The Word Magazine October, 1994, Page 8-9



RECENTLY, A FRIEND OF mine who is 14 years old, told me his life story. For a moment I thought he was joking, but when I realized he wasn’t clowning around, I thanked God for my parents and for being Orthodox. After I tell you his life story I hope you will agree with me. First I want to ask you a few questions. Would you ever physically or psychologically abuse your child or grandchild for no reason or for a minor disagreement? Where did you spend your last birthday? What would you do when pain and suffering is staring you in the face?

Justin was born in Springfield. MO on April 25, 1979. He had an older sister named Richelle. His parents got a divorce when he was 4 years old and he never knew his father. When he was 8, his mom remarried and they moved to Arkansas. After the big move, his step-father began to physically abuse his older sister. He constantly gave her black eyes and a split lip; Justin even remembers his step­father pushing Richelle down the stairs a few times. After three years of constant abuse, Richelle moved to North Carolina, leaving only Justin to take the beatings. After one year of abuse, Justin decided that he had had enough, so he moved back to Springfield to live with his maternal grandparents. His grandparents had a strong faith in a cult type religion, as Justin refers to it, because they brain wash you as part of becoming a member. This cult was Jehovah’s Witness. The only house rule was that Justin had to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

For one year, he lived with his grandparents and abided by their rule, until he had decided to call it quits. He told his grandmother that he was not going to be a Jehovah’s Witness any longer, and hoped she would understand. The grandmother, faced with this dilemma, decided the best solution was to kick him out of the house and tell him if he came back, she would call the police.

At age 13, Justin found himself living beneath an underpass. For two weeks, he constantly called his grandmother to try to patch things up. After deciding that all hope was lost with her, he began to call fami­ly, all of whom turned him away. For 4 months he lived beneath the underpass until one day he decided that it was time to end his life. He stood on top of the bridge and prayed to God. Suddenly he had the strength to continue and wandered back to his home away from home. Two months later, he checked himself into rehab for severe depression. He was only in rehab for two weeks, and out of the blue, his biological father came to the hospital and asked Justin to live with him. This was the first time that he had met his real father. Two weeks later he checked out of rehab and went to North Carolina to stay with his sister to give his father time to get ready for his arrival. On July 2, 1993, Justin got on an airplane destined for Oklahoma City and a brighter future, thanks to his father. Justin now finds himself, 4 months after rehab, going to one of the best schools in the city and in a stable home.

I feel that this story only strengthens Bishop Basil’s often repeated statement that we are very lucky to be Orthodox. How many Orthodox homes are broken up with divorce? How many Orthodox Christians abuse their children physically or psychologically? How many Orthodox parents would throw their children out for rejecting their beliefs? Why is it that Orthodox Christians are more successful when it comes to family when all these other religions are failing?

To answer that first group of questions, my answer would be: so few, it would he pointless to count the number of instances. I am not saying that no home is abuse free: I am saying there are very few Orthodox homes in which these things occur. Why are Orthodox Christians more successful than other religions when it comes to the family? Bishop Basil already answered that: the doctrine of our Church hasn’t changed in 2000 years, setting up a clear way to live our lives. Since birth, our lives have always been guided by the Church. If the abuse would have been going on in our Church, someone would have taken Justin off the streets. That is our nature, to take care of one another. We were taught that from birth, while others are worrying about me, me, me.

Boston, Massachusetts was founded in 1630 by the Puritans. They came to America to prove that a society could take care of itself. They tried to prove it by the simple rule that every Puritan man and woman was expected to be compassionate when someone needed their help. They were there to help, not expecting any reward. I feel this theory was proven a long time ago by the Orthodox Church. Why do the parishioners of our church come to bake for the Bake Sale or for the Arts Festival? Why do our clergy conduct Liturgy each Sunday? Why do people give up time for the church? They are not doing these things for themselves; they are doing it for God and the good of the Church; They don’t expect some worldly reward for their efforts.

Two words you hear a lot to describe the American Revolution is “virtue” and “virtuous.” In the 18th century, one was virtuous by doing things for the good of the community and not for oneself. Today’s definition of virtue according to Webster’s Dictionary is “a moral practice or action.” Mr. Webster also defines virtuous as “displaying valor or bravely.” Any way you look at these definitions of virtue and virtuous, as Orthodox Christians we live up to all definitions of those words. Morals were planted into our minds and hearts from day one, and we have practiced these morals ever since.

After hearing Justin’s story all of these things I just told you passed through my mind. That is why I am so thankful to have been born and raised in the Orthodox family, and in my mind and eyes, we are all a family. Justin told me the most meaningful relationship he had on the streets was when he met some­one while digging through the trash. After he left the trash can, he again only worried about tomorrow.

I would like to ask you once more: Would you ever physically or psychologically abuse your child or grandchild for no reason or for a minor disagreement? Where did you spend your last birthday? But more importantly, what would you do if pain and suffering is staring you in the face?

Blair Naifèh is a teen member of St. Elijah Church in Oklahoma City, OK