The first time I saw Melon she was giving a speech to our freshman class about bullying. Since I’d been a victim myself, I hung on her every word. Her approach to the subject was different from anything I'd heard. She talked about gaining strength from her adversity, using the force of good that lived inside her, forgiving those who hurt her as a gift to herself.
It surprised me to hear how some bullies have been victimized themselves. Many attempt to relieve their own pain by passing it along to others. She made me think about my own responses. Perhaps, I should be more compassionate.
I first approached Melon in the locker room as we readied for gym class, a bit intimidated by her princess like beauty. Her long blond hair danced at her elbows. My short brown bob was boyish in comparison. I worried she wouldn't want to talk to someone like me, who wasn't popular. Still, I felt the need to know her. I congratulated her on having the courage to speak before a large group. She smiled at me when she spoke. We discovered we had much in common. In no time, we became best friends.
Over time, Melon confided in me her love for the Lord. Since we went to a public school, she had to take great care to choose her words when bringing God into any situation. She desired to be a kind person; to help others. Much of this came from being teased herself. She was ruler thin, lacking the attributes her name suggested.
In our sophomore year, Melon started an after school program working alongside the counselors. Bullies, when caught, were ordered to attend. She would have the perpetrator play the role of victim, hoping to have them experience the pain they caused another. Some broke down; cried. She thanked God for never having a returning offender.
By our junior year, I noticed our class getting along exceptionally well. Kids mixed between groups with ease. I could feel the impact Melon was making. I admired her; loved her like a sister.
On the first day of our senior year, a fight broke out between two freshman boys in the lunchroom. A group of kids ran up to us in the hallway, calling for Melon to help. When we arrived they were shoving; screaming. Melon stood a few arms lengths away, observed for a moment, then closed her eyes before speaking.
She asked, “What’s going on? Who started this?”
A group of muscular football players listened, standing close behind her.
One boy yelled, “He dissed my name!"
“What’s your name,” she asked?
He replied curtly, “Ash.”
She turned to the other boy, asking the same question.
He said, “Jon.”
“Well, Ash and Jon, I'm sure there have been times where you both felt you were given the short end of the stick by the name your parents chose for you. Am I right?”
Ash glared at Jon. Jon rolled his eyes.
Melon asked. ”Would you both look at me for a minute?”
A few seconds later they complied.
Melon stood tall, shoulders back, then spoke, “Let me introduce myself. My name is Melon.”
The two boys looked her over then burst into the laughter that lasts so long it makes your face hurt. Everyone around, including Melon, cracked up too. The guys exchanged high fives as the bell rang, alerting us all to get to our classes.
That evening Melon was shopping for a new coat at the Mall. A gang rushed the store she was in, knocking down shelves, toppling clothing racks, even tipping over a stroller with a baby. Melon was reaching down to help the infant when one of the gang members pulled out a gun, killing Melon.
It's been five years, and I so dearly miss my best friend. I embraced Melon’s church after her death. I now understand her love for Jesus. He never mistreated those who were hateful to him. He gave them a gift. He gave up his entire life on the cross to save them.
I still struggle with the unfairness of having Melon taken away at such a young age. She lived her life with love. What I do know for sure is she didn't get the short end of any stick, she got heaven.
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