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He Got Publically Humiliated … and Yet I was the Only One to See the Whole Event

April 23, 2014

1bbbI’m going to share something I witnessed that I’ve never revealed to anybody.  In fact, nobody even knows I witnessed it, but I was right there, watching the whole event as it unraveled.

Let me preface the story by telling you that last week,  I taught my students a sewer word.

skubalon

You find it in Philippians 3:8 and its impact is not lost even today.

We had been studying Philippians all week, and we came upon this most powerful word.

Skoo-bah-lawn,” enunciated Shawn, mouthing each syllable.  “What’s it mean?”

“To put it politely, sewage,” I replied, showing the class a picture of an ancient toilet recently uncovered in an archaeological dig.  “To put it impolitely I would say dung, or bowel movement.”

“My translation says ‘rubbish,'” said Terry.

“Too weak,” I replied.  “The Koine Greek word is clear and blunt.”

Kim read aloud the passage:  “…and I count all things as a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung, that I may win Christ.”

“Why would Paul use that vulgar word?” asked Abby.

“He is emphasizing that everything on this earth that he had to give up – fame, fortune, power – was just a pile of manure compared to what he gained for Christ,” I answered.  “And as a Pharisee, he really did have all three of the world’s offering.  Being a Pharisee gave you prestige, money, a high reputation, and the ability to set rules.  He lost all that.”

“But he got Jesus,” called out Kellen. “Fair trade.”

“Fair trade,” I agreed.  “So how about you all?  What did you give up when you came to Christ?”

“Mostly my pride,” answered Kate.  James nodded his head.

“Same for me,” I said.  “The desire to get my own way and to get my share of the spotlight is pretty strong – always was and always will be.  Pride is something we all battle, but Jesus can replace that with a peace and contentment I can’t get anywhere else.”

Skubalon.  A dirty word with a shining message.

And now I will tell you the story of what I secretly witnessed.  This was years ago when I was a teacher in Phoenix, and I am changing the name of the student.

Let’s call him Tom.

I had organized a school banquet at a well-known restaurant that specialized in a 1950s-era theme.  If you are from Phoenix you will know the restaurant I am talking about – it has a great reputation and some fine food at a fair price,  plus the whole experience is, well, jolly. It was a great romping atmosphere – I mean, they went all out in both the decorations and the acting.  Yes, acting.  All of the waiters and waitresses played the part of a fifties worker in both dress and talk, complete with loud gun-chewing and saddle shoes.  They used the slang of that decade and they never broke character, to our delight.  This was too good to pass up, so I arranged a dinner banquet at this well-known place.  We had a back room, with everyone attending wearing the clothes of that time period – our teen girls in poodle skirts, teen guys in leather jackets and slicked-back hair.  We even had some fellow teachers arrive in letterman sweaters and thick black glasses.

Everyone got into the mood except for Tom.

Ah, I loved Tom but he could be a pain sometimes.  He was an amiable and outgoing Christian teen, but what a pride problem he had!  Seventeen-year-old Tom was one of those students who thought that everyone should stop when he entered the room, laugh whenever he told a joke, and praise whenever he narrated an anecdote.  I constantly worked with – and sometimes against – Tom whenever this egomaniacal fever would take over, but this was an Achille’s heel that only Tom and the Lord Himself could conquer.

Tom had a habit of wanting his own way whenever he felt restless, hungry or bored.  It didn’t matter if it was a teen, a child or even an adult who was in his way.

“Okay, that’s my seat,” I would catch Tom saying to an unsuspecting freshman.  “Move it now.”

“Hey, everybody shut up and listen.  Shut up!” He’d yell at a gathering.  “I have a joke I wanna tell.”

“I don’t think this food is as good as you claim,” I would hear Tom say to a mother at one of our pot-luck get-togethers.  “Would you consider adding some salt to the casserole next time?”   Yes, he could be that arrogant. And as much as I would counsel him, I realized that the only thing that could happen would be a dramatic – and maybe traumatic – event that would burn in his memory.

Which takes me to our banquet at the 1950s restaurant.

It was loud and fun.  We filled the back room to the brim with excited students and 1bbblaughing parents.  The waitress staff was overwhelmed at the moment; two of their servers didn’t show up due to sickness.  The two ladies plugged along admirably, though, and I let them know that we were patient and willing to wait as the food was being sent into our dining area – and that they would get a nice, generous tip.  We had pre-ordered, obviously, and I had a whole evening’s time worth of games, so we were okay.

Except for Tom.

The waitresses were harried but stayed in character, slinging funny 1950s lingo and barbs around as they slid dishes loaded with burgers, fries and chicken down the table to our boisterous teens.  We had played a few games and handed out prizes – now it was time to chow down.  After we prayed and gave the go-ahead to eat, I noticed that about a dozen teens weren’t served yet.  No problem, everyone was chatting loudly and having a good time.

Except for one fellow.

You guessed it.

Tom.

“What is with the service around here?” He demanded of the teens around him, waving his fork as if it were a scepter.  “Hey!  Get some chicken down here!”  I could hear him from the far side of the room, but either the waitresses couldn’t hear him above the general din or they chose to ignore him.  Some of our teens were actually standing up and helping serve.  But not Tom.

An adult was holding me in conversation so I was hamstrung, but I kept glancing over at Tom and hearing jabs of sardonic wit.  “Hey!  You! Blondie!”

The ladies kept serving quickly but were still waiting on some extra plates of food to be brought into the room.  They filled glasses  as best they could and kept moving.

“Have you guys been trained to be slow, or is this a regular habit?” Tom shouted.  “Do they actually pay you in real money for being so inept?”

I couldn’t pull away from the adult but I was ready to cross five tables to get to him.  Didn’t this kid understand that the waitresses were doing their best?

The other teens were chatting and Tom wasn’t getting the attention he felt he deserved, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.  I could hear him chirp out:  “I’m going to take care of this my own way!” He stood up dramatically and  bolted through the crowded dining room to the two waitresses who were sorting dishes onto trays.

I knew I had to act fast.  I politely but quickly excused myself from the chatty parent, but I couldn’t move fast enough – too many students and too tight spaces.  I could only helplessly watch him as I stumbled through the chairs and tables.

He strode up boldly to the nearest waitress who was by far the shortest woman in the room.  Before I could call out, I clearly heard him.

“Say, what’s your problem with serving us on time?” He demanded.  “Don’t you know-”

He never finished the sentence.

What I then witnessed was one of the most memorable public spectacles I’d ever seen anytime, anywhere.

The little short gal must have heard all of his quips and barbs in the minutes preceding his advance.  I am not sure whether she was aware of his approach or he just hit the wrong nerve as she was slaving away at the tray cart.

Whatever it was, brother, she responded in a roar that came all the way from her heels. Snapping her head toward him she leaned right into him and bellowed with everything her five-foot frame could muster.

‘YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND GET RIGHT BACK TO YOUR SEAT WHERE YOU BELONG, SONNY BOY!”

Her volume was amazing.

“I’M WORKING AS FAST AS I CAN AND I’M NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY ADOLESCENT MALE HULK HOGAN WANNA-BE TELL ME WHEN OR WHERE I’M SUPPOSED TO SERVE.  YOU WANT A MEAL? THEN GO GET BACK AND PARK YOUR REAR IN THAT BOOSTER SEAT AND WAIT UNTIL I’M GOOD AND READY TO SERVE YOU! YOU HEARD ME! NOW GO!”

She had done it.  She had gotten away with it.  Some of the teens looked up and actually clapped their appreciation; they thought it was part of her persona, that she was acting.

I knew better.

But what was most amazing was that she stepped right back to the trays and kept working as if nothing had happened. I was so stunned by her lightning-quick and nuclear-loud reaction that I almost forgot the target of her ire.  I swiveled my head back and saw a sight I will never forget.

Tom, to say the least, was speechless.

Totally stunned.

He literally stood for ten seconds and tried to process the utter shaming he had endured in front of the entire room.  Even though the room chuckled and continued on – it was an act, right? – Tom stood gazing at the far corner of the room.  He didn’t see it as an act.  Perhaps it wasn’t.  Nevertheless, she got away with it and he took it as a humiliation.

I was transfixed.  This fellow’s pride put him in this predicament.  Now how would he respond?

He walked lamely over to one unoccupied table, still staring out into space.  He picked up a few stray forks and spoons and fumbled with them and uttered one word that I could hear:

Well…”

The room was totally occupied with chomping, fellowship, and joking, so Tom’s predicament was hardly noticed. Tom was mortified, though, in a weird way – he wasn’t out of it yet.  He was trying to process his dressing-down, I could see, and now he had to figure a way to muster any pride left and get back to his seat.

I was watching a re-make of a young man’s character before my eyes.  No longer did I see any pride.  In fact, I would never see that ego-laced sneer on his face for the rest of the years I knew him.  He shuffled back to his seat, avoiding eye contact, even though the packed room hardly knew what had happened.  I don’t think he said another word the rest of the night.  When his plate was passed to him, he ate silently and woodenly.

In a sense I was a fly on the wall.  Believe it or not, not one person in the room saw or understood the whole scenario as I did, to my utter surprise.  Nobody brought up the situation, nobody ever teased him about it.  However, I knew better.  I was a third-party witness to a life-changing lesson given to a young man with great potential but a glaring problem.

I saw Tom’s demeanor change after that.  His precious hold on ego seemed to be loosened, and I saw him start to become a more genuine person in Christ.  Perhaps he had a come-to-Jesus moment there in that restaurant and realized just how stupid (skubalon?) his pride really was, and how he would continue to suffer for it if he pushed for his own way.    I don’t know for sure, but I’d like to think that.

In the following days and weeks, the classrooms were filled with the teens chatting about our fun banquet and the many memories made that night.  I glanced over at Tom.  I noticed that for the first time since I met him, he did not try to dominate the conversation.  As a matter of fact, he listened politely, but he never mentioned one word about that evening.

Yet every time the conversation turned toward that evening, I would sneak a look at his face as he sat at the edge of the circle and listened.

And he would slowly get a small grin.

Perhaps it was from his own personal memory of that night’s lesson.

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