Practice Goodness

I‘m sitting in Starbucks, fighting back the tears and this time it has absolutely nothing to do with my mother’s failing health.

These are tears for Whitney Kropp. Perhaps you heard about the high school sophmore from West Branch, Mich.. My friend Patti Callahan Henry shared the story with me.

Seems Whitney was voted to the Homecoming Court by her classmates. She was elated until Whitney learned that the election was a Carrie-style prank. The boy elected along with her — a popular football player — dropped out, claiming he despised what his classmates at Ogemaw High Heights had done. We have to trust that was the reason and not that he didn’t want to escort Whitney, regarded by many as an unsuitable, unpopular partner.

Whitney was alternately elated, then devastated when she learned the reason she was elected to the court was because her peers had singled her out as the target for their collective bullying. Fortunately, Whitney’s mama has some common sense. She told Whitney she ought to go to homecoming anyway, hold her head high and look those bullies straight in the eye. Or something to that effect.

Whitney decided that her mama was right. She would muster up the courage and face down those who sought to ridicule her. She would teach them that although she might not look like their idea of popular — whatever that may be — Whitney had family who loved her, and considered her beautiful. And that, folks, is all it really takes for any of us – someone who regards us as worthy.

Whitney’s mama isn’t the only one who considers her beautiful. When the townspeople of West Branch heard what the high school bullies had done, they set about letting Whitney know just how very special she is to them. Businesses throughout the rural community began donating services to help make Whitney her absolutely most beautiful for Friday Night’s Homecoming.

One caring person set up a Team Whitney Facebook page that currently has over 19,000 likes. The football player decided he would represent alongside Whitney afterall. Hundreds from throughout the region plan to attend Friday Night’s game solely to cheer on Whitney, because they too bear the scars of rejection and ridicule. And they want Whitney to know that what happens in high school stays in high school. Nobody cares about who was popular then, except maybe for the person who thought they were. As support for Whitney grows, I bet those bullies are rethinking that whole culture of popularity, don’tcha think?

And the community of West Branch, Michigan is teaching the rest of us what real community ought to look like.

Wouldn’t it be something if the churches across America took a page from West Branch and instead of ignoring those who look different from us, the person who dyes their hair purple, or tats up their neck, or admits to loving a person of the same sex, wouldn’t it be something if instead of shunning those people, we did what West Branch is doing for Whitney? What if we surrounded those people and told them that they are worthy, that they matter to us?

Because that really is the Gospel message, isn’t it?

The town of West Branch is living out the Gospel the way those of us who claim it as our creed ought to be doing. The town of West Branch is writing a storybook chapter in Whitney Kropp’s life, reminding all who witness it Good can overcome that which is meant to harm us.

Now if only more of us would take it upon ourselves to practice goodness more often.

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • AFRoger

    Yes, a story of gospel, the kingdom of God. Every now and then, I get jarred back to reality and see what I haven’t seen before. For example, these lyrics to v. 3 of a popular modern hymn “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky”:
    “I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame. I will set a feast for them. My hand will save. Finest bread I will provide, till their hearts be satisfied…”
    Yes, I know it’s the Lord speaking. But speaking of the poor and lame in the third person, rather than by name, is all too easy to do in cozy churches surrounded by scrubbed, bathed, well fed and well clothed people. Sounds reassuring to us, the affirming of our mission to “them” and “those” out there. How often do we pray for “the____________” (fill in the blank with adjectives)? Sounds different when you are singing it not about the poor and lame but as the poor and lame, with the poor and lame, among the poor and lame. Then, instead of sounding like good news, it can sound like another round of labeling, more salt in old wounds.
    God, help us to take the Gospel according to Jesus and make it first person and second person instead of third.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yes. And help us remember to not exalt ourselves above others, lest we wound them the way Whitney was wounded by those who sought to ridicule her.


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