Editor's note: This was written for a teen discussion group at Campus Life. It's thought-provoking for all ages.
Once there was a place called High School Town.
The town had kings and queens who made up the royal court. The members would put on their uniforms and hang out together.
The town also had peasants. Some of the peasants belonged to different clubs. The clubs were organized mainly by their uniforms and the music they listened to. It was important to belong to a group, but not everyone found their way into one. In fact, if you didn't behave properly, you might become a loner peasant.
There were a few rules. For example, not everyone could be a king or queen. It was a privilege to be one of them. There were certain things a person had to have before that was possible.
For instance, if you were beautiful, you got to be on the royal court. The people liked it when the royal court was beautiful. Beauty was determined by the shape of your body, the color of your hair, the music you listened to and the clothes you wore.
You also could be beautiful if you performed exercises in front of a big crowd. Those who were gifted were called jocks.
If you weren't beautiful, you would need to buy a uniform that would help you become better looking. There were places you could get your uniform, but you would have to travel across the river to a far away place called Big Town Mall. At Big Town Mall you could get a uniform at a number of places, but they had to have certain words or pictures on them.
Once you put on your uniform, you were required to hang around the kings and queens who wore your uniform. The kings and queens would then let you know if it was OK to hang around them. You got to belong to the group as long as you copied what the kings and queens did. That would take a lot of work and you would have to be very dedicated.
You would need to pass certain tests that would show you were loyal. For example, you might have to show how brave you were by drinking poison. The poison would make you feel bad, but it would show that you were willing to do anything it took to be a part of the royal court.
If you didn't follow those rules, it was quite possible you could become a peasant. It was not good to become a peasant. The peasants were not allowed into the royal court. They could hang around only themselves or by themselves. A lot of them couldn't afford the right uniforms and they were made fun of if they tried to act like a king or queen.
Some peasants decided they would try to get on the royal court by buying strange uniforms and listening to strange music. Most of the time it didn't get them into the royal court, but it did make them feel better that they at least belonged to something and they didn't have to sit by themselves during lunch. That would make you a loner peasant. No one wanted to be a loner peasant. If you were a normal peasant it was good to make fun of the loner peasants because that made you better than them.
One day there was a loner peasant walking by himself near Campus Life village. His mom and dad divorced when he was young and his mom was sad all the time. He never saw his dad. His mom didn't feel like doing anything and would sit around the house keeping busy, thinking angry thoughts.
She was even mad at her son because he was a loner peasant. They were poor and he never had the chance to get a uniform. So there he was, walking in the only clothes he had, head down and his greasy hair covering his face. He had buck teeth that rested on his bottom lip and he smelled as if his clothes were dirty.
A group wearing their beautiful uniforms walked toward him. One of them had been trying to make the royal court for a long time and he thought he should push the loner peasant down.
The loner peasant knew something bad was going to happen and he ran. But the boy in the Nike uniform was too fast for him and tackled him.The group thought their friend did the right thing. This would show the king and all the people in High School Town that loner peasant didn't wear the right uniform and wasn't beautiful. He got what he deserved.
The boy wearing the Nike uniform punched and kicked and left the loner peasant on the ground rolled up in a ball. The loner peasant closed his wet eyes, trying to make the people go away. He heard them laugh.
In the midst of their celebration they were caught off guard by the shout of an older person who was running toward them. He frightened them, so they scattered.
The older person walked next to the loner peasant and reached down to place his hand on his shoulder. He told him he was safe. He then helped the loner peasant up to a sitting position. The older person then sat next to him on the ground.
He introduced himself to the loner peasant.
"My name is Epilito, I am the mayor of Campus Life. Come to my village and we will get you cleaned up."
The loner peasant said with his head down, "But I do not have a uniform and I am not beautiful."
The mayor looked at the loner peasant and said, "I don't have a uniform and the person I follow does not care what I look like."
The loner peasant had never heard of a king without a uniform. He was confused by what the mayor said. Naturally, he asked Epilito who this person was he followed.
"Does he have a name?," the loner peasant asked.
"Yes," the mayor replied, "His name is Jesus."
The loner peasant was almost too ashamed to ask, but he said, "How do you become a follower of Jesus?"
The mayor smiled at the loner peasant and said, "He has been waiting all of your life to ask that question."
The loner peasant could not believe what he was hearing. He had never belonged to anything. The thought of being accepted felt so good he continued to ask more questions.
"Does he care that I am a loner peasant?" he asked
The mayor smiled again.
"He really loves loner peasants," the mayor said. "In fact, he says loner peasants make the best followers."
"What does that mean?" the loner peasant asked.
The mayor explained to him that many of the people from high school town spent so much time trying to be beautiful that they forgot what they were designed to do in the first place.
"What do you mean by that," the loner peasant asked.
The mayor continued, "Jesus was sent by his father to give us life. Before he came, we were trying to live on our own, we decided that we didn't need Jesus or his Dad. We decided to make our own rules so that we could be happy.
"But Jesus noticed we still were sad. We tried to hide our sadness by looking beautiful. It takes so much work to be beautiful that we turned ourselves into slaves. Jesus came to rescue us from the slavery," the mayor said.
The loner peasant was encouraged by what he was hearing, but still confused.
"If I decide to follow Jesus," he asked, "how will I know what to do?"
"Great question," the mayor said. "If you decide to follow Jesus, you must learn about his character. As you learn more about who he was, you will learn more about who you are supposed to be.
"Here is a book that talks about the character of Jesus and His Dad," the mayor continued. "The book has stories and poems that help us learn how to become free from the slavery that we created.
"If you follow Jesus you don't have to worry about being beautiful," he added. "In fact, you are already beautiful in his eyes. He just wants to spend time with you. He wants to change you back to what you were designed to be. He just wants you to make yourself available as often as you can."
And as the loner peasant heard the words the mayor had shared with him, he felt important for the first time in his life. He felt so important that he said out loud a word he had never said before.
"I love you, Jesus," he said.
The mayor hugged the loner peasant and as he looked into his soul he saw Jesus smiling.
Brandt Lind is a Hermiston High School wellness and physical education instructor.