Hundreds of people standing in line... A case of fresh action figures glistening on the shelves waiting to be purchased. Voice actors and other artists sitting at tables, waiting. This is the calm before the storm. The clock ticks. People anxiously checking the time on their phones, waiting for the doors to open. This, ladies and gentlemen, is TFcon.
For those of you who do not know, TFcon is a convention focused on form-changing action figures called Transformers. It consists of a large dealer room, where merchants sell their wares to eager consumers seeking out the great deals that cannot be found online. Also within the dealer room is a section commonly referred to as “Artist Alley” where different comic book artists and voice actors have tables set up to meet their fans and sign autographs. Throughout the day, there are various panels featuring the voice actors, where fans can ask themquestions and hear behind the scene stories behind their favorite shows.
Most of the fine folk in attendance are considered, by both themselves and others, as geeks. To others, this may be an insult, using the term as a way to categorize them as outcasts, not one of the “cool kids.” But geeks take this title and embrace it, and there is no better place to let your inner geek out than at a convention. Whether it is talking all day about your favorite comic book character, or dressing up as your favorite giant robot, everyone at a convention finds their own way to let loose and geek out. And it’s amazing.
A lot of people have the common misconception that geeks are nerds. I would argue that this is, in the words of Dwight Shrute; “False.” Nerds are highly intelligent usually as regards science and math and wear high suspenders and pocket protectors. Geeks fall into the socially awkward yet super enthusiastic about a specific thing. These two can, and often do, overlap. This is commonly referred to as a Trekkie.
Many of these people (like most people in general) come from a very painful past. A past so painful that they have to escape it somehow, and the only way they have found is by entering a world where the good always wins, so they can have some form of hope for the future. And everyone needs something to hope in, though they do not always place their hope in the One whom they should.
There are varying degrees of this escapism, some extreme, others perfectly healthy. A large number of attendees are husbands who bring their wives and children along for a day of family fun. Conventions attract all kinds of people, and it is wonderful. Some of the more extreme cases can include people who were bullied, beaten, or abused in their past, or even present. These are the socially awkward often labeled “weirdos” that often take upon themselves the geek name. Some of them even have a hard time having a conversation because this is their only real social interaction for the year. Yes, this behavior definitely goes against our social norms, but to some of these people, the world has shown them nothing but pain and hate, so they retreat. If you look close enough, you can see the pain and fear in their eyes. And if you aren’t too careful, it will break your heart. It breaks mine every time. But then again, Jesus allowed His heart to be broken out of love for us. If we invite Christ in, His compassion can give us solace in the midst of the pain.
I hear their stories. One was raised in an abusive home, his only escape was hiding under his bed playing with his Transformers to pass the time. Another almost died as a young child from cancer; after each Chemo treatment, his father would buy him a new transformer. And another was bullied throughout Elementary, Middle, and High School, the only real friends he could rely on and see as safe were his Transformers. There are so many more stories, and for each story is a name. A name of a beloved child of God the Father, a child for whom He sent His only Son to prove His love.
As I sat in on one of the panels, I was praying about this. Why does God not come to these children of His and hold them in their hurt? Why does He allow them to turn to these objects for a comfort that they will never find, a comfort no one can find apart from Him? Why isn’t Christ showing His healing love to them like He promised? I thought of the time Jesus healed the leper:
"A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, 'If you choose, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I do choose. Be made clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean." Mark 1:40-42
This passage from the Gospel of Mark is a well known account of one of Jesus’ many healings. Not only did Jesus heal this man, He also made a public statement. In Jesus’ times lepers were considered ritually unclean according to Levitical law, and were thus shunned and forced to live apart from the rest of Jewish society. If one were to even go near a leper, they would be considered unclean as well and thus expelled from their society. Jesus went against this norm, and touched the unclean leper, healing him. He could not refuse love to His beloved who was in need. So, why do the “geeks” go unnoticed?
Then it hit me. They do not go unnoticed. God, in His Omnipotence not only sees their pain and suffering but suffers with them. He loves them in their pain and yet they are blind to His love because of their pain. They may not be able to see God as loving, because they have never known real love. They cannot go to Jesus begging Him to heal them, because they do not see Him for who He is and don’t trust that He can or will really heal their hearts.
This is where we come in. It is our duty as Christians through our Baptism to be Christ to the world. This means emptying ourselves and letting Christ show through us. Just like The Son humbled Himself to be born of Woman and take on human flesh, we must abandon our pride, our inordinate love for comfort and ease, our striving to be “cool” and show love to these social outcasts. Hey, Mother Teresa did that, and she was pretty cool.
Because geeks are so passionate about the things they love, they have an easier time opening up to people who share the same passions. We must not be afraid to explore these geeky interests and branch out and learn more. This could vary from comic books, Star Wars, Transformers, childhood action figures, super hero movies, or even TV shows. God will then bring people with similar interests into our lives for us to bring to Him. If we share their passions, they will slowly let us into their hearts and we can then show them the love of Christ, and how He is who they were really searching for the entire time.
These outcasts are not just wounded people you might run into at "cons," they are anyone who is longing for a friend and feels alone, any of the "least of these," really, anyone at all. So, when you are out and about, at a con, or a concert or just in the park, if you see someone who you feel moved to reach out to, do so. Talk to them, listen to them, be patient with them, love them, and Christ will shine through you in ways you could never imagine, and you will be amazed the ways that these wonderful people can touch your life as well. Let them see Christ in you as you reach out to them, so they can go to Him and be made clean. You will find that by being a "doer of the word" and reaching out to comfort God's afflicted sons and daughters, your heart will be immeasurably enriched in the process and you will be helping to build up God's Kingdom of love here on earth, which is, after all, what every Christian is called to do.
Joseph Bush is currently living in Milwaukee(Algonquin for "The Good Land") Wi, where the Immaculata not only nourishes him with the Bread of Life, but also heaps of humble pie. One would think this might give him the sense to know that life is too short to be taken seriously, but he persists on trying to survive the journey to sainthood.