Chapter 11 - A Major Love Bomb
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning. Isabella stood on the porch outside in the backyard of their large two-story house taking it all in. The sky was crystal clear, the rays bouncing off the pool as it glistened. An orange basketball lay still at the bottom of the court, almost as if it was resting, knowing that soon the crowd would be putting it in to action.
"Today is the day." She mumbled to herself. "I've got the food being delivered at 1:00. Nathan is getting the drinks. I think we're good to go. Now I just hope all our neighbors show up."
Isabella and Nathan were throwing a party, a neighborhood get together. She believed very strongly in having a sense of community amongst neighbors. Therefore, every so often she would throw a party to get everyone together. They were particularly good friends with the Mills family down the street. He's a fireman. She is a homemaker. They have two kids; a 20-year old girl named Vienna and a 17-year old boy named Daran. Their son Daran, is very good friends with Spencer, who is now 17 as well.
The Doorbell Rang
Nathan opened it to find their good friends standing on the porch. The man was tall, probably over six feet, dressed in a black T-shirt that showed off his bulging muscles and blue jeans. The woman was petite, much smaller than her husband; dressed in white shorts and an orange tank top. Her hair was shoulder length and tightly curled. Their two kids were standing on each side of them, looking eager to come in.
"Hi, guys!" Nathan said motioning them inside. "How's it going Craig?" he said shaking his hand.
"Great, man. How are you?"
"Hi Craig. Hi Tamika." Isabella said walking up behind her husband. "Come in, please. I'm so glad you guys came."
"Are you kidding? We wouldn't miss it." Tamika assured her.
"Hi, Daran. Hi Vienna." Isabella said giving them both a hug.
Spencer came running down the stairs to greet them. "Hi everyone."
"Hey" Daran said nodding hello with his head.
"Wanna go shoot some hoops?
"Gracie, we've got company." Isabella shouted to her from the bottom of the stairs.
"Okay, I'll be right down."
Their house was filled with lots of neighbors, laughing, eating and playing games. The party was a huge success. Everyone had a great time. One by one they said their goodbyes, leaving only their best friends. They all moved to the backyard and continued chatting while sitting on the patio. Gracie and Vienna were upstairs in her bedroom talking about their college experiences. Spencer and Daran were sitting on the basketball court looking at their smart phones.
"So dude, check this out" Spencer said pulling up a social networking page on his phone. He showed him a post from a girl who commented on his photo. Grinning from ear to ear he said, "She likes my smile. What do you think about that?"
"That's cool." Daran replied in approval. "Now let me show you something." He pulled up a social networking page of his own to show Spencer. "What do you think about that?" Spencer's eyes widened and his brow furrowed as his saw the page. It was full of pictures of Daran. Each one had derogatory words written on them. Some of the pictures were making fun of his nose; others teased him about his complexion. One of the pictures, he noticed, poked fun at the color of Daran's skin. Every post was filled with comments of people laughing, mocking and joining in on the jokes.
"Dude that sucks!" Spencer said in disbelief. "Who's doing this?"
"The Shamers." He replied shrugging his shoulders.
The Shamers are a group of people who set out to destroy the lives of other people they don't like by humiliating them on social networks. They attempt to ruin the reputation of their targets. Often telling lies, making fun of their appearance or personality traits or their race or anything they deem unacceptable to society. They attack the character of people, creating pictures that evoke shame and inviting others to declare them unworthy of love. Spencer knew of the self titled group and their underhanded tactics but he had never encountered them or knew of anyone personally who did, until now.
"Did you tell your parents?"
"No, I don't want to bother them. They have a lot going on. They are really stressed out and I don't want to add to it."
I really think you should Daran."
"I'm going to deal with it myself."
"How? What are you going to do?"
"I don't know but I'm going fight back."
"Fight back? What do you mean?"
"I'm not going to sit around and let someone lie about me and criticize me and not do anything about it."
"Daran, c'mon" his mom shouted from the patio chair. "We've got to get home."
"Alright" He yelled back to his mom. "Hey Spencer, don't say anything about to this anyone, okay?"
Reluctantly he agreed.
Later that evening, while his mom and dad were downstairs watching the news, Spencer sat in his bedroom thinking about the conversation he had with Daran. "What should I do?" he said to himself. On one hand he wanted to tell his parents about it, but on the other hand he didn't want to betray Daran's confidence. Hoping that Michael's Magic Box would help him, he got up off of his bed and walked into his parent's bedroom to retrieve it. He had seen it help his mom and dad many times before. Speaking to it directly he said, "What should I do Michael?"
The box began to shimmer in response. He felt a wave of relief come over him. Spencer opened the box to let its message play:
How many people have to cry the song of pain and grief across the land and how many children have to die before we stand to lend a healing hand?
"Die?" Spencer said out loud. He closed the box abruptly and set it back down on the nightstand. "I certainly don't want him to die. That settles it."
"Mom, dad. Can I talk to you?"
"Sure bud, what's up?" Nathan turned the sound down on the television.
"I found something out earlier that I want to talk to you about."
They looked at each other puzzled.
"Did you see me and Daran sitting on the court at the party talking and looking at our phones?"
"Yes" Isabella replied.
"I was showing him a comment this girl left on my page. She liked my smile. I thought it was kind of cool so I showed it to him."
"Yeaaah" Nathan said waiting for the rest of the story.
"Well, then Daran said, let me show you something. He pulled up this page that was all about him. And it wasn't good.
"What do you mean all about him?"
"There's this group of people that call themselves The Shamers. They created this page to taunt him. They're posting all these mean things. Making fun of his nose and his race and the way he dresses. Some people are even telling lies about him. They're trying to ruin his reputation because they don't like him."
"Are you serious?" Isabella said putting down the legs of her recliner.
"Yeah." Spencer lowered his head while he continued. "And I'm kinda worried because he said he was going to do something about it."
"In what way?" Nathan said looking concerned.
"I don't know. He just said he wasn't going to stand by and let them do that to him. I told him I wouldn't tell anybody, but it's making me sick to my stomach not too."
"You definitely did the right thing." Isabella assured him.
"Yes you did" Nathan agreed. "I think we should go over and talk to his parents first thing in the morning."
"He's going to hate me though." Spencer said looking worried.
"You know that sick feeling you're getting in your stomach?" Isabella asked him.
"That's your body's way of telling you that something's not right. You have to listen to it when these types of things come up. You did the right thing."
"Okay" Spencer said shrugging his shoulders not completely believing her.
"We will go talk to them first thing in the morning. Alright bud?" Nathan asked giving him a reassuring look.
The next morning Nathan, Isabella and Spencer walked down the three steps of their porch and headed over to their friend's house. They live on a cul-de-sac. The Mills' house was situated around the corner slightly out of sight. As they approached the house Spencer's stomach began to hurt again, especially when he saw the two cop cars sitting out front.
"What do you think is going on?" He said glancing over at his parents with a worried look on his face.
"I don't know" Nathan replied shaking his head.
"Do you think we should still go over?" Isabella wondered.
"Maybe not. We should come back later."
As they began to turn around, Craig came running out of the house. "Nathan" he shouted. "Don't leave. We need our friends. Please come in."
Spencer's stomach was hurting him now more than ever. He felt like he was going to throw up.
They walked in the front door to find Tamika and her daughter crying uncontrollably.
Oh no, Isabella thought running over to comfort her. "What's going on?" she asked, putting her arm around Tamika.
Nathan was introduced to the two policemen by Craig. Trying to maintain a strong composure he said, "Our son is dead."
A look of horror came over Spencer's face. "What?"
"Did you know Daran?" the cop said looking over at Spencer.
"Yes, he's my best friend." Tears started to fill his eyes.
"What happened?" Nathan asked.
Craig began telling him what he knew. "Daran said he was going out with his girlfriend last night. He left around 8:30 to pick her up."
He started to get emotional, so couldn't finish. The look of hurt in his eyes was painful for Nathan to see. The cop continued the story, since he was struggling so badly.
"Our dispatch received a call about 11:30 pm from a man who said he had just witnessed some road rage going on in front of him on the freeway. He saw some guys in a red pickup truck getting really close to the bumper of Daran's car from the back. Then another car got over to the side of him while a third car moved up to the other side. They were trying to box him in. The witness said that Daran kept trying to get away from them. He slammed on his brakes, long enough to break free on one side. They continued to chase him. He lost control and hit the middle barrier of the freeway. It killed him instantly."
"Oh My God" Nathan said sitting down. Isabella was doing her best to comfort Tamika who was inconsolable. The men continued talking.
"His girlfriend survived. We tried to talk to her in the hospital but the only words we could make out were The Shamers. "Do you know what that means?" he asked looking at Spencer.
Hesitating slightly he bowed his head and replied, "Yes I do."
"Spencer was on his way over here to tell you something he and Daran talked about yesterday." Nathan put his arm around his son in support. "Go ahead Spencer" his dad said encouraging him.
Spencer told them about The Shamers and how they had made Daran their latest target. "He told me he was going to fight back; that he wasn't going to stand around and take it. He made me promise not to tell anyone, but I felt like I needed to. That's why we were coming over here this morning. I didn't know he was going out last night though."
After they left the Mills house, Spencer sat on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands; parents by his side. Telling Daran's parents what he knew was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. The guilt of not speaking up to his mom and dad earlier in the day was weighing heavily on him. "Michael even warned me" he said out loud, beating himself up even further.
"If I had said something to you guys earlier, we could have gone over there last night instead of today. Then maybe he would still be here."
"You don't know that. You can't blame yourself Spencer." Isabella said rubbing his back lovingly.
Nathan agreed. "Yeah, there are a lot of ifs. I'm the one who made the decision to wait until morning, not you."
"Why don't you lie down for a while and try to get some rest." Isabella encouraged.
"I don't want to rest!" He said loudly. "I'm angry." He threw the blue and white stress ball he had been squeezing in his hand at the wall. "I just need to be alone for a while."
Isabella and Nathan left him alone and walked into their bedroom across the hall. "I'm worried about him Nathan."
"What should we do?"
Just then Michael's Magic Box began to shimmer. Nathan walked over to the table to get it. He handed it to Isabella to open. Upon lifting the lid, this is what she heard:
We're innocently standing by watching people lose their lives. It seems as if we have no voice. It time for us to make a choice. Only God could decide who will live and who will die. There's nothing that can't be done, if we raise our voice as one.
She closed the lid and looked over at Nathan. "What do you think that means?"
Nathan thought about it for a moment then said, "I think I know. I have an idea. Let's go talk to him. "
Knock. Knock. Knock.
"What?" Spencer called out.
Nathan and Isabella opened the door and walked in.
"I have an idea son."
"What?" He answered not taking his eyes off the floor.
"Why don't you take that anger and turn it into something constructive for Daran. Spencer looked up at him with confusion, but didn't speak any words.
"Get together some of the people who were friends with Daran and raise your voice as one in an effort to stop these Shamers. Then you will be doing something to help make the world a better place in Daran's honor."
"That's a great idea!" Isabella chimed in. "You guys could make such a difference in the lives of the people they target."
Intrigued, Spencer said, "I like that idea, but how would I go about doing something like that?"
"I bet Gracie would help you."
"Okay, I'll talk to her. Thanks mom. Thanks dad."
Between the two of them they came up with twenty people who were willing to participate. Spencer was really discouraged at first, but Gracie quickly turned it around. "Don't look at it as only twenty people. Look at it as hey we have twenty people!"
They met in a room at the local library that Gracie rented out for Spencer. It didn't cost her anything. She just had to schedule it, which she was glad to do. She was thrilled that Spencer had asked for her help.
The two of them stood up in front of the room telling the twenty teenagers about what they had in mind. "I want to do something to honor Daran." Spencer said speaking first. "He shouldn't have died. I don't want anyone else to have to go through what he did with The Shamers. I know we might not be able to put an end to their group but what we can do is form a group of our own to help the people they target, so that they don't feel alone."
Gracie brought along Michael's Magic Box at her mom's request. It was sitting on the table in front of them.
"But how can we make a difference for someone who is getting attacked by these guys?" A girl in the crowd asked.
Just then Michael's Magic Box began to shimmer.
"What's that?" A kid in the front row asked.
"It's Michael's Magic Box" Spencer replied.
"It's my moms." Gracie added. "It's a magic box that plays messages from Michael Jackson in an effort to help people. When it shimmers that means there is a message waiting."
"Open it." several of them shouted.
Gracie lifted the lid and let it play:
We're sending out a major love, and this is our message to you. The planets are lining up. We're bringing brighter days. They're all in line, waiting for you. Can't you see? You're just another part of me.
"Oh!" A girl from the audience said standing up. "I've got an idea!"
"What?" Gracie asked.
"Let's drop a love bomb."
"A love bomb?"
"Yeah, my mom did it once with a few of her friends. Someone they knew was going through a really hard time, so my mom got a bunch of her friends together and they all sent her encouraging messages. It really helped her. She called it a love bomb."
"I've heard of that. It's a deliberate show of affection by a group of people toward someone in need." Gracie replied.
"We could help the people they target by dropping a major love bomb on them." The teen said playing off of Michael's words in the last message.
"Yeaaah" some of the teens in the audience replied in Unison.
"We'll send out a major love, like Michael just said."
"We could call ourselves The Major Love Bomb Team" Spencer suggested.
"I like it." Gracie smiled.
Everyone agreed on the name, so they worked out the details before leaving. Spencer would be the leader of the team. When any one of them found someone who was being targeted, they were to tell Spencer who would then send out a message to the entire team instructing them to drop a major love bomb. He would begin by posting the same message that Michael had just given them: We're sending out a major love and this is our message to you. Then the others would follow suit with their messages of love and support.
Michael's Magic Box began to shimmer again. The crowd laughed in delight. They were having fun experiencing its magic.
"Well, let's hear what Michael has to say now." Gracie snickered. Spencer opened the box and they heard this message:
We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving. There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives. It's true we'll make a better day, just you and me.
Gracie closed it and continued talking. "He's right. We are the ones who can make a brighter day for these people. We have to do something to change the way we treat each other. We are the future. Do we want to live in a world like this?"
They all shouted "No."
"Then we have to raise our voice as one. By helping another person we are helping ourselves, because like he said, you're just another part of me."
The teenagers all clapped in agreement.
Once again Michael's Magic Box began to shimmer. "Let's listen to one last message before we leave tonight." She opened the box and let its message play.
I would like each and every one of you here tonight to look at each person next to you. Look at them in the eyes. Each person right here. Look at each person next to you in the eyes, please. Please look at each person next to you. Now join hands. Each together. Join hands and reach to the heavens. Reach to the heavens everyone. And feel it. Feel humanity. Don't do it because I'm asking you to. Do it because it's the right thing to do. Now I ask you for a moment of love and silence. I love you. And tonight we all stand united and ask "What more can I give."
"Wow what a message!" Gracie exclaimed. Spencer was shocked to see that everyone in the audience had stood and was following his instructions exactly. They were all holding hands reaching up to the sky. It gave him Goosebumps. It was so inspiring.
Someone in the crowd yelled out, "Hey, the box is still shimmering."
"Oh." Gracie said apologetically. "I thought it was finished." She opened the box again to let it continue.
When we leave here tonight, let us take this love and give it to all the people everywhere in every corner of the earth.
Spencer closed the box, clapped his hands and motivated them to move by saying, "You heard him. Let's go!"
Over the next few weeks, they found several teens to drop a major love bomb on. One of their targets was a girl who was being teased about her weight. Another one was a kid who had recently been outed as being gay. Each member of the group went to the social networking site that The Shamers were using to target their victims and dropped a major love bomb on them.
Word of their community spread quickly. They had to set up a website because thousands of people came forth wanting to be part of their group. Then one day Spencer got a request from one of the team members for someone who needed a major love; a young kid about 14 years old who had posted a video online. Spencer clicked the link to view it. His heart broke as he watched it.
The kid in the video reminded him of Daran. He was experiencing some of the same problems his friend had. People were criticizing him; telling lies about him. Laughing and mocking him. He said he felt alone, like he had no reason to live. He felt so unloved and was devastated that people believed the lies.
Spencer was stunned to see that there were comments from The Shamers on the video taunting him even further; saying he didn't deserve to be loved and encouraging him to commit suicide. "Wow, how can they be so mean?" he thought to himself.
The Major Love Bomb Team went right to work. He sent an email out to the community who quickly went into action. Within 24 hours the video had thousands of messages of love and support for the kid.
Most of the time when they drop their major love bombs, they don't necessarily get to see the outcome of their efforts but this time was different. The same person who emailed him about the original video sent him a follow up. The email simply said: "You'll never guess what happened. Watch this."
Spencer felt a tug in his heart as he watched. The boy said this in his follow up video:
"24 hours ago I posted a video. I was tired of being the victim of shame. I was depressed and didn't feel there was any reason to live. When I saw the hateful comments on there from people encouraging me to kill myself, I seriously considered it. If there are people who don't think I deserve to be here, maybe they are right, I thought. So I snuck my dad's pistol out of his gun cabinet and wrote a note to my parents saying goodbye. As I was shutting down my laptop, I decided to check my video one more time. I don't know why, I just did. And I was stunned by what I saw. Thousands of messages of love and support from a group called The Major Love Bomb Team."
The boy put his head down for a moment and then looked up into the camera again. "To those people, I just want to say thank you. You saved my life. I felt your love coming through the screen." He started to cry. "I've never felt that kind of love and support. Ever. You made me believe in humanity again."
Isabella came in behind Spencer while he was watching the video. "Look mom," he said showing it to her. "We actually made a difference."
Isabella watched with tears in her eyes. "That's so wonderful Spencer. I knew you would."
Nathan walked in shortly after. Seeing that they were both emotional he said, "What's going on?"
"Watch this." Isabella said pointing to the video.
After watching it play he said, "I'm so proud of you Spencer. You did it." Patting him on the back he said, "By dropping these major love bombs you raised your voice as one, giving Daran's life meaning beyond his passing."
The Major Love Bomb Team gained national exposure because of what they did. The Shamers were exposed to the world and an injustice was righted. They felt the sting of their own tactics. Shamed on national television for being haters. As a result, the group disbanded.
The next morning Spencer sat in his bedroom thinking about Daran. He had lost a good friend; doing this in his honor gave him strength. Then he heard a knock on his bedroom door.
It was Daran's parents.
"Hi" he said surprised to see them.
"We came over to give you this." Daran's mom handed him a picture of her son. It was in a silver frame with two words inscribed on the bottom. It read:
"That's what we have for you; MAJOR LOVE." She said giving him a hug.
Daran's father added, "Thanks for giving my son's life meaning beyond his passing. What you did with that team was awesome."
Spencer accepted the picture frame graciously. "Thank you, but it was he who gave my life meaning. The Major Love Bomb Team is going to continue to change the world on his behalf for many years to come. I hope he knows that."
Michael's Magic Box began to shimmer. He walked over to the dresser it was sitting on and let it play:
You can change the world. I can't do it by myself. You can touch the sky. Gonna take somebody's help. You're the chosen one. I'm gonna need some kind of sign. If we all cry at the same time tonight.
He closed the box and smiled; then looked up at Daran's parents and over at his mom and dad who were also in the room.
Isabella shook her head and smiled. "There you go. He knows."
Spencer thanked them and said goodbye; then sat down on his bed and wept. All of the pent up grief he had been resisting for weeks came flooding out. When he gained his composure, he held the picture of Daran up and said, "We did it. We stopped The Shamers. That was for you my friend.
He carefully set the picture of Daran on his dresser next to Michael's Magic Box and said,
"I hope I made you proud. I miss you man."
Director of Community Development
© 2013 Linda Higgins, All Rights Reserved
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