The Outsiders

So S.E. Hinton wrote a book for young adults called The Outsiders, in which gang members, the “Greasers,” try to reconcile where they fit into this world, especially a world that includes the “Socs,” the rival gang. (Greasers? Socs? Crips and Bloods? Can’t these gangs name themselves?)

The idea, or motif, of “outsiders” pops up in a huge amount of works of art, including books and movies. Think of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns in which he, a man with no name, rides into town. The locals make fun of him, or bother his mule, or try to shoot him (I’m getting off the beam here, I’m afraid), just because he’s an outsider. (I’ll leave out what he eventually does to them.)

Of course, there is more than one way to be an outsider. In Albert Camus’s short story “The Guest,” the protagonist finds himself caught between the Algerian nationals and the French police, even though his decisions were made purposely to avoid that very situation.

So, anyway, I was listening to Needtobreathe’s song appropriately named, ahem, “The Outsiders.” (By the way, the song is excellent- I highly recommend it.) At the end, the chorus goes like this:

“On the outside you’re free to roam/on the outside we’ve found a home/on the outside there’s more to see/on the outside we choose to be.”

The group took the idea of an outsider, but put a positive twist on it- look! Being on the outside is better! You’re more free! There’s more to see! As far as I can tell, this group equates believing in Christ with being on the outside, and the freedom that it brings. Of course, the key here is that last line- “on the outside we choose to be.” If you choose the path you’re on, it makes it easier to take if you don’t fit in with the rest of society, right? (Sorry for the second person point-of-view to all those 9th graders out there.) And that’s what faith ultimately is- a choice to go a different way than the rest of society.

This, in a way, is how things have seemed for us since we’ve moved back to Kenya. On the surface, we were outsiders to the Rosslyn community, although that’s getting better all the time. The deeper way, though, is the way we are now outsiders from North American culture. And, you know what? It is freeing to be separate from the pressures of that culture. We are, indeed, free to roam- Kenya has a huge amount of fun things that we can do, even though the US Embassy has warned us to stay away from public places right now. There is more to see- Anisa and Karen just finished school trips in which they saw a huge amount of animals. Anisa got to visit a Kenyan school, too, getting a chance to see what life might be like in an alternative reality.

We don’t have to see the latest movies, or the latest episode of The Office or Breaking Bad to have a enriching life. I suppose a move to Kenya isn’t necessary for that kind of life, either, but sometimes the life on the outside can be the one that is stretching, and ultimately, the most rewarding. -JL

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3 Responses to The Outsiders

  1. Laura Flosi says:

    Love this. The view from the “outside” (and being on the outside by choice) is incredibly freeing and empowering. Forcing your way “in” often blinds us to the beauty and richness and blessings that abound.
    We miss you. We miss Rosslyn. Someday…

  2. Tina says:

    John: Man, do you have voice! Felt like you were sitting in the room talking which I really miss. Thanks for the reminder of where freedom really is.

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