This is how the Jewish messiah redeems his followers: not by whisking them off to a better world, but by teaching them how to see this one differently. Some assembly is required—those who want to be saved have to go ahead and, like the novel’s narrator, learn how to save themselves—but once the art is mastered, change is imminent.
From A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen by Liel Leibovitz
A few weeks ago my son noticed the Shwings I had on my Chucks. I had gotten them as part of a Lootcrate (a gift subscription of nerdy things from my lovely wife) and he showed an interest. We like encouraging our son to be himself--not that he usually needs the encouragement--so we looked around online, found some black lightning bolts, and ordered them, telling him that we'd put them on the next pair of shoes once he grew out of these.
So they arrived. And he grew out of the shoes, and we got him a pair of black and neon-green sneakers (as much a quiet, subversive protest against his school's uniform policy) and put the shwings on.
He took one look at them and said he didn't want to wear them, "because J- will pick on me."
This has been a rough transition to the start of school. He has fewer of his friends in his class. His teacher is patient and nice but has more expectations in terms of sitting still than last year. He's had some run-ins with rougher kids on the school bus. None of this is surprising; our son marches to the beat of his own drum, which has its consequences, and he certainly wouldn't be the first seven-year old to wrestle with these issues. And it doesn't help that, at the fall, just when he's transitioning from camp and summer to school and religious school and piano lessons, Dad is extra busy.
But to hear him struggle, especially with classmates' judgment (and perhaps, bullying), makes me sad. Part of me wants to help him achieve escape velocity, to find him a better place where he won't have to worry about this stuff. But the reality is, kids are kids, and this is life. There will always be people who, for whatever reason (anxiety, issues at home, lack of self-awareness, medical issues, etc.) will lash out and minimize those around them. He has to learn that, and how to navigate those mixed sets of expectations and challenges (good and bad) that he'll face for a long time to come, and hopefully still express his own Self meaningfully.
They're just sneakers. It's just one kid. My son is healthy and supported and getting a great education. It is a first-world problem of identity if there ever was one, and as much as my heart aches for my son as a parent, I know that this too shall pass. Nevertheless, I pray that he learns from these experiences, small though they may be, to find strength, to see the love that surrounds him, and learn not to ape such behaviors himself, but rather to see the world from a different vantage as a result, and work on saving his own Self, and others.