Little Soren and Sammy were the funniest pair in their elementary school. They were best friends. They laughed all the time. They were both mentally underdeveloped but their hearts were fully grown.
The most important day of their lives had arrived. Today they took the placement test to get into middle school. If they did poorly they would be in the special education program. Soren understood the meaning of this far better than Sammy did.
That’s because when Soren’s older brother was in seventh grade, eighth graders had humiliated him with trash cans, nasty notes, signs, and with food. One time they pressured him into eating special dried up chocolate pudding. Within minutes the whole school knew that it was far worse than pudding that Soren’s brother had put into his mouth. Because of this Soren and his brother had to transfer schools. Soren’s best friend Sammy decided he needed to switch too, so Soren wouldn’t be alone.
If this abuse is what happened to Soren’s fairly normal brother, Soren knew being in special ed meant life was basically over.
Now, Soren sat in the test, staring at the page, frozen with fear. He peeked back at Sammy who was peering into his green lantern light up ring intensely. His tongue reached unconsciously up his lip toward his dripping nose, in concentration.
Soren had gone with Sammy to buy the ring at the comic book store. The guy at the store swore to them, with a twinkle in his eye, that he had seen the ring’s real powers. Sammy bought the ring after a month and a half of saving his money. They used it for everything and, to them, it seemed to work.
Sammy saw Soren looking at him and smiled, trying to tell him he thought it was working. But Sammy’s smile disappeared when he saw the look on Soren’s face. Sammy knew Soren had been far more worried about this test than he had been, and now he saw his friend in pain.
As the time for the test to finish came near, and most of the other students had finished, Soren heard something rattle at his feet. He looked down and saw the ring rolling to a stop by his shoe. He looked back at Sammy who whispered, “Use the power of the light.”
Soren’s eyes got big and he surreptitiously picked it up and slipped it on. He smiled back at Sammy to say thanks but Sammy was looking down at his test, struggling to read a question. He was sitting on his hands and shifting uncomfortably.
Soren scored well enough to escape the special ed program, but the ring-less Sammy, did not.
They almost never got to see each other in seventh grade. Sammy’s special ed program was out in the trailers. And Soren walked quickly from class to class, keeping his mouth shut and doing everything he could to avoid being noticed. And he had good reason to do so. It turned out that the eighth graders at this school were worse than even the last school. There was a group of five or six of them that were called the soccer jocks.
The soccer jocks picked certain kids to strategically destroy. They made it their job to find weaknesses in their victims and then relentlessly exploit them for the whole school to see. If their victims had obvious weaknesses, this made their procedure even more gory. For example, the soccer jocks convinced a kid with a lazy eye that if enough people hit him in the forehead in the halls every day, his eye would go back to normal. The kid figured out they were lying when migraines took him out of school for days. He was too afraid to tell the adults why he got the headaches.
Soren made it his primary goal to hide any weakness and disappear into the crowd so that they would never find him. He thanked God every day that he didn’t go to school out in the trailers. But poor Sammy. . .
Soren didn’t get to see Sammy any more because Soren’s mom knew that school was a challenge for him, and she forced him to study all the time. Every now and then Soren looked out the school windows and saw Sammy being the class clown as his class played games in the lawn. Soren tried to slip the ring on in his pocket whenever he saw Sammy and he secretly mouthed, “Use the power of the light.”
Now, the same year that Sammy and Soren had entered seventh grade, a reality TV show started to gain popularity across the US. It was called “Into The Light.” The premise was that a secret camera would be carried by someone who wanted to expose people for doing mean things when they thought no one was watching.
Soren’s brother watched the show religiously because he longed that someday the deeds of all the people like the boys that tortured him would be brought into the light. He wrote letters to the program telling them how much he liked it. Soren didn’t even know about the show because he had to work so hard at his studies.
The terrible day finally came when the Soccer Jocks targeted the happiest guy in the special ed program. The whole school seemed to know what was going to happen before Sammy did.
Soren’s big brother grabbed Soren by the shirt in the hall just as people were leaving lunch. He said to Soren, “You better come with me, buddy. Something bad’s about to happen.”
They walked towards the door that went from the cafeteria into the school yard between the school and the trailers. Soren said, “Oh cool, maybe i’ll get to see Sammy coming in for their lunch.”
Soren’s brother said, “Oh, you’ll get to see Sammy alright.”
The whole cafeteria gathered outside the door. Soren heard Sammy laughing and shouting at his friends in his small class as they walked up from the trailers. Soren remembered what it was like being around Sammy and he missed it.
When Sammy got near the door he got bumped to the ground by someone. he shouted, “Hey! Somebody knocked me over!” He looked at one of his slow classmates and smiled, thinking it was funny. But as he started to get up somebody knocked him back down by hitting him in the forehead (they all had a lot of practice at that). Suddenly Sammy knew they weren’t playing anymore.
“Hey dumby”. One of the soccer jocks looked down at him. “You’re way too happy for how retarded you are.”
Sammy’s smile was completely gone. Someone kicked dirt at him. Soren’s brother scooted to the edge of the crowd where he had a clear view of the assault. Soren held onto his shirt, still trying to understand what was going on. He hid behind his brother instinctually because he was so used to avoiding the soccer jocks.
“My dad’s bigger than you.” Sammy tried to get up.
They pushed him back down again and laughed. “Your dad’s not here, is he? Nobody important can even see you right now.”
Soren kicked at them from on the ground. His foot slid across the dirt and stopped dead when it hit one of their standing feet. They all started laughing.
“What’s 2 plus 2, smart guy? Do you even know what 2 plus 2 is?”
Sammy looked frantically for help among the other kids. They looked at him and said nothing. He couldn’t understand why they wanted to hurt him.
Another kid joined in and said, “Hey he doesn’t even know what 2 plus 2 is! This kid is retarded.”
Soren whispered to his brother, “Do something! Help him! He’s my best friend.”
His brother looked at him, put his finger to his mouth and shook his head.
Soren’s heart pounded in his chest. He caught himself whimpering and he clamped his jaw shut to stay silent. He wanted to do something, but his whole life was at stake. He wanted to help his friend but it just didn’t seem worth it in his head for two of them to go down instead of one.
Sometimes those who are mentally challenged excel greatly in matters of the heart. And when a good heart breaks through the wrapping paper of its mind, it almost always brings beauty with it into the light.
Soren, being nervous happened to reach into his pocket and suddenly he felt the light up ring. He froze. Only his fingers moved. They fumbled with the ring until it was on his finger.
“Come on stupid kid.” Another boy taunted Sammy. “Don’t you even know what 2 plus 2 is?” Someone spit and it landed in the dirt beside Sammy’s face. He looked at it and then at the Soccer Jock from whom it came.
Soren burst through the crowd and yelled. “It’s four, I think. 2 plus 2 is probably 4!” Soren pushed his way into the the center and stood above Sammy. He held his fist straight out from his body pointing the ring on his finger at the faces of the soccer jocks.
Soren, realizing that he had blown his closely guarded cover, yelled in frustration. “Ahhhh!” He had nothing to lose now. He walked around the circle, fending off the encroaching soccer jocks. He yelled at them, “You guys are so stupid. You guys are the meanest, dumbest guys in the whole school. Everybody likes you, but not me. Sammy’s my best friend, though and it’s because of him that I'm not in special ed. You can tease me all you want. I’ll just switch schools and you can’t do anything about that. But leave my friend Sammy alone! He wouldn’t have to be in special ed if he didn’t want to.”
The crowd exploded in laughter. Sammy got up behind Soren. He said, “C’mon Soren. Let’s go.”
And together they ran around the back of the school into the teacher’s parking lot and hid behind the air conditioning unit.
“You used the power of the light,” Sammy said, in awe. “Did you see it? It really does work.” They caught their breath as they admired the ring, the little LED blinking beneath the plastic gem.
Soren’s brother stood at the edge of the crowd with a secret smile on his face. The Soccer Jocks ridiculed Soren and Sammy to each other as the crowd dispersed. As the last few were walking away Soren’s brother looked down at a slightly larger button on his shirt.
He adjusted it, the glass button gleamed like a lens, and he smiled. He felt the cord going down to his iPhone in his pocket. He pointed the button up at his face and whispered proudly, “That was my little brother.”
Usually it takes a month or two to release a show after it is filmed. But it was less than a month between when Soren rescued Sammy and when “Into the light” featured Soren and Sammy’s story.
Months before, Soren’s brother had written the show and told them his story. He also told them about how bad it was at their new school. The producers thought the middle school twist might be promising, so in a covert operation, a week before, one of their technicians had come out to their house and strapped Soren's brother with the secret camera. Only Soren’s brother and his parents had known about it.
The day after the show everybody knew about it.
Neither Soren, nor Sammy really understood the concept of a reality show or understood how far reaching it was. But the whole nation got to hear Soren tell, in an interview, how Sammy had given him the ring so that he could pass the middle school test. And he had used that same power of the light to rescue Soren when he was in need.
The show ended in an interview where a couple of the soccer jocks apologized on camera and admitted what they had done was stupid. The tables had completely turned.
The show ended with the host explaining that the purpose of their show was to bring justice down on those who hurt and oppressed others. But she added, “But it was not until the story of Soren and Sammy did we, at the show, realize we would also see a heroic goodness revealed in some people’s hearts. And it redefined what we had always thought it meant to use “the power of the light.”