Saturday night, I volunteered at the Attic (a teen club). The Attic had a huge Underoath concert that was completely sold out for the final showing. The earlier showing had a fair turn-out, but nothing could have prepared us for the seven hundred teens and parents who showed up for the final show. Oddly, during the last show, I had less of a job because we were so well staffed. So, I found myself wandering about during the last band, Underoath. I stood on the “staff side” off to the right of the stage and watched as hundreds of teens screamed the lyrics along with Underoath’s main singer guy. I had earplugs in (a God-sent) so I was sort of watching the events from a bit of a distant view. (Or at least that’s the best way I can describe it to you. Want to know what I mean.. try putting in earplugs and functioning as usual.) But that’s when I saw the most prominent illustration of mercy.
Let me explain a little about the set-up and the environment at that time to help you understand. The stage area layout has a waist-high bar to keep fans from rushing the stage. So there is about a two person wide walkway between the fans and the “stars”. Security usually stand there in order to make sure there’s no “fishy” business going on between fans breaking rules of “stay back” distance. On this particular night teens were packed so tightly into the “fan” space that there was this humidity that lingered above the crowd [and reeked]. All the teens were drenched with sweat. There were girls pressed up against the waist-high bar, screaming and reaching out for Underoath. Security had no problems with the seemingly “over-excited” crowd.
But as I looked further I spotted something. There was a girl who was pressed against the bar. She looked as if that bar wouldn’t have been there, then she would have surely passed out. She kind of hung from the bar, screaming the lyrics until she was red in the face. I watched as she gave every last drop of dehydrated energy within her to participate, often gasping for air between lyrics. Her head was doused in sweat that poured down her face. And she wasn’t the only one. There were so many other teens that looked just like her.
During the songs, various teens were thrown up into the crowd and the security guards leaned into the crowd to hold those teens as the fans thrusted them toward the gap of cement flooring between the audience and the stage. It amazed me how the security guards didn’t ask the teens to quit the, quite frankly, dangerous sport of crowd surfing, but they just kept catching people as they were thrown at them. One security guard, Mark, waited anxiously for the next crowd surfer, standing on his tippy-toes to check if there were any coming.
And in between crowd surfing catches, the security guards did another act. Huge boxes of water bottles lay at their feet. They opened the water bottles and poured water into awaiting teens mouths. It was the typical picture of a mother bird feeding her baby a worm. And security also sprayed the crowd with water to keep them all from passing out from the heat.
It just amazed me to watch the balance of handing out water and catching crowd surfers. Not once did someone say, “Hey, hold on a second! This is getting out of hand. Stop your crowd surfing! Stop your pushing and just spread out so we have enough room!” You may look at this story and think, “Man, the attic staff are morons for not controlling that concert better.” But I would like to stand in defense for the Attic.
These teens are coming to the Attic because they are in the process of rebelling against rules. They seek a “thriller.” They want to experience what “everyone else” appears to be doing. The Attic was not designed for the saved, but the unsaved. Not for the found, but the lost. Wild? Oh, absolutely. The place is wild. But it attracts teens from all walks of life to come into a crowd which is doing the same things that other teens are doing minus the sex, drugs and unsupervision.
But last, night, it was such a huge picture of mercy to watch the security guards catch one teen after another and distribute water by the gallons. It was as if to say, “I am not going to make you stop living your lifestyle. I’m not here to judge. Just to love on you. I’m only here to love on you in a real way.”
I have no doubt that those six security guards went home with bruises from the teens that hit them with flying elbows and knees. I watched a few of them get kicked. I watched some of them literally landed on by some not-too-tiny teens. But the response was always the same. Their arms immediately shot back into the air, ready for the next teen.
Thank you, Lord, for that vivid picture of having compassion on another.
Your mercy is Beautiful.