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Fringe Kids  

I would never have noticed the kid walking into the grocery store had he not worn that shirt.  The one with tongues of red-hot flame leaping from the hem of his waist all the way up his chest. It reminded me of a shirt I’d worn twenty years earlier.  

When our kids were in high school, I was a volunteer for our church youth group.  Somehow, our small group was composed mostly of fringe kids, teens outside the church and—quite honestly—out on the fringes of life.

Alex was a boy who was emotionally not quite right.  He often showed up in a button-down shirt plastered with flames. I was desperate to connect with Alex—and failing.  One night he challenged me: “I want you to take this shirt and wear it to work.” I figured there could be no harm other than a few strange looks from co-workers. 

So I put that shirt on (and made it a point to stay holed up in my office!).  But then I needed to grab a Coke at lunch.  Naturally, I bumped into my boss on the way.  And then I found myself locking eyes with the president of Moody Bible Institute.  He squinted while I scooted away to my office. 

Announcing to Alex at youth group that I’d faithfully fulfilled his challenge, there was a bit of thawing in the relationship.  I grew to love his sense of humor.  Grew to love him.

I’ve often wondered where Alex is today.  Is there any observable spiritual pulse at all?  What about his friends, the others in our small group—are they still out on the fringe?

I wonder about the boy who was clinically depressed.  I wonder about the girl who wore a spiked collar. I wonder about the triplets who came to our backyard for hot dogs and hamburgers—and called it a “home-cooked meal,” acknowledging that they typically didn’t use plates at home.

I wonder about all of them but know little about any of them. Yet even as I write these words, I’m reminded that their stories are not fully written and their redemption is not out of reach.  Hope may be closer than we know.  So what if rather than merely pondering them, I prayed for them? 

Why haven’t I?  Why shouldn’t I?  And why not now!

What about the fringe people in your life? 



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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016