father McKeever paused for a moment, his eyes filled with tears, and he looked at Nancy, in the back of the room, all alone, her head bowed. A look of intense sorrow passed over his features. And then his steel blue eyes were on me.
I felt that I was the only one in the room, and that this decent, kind, man of God was speaking — only to me.
“How would it feel to be all alone, and innocent, I wonder?” He asked, softly, in his rich Irish brogue.
“How would it feel to be hauled in front of your enemies, dirty and unloved, and no one to protect you?”
Tears sprung to my eyes, for when I was seven years old, I loved Jesus, only a little more than I loved Father McKeever. I understood the message, immediately! I was overwhelmed.
I looked back at Nancy, in her tattered clothes, covered with dirt, that I had helped to smear on her face, and I felt shame!
It seemed as though everyone else missed the point that pierced my heart, that day. I suddenly saw myself, seven years old, in Herod’s courtyard, mocking and striking Jesus! In my mind’s eye, I saw Him lift His head and look at me, and my seven year old heart broke!
I was never the same again. I sat there stunned. Then I gathered my things, stood up, and walked to the back of the room. I pulled a chair up next to Nancy and I sat down. With hands shaking and the most incredible sorrow in my heart, I reached over and took Nancy’s hand. She looked at me, her eyes round, and her mouth in the shape of an O.
“Nancy,” I began, my voice breaking, “I want you to be my friend – my best friend!”
Nancy looked at me for what seemed a long time. The room was silent. I noticed that Nancy’s eyes were an incredible shade of blue, framed with lovely, dark lashes. Her lips moved and she smiled, framing white, perfect teeth. Why, Nancy was pretty!
After that day, I tripped over myself to become Nancy’s friend and protector. I spent the rest of that year with skinned knees, bruises, and a few bloody noses.
We moved away the next summer, and I never saw Nancy or Father McKeever again, but both of them have lived in my heart, ever since.
Nancy taught me about forgiveness, but Father McKeever taught me about redemption.
Wherever you are, dear friends, thank you.