Night (and Day)

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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He was sitting on the curb, skateboard wedged under his knees, as my car approached the stop sign. He looked about age 16: brown skin, dreadlocks, baggy shorts, a basketball jersey that would have hung well below his knees had he stood. He would have stood out less in my neighborhood than in the one I was driving through.

I might have stared straight ahead and mentally filed the scene as “kid alone at dusk, waiting for a bus,” but for the book: he was reading a book. Reading intently and shaping the words with his lips. And the book was Elie Wiesel’s Night. What wild-haired skateboarder with time on his hands willingly reads a holocaust memoir—even one told from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy? The book kept me thinking of him. Sure, maybe it was on his reading list for junior English. But this was July, for Pete’s sake. And this kid wasn’t on page one or two. He was into it. Way in.

He was reading about a young man who suffered in a place so wretched that he became convinced that God could not exist. Maybe this skateboarder’s circumstances were also crushing and bleak. Maybe he identified with the pain of the teen protagonist’s witnessing the horror of Auschwitz and wondering each day if death would come for him as it had come for the others before his very eyes.

I can’t know the skateboarder’s story, but if it weren’t for the book, I would have thought that I knew it already. I judge strangers too quickly and on far too little data. I don’t know or care as much about others as I pretend to. If I were to look carefully enough, often enough, I just might glimpse someone’s true story and linger long enough to hear the rest of the tale. I wouldn’t want this kid to conclude that God is dead. And I don’t want to conclude that it wouldn’t matter either way: because the difference between looking at a person and really seeing him is the difference between night and day.

He had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:2b–3)