The Big Director

The Big Director

From Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul

The Big Director

In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

Prov. 3:6

“You wanna help us get back at the guys who beat up our friends?” a kid asked me during recess. “Meet us after school.”

I had never been to a gang meeting before. But the kids at school made it sound like if I didn’t go, I wasn’t being loyal to my friends who had been roughed up by a gang from another neighborhood. So I decided to check it out.

When I got there, everyone joined hands and said what sounded to me like a prayer. Then they named all these gang members that they looked up to. After that, the leader said, “This is your family. I am your father, I am your mother, I am your brother.” He was repeating what he had seen done in some of the gang meetings with older kids in his neighborhood.

I was in the seventh grade at a Christian academy in Chicago when I was asked to be a part of that gang. For a lot of kids who didn’t get much attention at home, the gang gave them something to belong to. It was more than just a club to them—for some kids it was their only family.

During the meeting, I looked around at the other kids. I thought to myself, No, no this isn’t right. I don’t need this gang to be everything to me. I’ve got a good family, and I know the great “I Am.” That’s God—not this dude. My mom and dad had always told me that the Lord is my friend, and that if I put him first in all that I do, he would continue to bless me.

I walked away from the gang that day, but it still took me a long time to finally realize that my parents had been trying to steer me in the right direction by telling me about God.

Even though I listened to my parents, I still wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect child. There were times when I was bad to the bone. Once in a while, people will say to me, “How do you know what I’m going through? You’ve never been in trouble.” But I do know. I used to get into trouble a lot.

In the neighborhood where I grew up, my friends and I didn’t have any place to play, so we hung out near the railroad tracks and an old factory that was in back of my house. My friends and I would do things we had no business doing, like yelling things at the neighborhood gang members that made them mad enough to shoot at us. We literally had to run for our lives.

You had to be able to run fast where I came from. It seems as though we were always running away from some kind of trouble, or being chased by the police for trespassing at the train yards, “expressing our artistic talents” with spray paint, or breaking windows at the factory.

A lot of my friends from school became gang members. I’ve lost many of them over the years. They either ended up in prison, or they’re dead from gang warfare.

I had a friend who lived in the neighborhood across the train tracks from mine, near our church. We became friends through the Boy Scout troop that met there. One day, kids from my neighborhood went over to that neighborhood with baseball bats and beat up some of the kids. Later, when I was hanging out with the kids from my neighborhood, some guys drove by in a van. They slowed down as they passed us.

My friend from the other neighborhood was in the van with some of the guys who had been attacked. Just before they were about to shoot into the group of guys I was standing with, my friend recognized me and stopped his friends from shooting us. Had my back been turned and my friend not recognized me, we would have been killed. After he saved my life, we became really good friends.

At school, I was a troublemaker and spent a lot of time in detention. I pulled pranks like putting Crazy Glue on my friend’s chair. The janitor had to be called finally to pry him loose, leaving wooden chips stuck to the seat of my friend’s pants.

One teacher decided that for every pink slip a kid got for bad behavior, he would give them a spanking with a paddle. While other kids would have about six by the time he got around to giving spankings, I’d have more like twenty. One time, when the day came to trade in my pink slips for a paddling, I put on every pair of shorts I could find in the house before I put on my pants. Then, right before the time came for the paddling, I slipped into the school bathroom and packed tissue into my pants.

“Bend over, Mitchell,” commanded the teacher with a grin of satisfaction. Down came the paddle with enough force to really hurt, but instead of producing a loud smack, the paddle landed with a POOF!

“Mitchell, are you packing? Huh? Are you packing?” he screamed. His face was red with fury and humiliation. Kids began to crowd around me to see what was happening. He marched me into the bathroom and made me take off every pair of shorts, until the only shorts left on me were the first pair I had found that morning—my sister’s pink bike shorts!

Things just got worse until my mom found a way to help me stop acting up so much in school. As she tells it, the Lord sent her a message in a dream. He told her to take me to the local theater to join a summer acting class. I got on stage and acted out like I did in school, only this time the teachers loved it! I had found my God-given talent. From then on, I spent most of my time after school and on the weekends learning about acting, and performing in television and film as well as in live theater.

I later moved out to Los Angeles to pursue my acting career. One day, I got a call about my friend who had saved my life from gang warfare. He had been killed when a gang cornered him in an alley and shot him. That’s how I might have ended up too, if I didn’t have the Lord directing my life. I realize that God is “The Big Director” of it all, and he has blessed me and made my life better than I ever imagined it could be.

Someday, when I have children of my own, I plan to pass my faith in him on to them. I am going to tell them about the blessings he has given me, and the troubles that he has helped me out of. I hope they will continue to keep the faith in him, so if the neighborhood they live in is dark and going wrong, or if it seems that civilization has lost its mind, they will have a friend to lean on. They can ask “The Big Director” to help them find their way, just like he did for me.

Kel Mitchell

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