Love in the Middle of the Hard Knocks

Excerpt from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks (rough draft)

In the midst of the attack, my mind retreated. I curled into a ball and isolated my mind from anything outside of that ball. The kicks and punches kept coming. I felt severe pain. And I felt something I had never felt before – rage!

Outside of my protective ball, I heard tires squealing, a horn honking, and a man yelling.

The attack stopped.

A distant voice asked, “Are you okay?”

There was a touch on my shoulder, painful though half numb.

Sirens and voices tried to penetrate my shield.

Someone tried to pull me out of my ball, so I rolled tighter.

“Wil,” Mrs. Brewer’s voice penetrated my shell. “It’s okay. These people are here to help you.”

I went slack and unconscious.

I came to as I was being loaded into an ambulance.

On the ride to hospital, I imagined the police holding Todd while I hit him.  I imagined him in jail.  Anger fueled the darker side of my imagination.  My face and ribs burned with pain and my gut burned with hatred.

Mom arrived at the hospital just after I did. She tried to comfort me. When she spoke to an officer, I could see the fury in her face.

Doctors and nurses poked, prodded, x-rayed and scanned me all day. 

Through each procedure, the pain fueled my hatred toward Todd and his friends.

Late that evening, they finally decided I could go home. I had a couple of cracked ribs and a lot of bruises, but nothing too serious. I think I could have won a costume contest for most zombie-like face. 

They insisted I leave in a wheelchair.  Mom pushed me to the open door of the room and stopped. There were two cops bringing in a badly beaten boy. The boy was Todd.

Mom tried to pull me back.

“No!” I grabbed the door frame. I had to see this.

Tears streaked Todd’s face.

Shame filled mine.

Not shame for being his victim. Shame for having the same kind of hatred that filled his face.

Mom rushed me toward the waiting room.

We passed one of the cops talking to a nurse. “His dad beat him for getting caught.”

“Mom, stop!”

I touched the officer’s arm. “Is he gonna be okay?”

He looked me over and said, “Probably about the same as you, except he won’t be going home. He has a spot waiting for him at Juvie.”

“Can I talk to him?”

Mom tried to move me on. “No, Wil, that’s not a good idea.”

“I just want to say one thing. I don’t have to be close.”

The cop smiled. “Sure kid.” He turned to Mom. “I’ll take him, for his safety.”

I wonder if the officer thought I was going to yell at Todd. I wondered what I was going to say myself.

I was stopped at the threshold. A nurse was swabbing his face.

“Todd.” I started.

The nurse turned.

Todd’s face turned to pain and hate when he saw me.

“I, I just wanted to say that I forgive you.”

I turned to the officer. “That’s all.”

I glanced one more time in Todd’s direction. The nurse was dabbing her eyes. Todd’s expression was blank.


I have struggled over the past week with what I could write to illustrate the idea of loving God and loving people. I looked in Vine’s and Strong’s and the Bible and racked my brain for good stories and kept coming up blank.

I sat down today and this scene from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks came to mind. I argued with myself because the book deals with forgiveness, not love.

Then it hit me. Forgiveness is one of the purest forms of love.

Too often we think of love in terms of affection. We love because we have an attachment to someone, or we share a common family or origin.

When Jesus illustrated who we should love, he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Through that he showed that we should extend our love beyond our definitions to those we would otherwise hate.

In the Wil Clarey story, no one would blame Wil for hating Todd. I left out the most brutal parts of the attack. Wil had every right to be angry. And he was!

When Wil saw Todd in the same condition as himself, full of pain and rage, it opened his eyes. He realized that, if he continued down the path of hate, he would become that which he hated. He decided that it needed to stop with him.

Right now, we live in a country divided. Each group sees the other as so irreconcilably different that they are not worthy of our attention, much less our love.

How often do we look at those who are different and want to avoid them? Do we look at those who cause pain in our lives and want to cause pain back?

What would happen if we flipped that around and repaid hurt with forgiveness, apathy with caring, pain with love?

I won’t spoil the Wil Clarey story with what happened next. I will say that it was a much better path for Wil to take.

How can you and I start down that path today?

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