Just suppose the boy receives a BB gun for Christmas one year, not because he’s asked for it, but because his parents believe all adolescent boys need a BB gun at some point.
Suppose he pulls himself away from his dinosaur collection and his shelves of books and takes the gun outside, aims upward, and squeezes as though he might shoot a BB all the way to the sun. A bird falls, wounded. He hasn’t even aimed, and hadn’t seen the feathered beauty until it fell from the heavens like a fallen angel.
He cries, tears rolling down his face and runs to his mother. He worries over the bird, wonders if it has family somewhere, and calms down only after he realizes the bird is merely stunned. Suppose he’s so upset by the thought of hurting a living creature with his gun he puts the gift away on the very day he receives it. He never touches it again.
Maybe his uncles are deer hunters, raised on the land. Maybe they don’t understand this nephew who thinks killing animals is wrong, but they know he is different. Suppose his Uncle Joel, who is like a father to him, never pushes him to handle a gun, respecting his nephew’s beliefs. Suppose years later, when he has grown into a teenager, the BB gun he’d stuck in his closet years earlier is given away. It is in pristine condition.
Suppose the boy won’t watch bloody movies, refusing to let explicit horror slice through his own tender heart. Suppose he refuses to watch movies about the holocaust and Hiroshima and war because he feels the suffering of others more than most people. Suppose he carries the pain of others like a bleeding tattoo on his heart.
Suppose the boy gets teary over the commercials shown on television of dogs and cats in shelters, knowing their wounds are deep and wide. Maybe he uses the remote to quickly change the channels so he doesn’t have to see the despair in the cages. Suppose he tries to save every wounded animal he’s ever come across, holding orphaned baby squirrels next to his chest to keep them warm. Suppose he grows up reading about Koko the gorilla and other unique animals.
Suppose his mother is on I-75 driving home from a meeting on a Friday in December 2012 when the boy, now a young man, on Christmas leave from college, rings her cell phone. Suppose his voice cracks with emotion. Suppose he holds back tears. “Did you hear about the shooting of those little kids in Connecticut?” Maybe he goes on to tell her that he simply can’t understand why anyone would want to hurt an innocent child.
Suppose he has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome by the University of Georgia Board of Regents Center for Learning Disorders.
Suppose he now hears the news stations repeating that the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School has Asperger's, a developmental disorder. Suppose he hears again that people with Asperger's have no empathy.
What do you suppose he feels?
Maybe he is not overly concerned about carrying the label. Not yet. Maybe he is still too torn apart by the deaths of twenty tiny souls as white as snow, as innocent as the bird he shot one Christmas.