“I don’t like bullies.” ~Charlie Christmas
I’ve never met a custodian who was an unkind person. Not that I’m consciously looking.
I’m just saying.
That said, I don’t think I’ve ever met a custodian who set out to be a custodian for the purpose of fulfilling a lifelong dream. Most of them were passing time, making ends meet, being productive and earning a living. Minding their own business. Others had already pursued–and succeeded at living their dreams. Take C.H., for example. He lived for a time in Nashville, pursuing a career as a songwriter. Or Kenneth, who played 5 successful seasons for the Green Bay Packers and 2 more for the Philadelphia Eagles at the peak of his physical fitness.
Then there are the disabled people who have difficulty finding “mainstream” work. K.Z. comes to mind, a dear friend who cheated death as a 6 year old boy— and Tom, a hearing-impaired gentleman who single-handedly maintained both the interior and exterior of the large church I attended as a child.
Custodians are some of my favorite people and that is one of the things that drew me to an independent film titled “The Unusual (calling of) Charlie Christmas”. The story, written and directed by Adam Hampton, centers around the life of a 32 year old custodian who becomes a costumed vigilante. The movie was filmed in Shawnee, Oklahoma and produced by award-winning independent film company, Outsiders Productions. Local film music composer, Cory Perschbacher, dreamed the music.
“Socially retarded janitor” is one of the terms used by a well meaning relative to describe Charlie. A co-worker/friend tells him he is a “delusional janitor”. Another friend refers to him as “sweet” and while I find her description of him to be most accurate, there is much more to Charlie than a job title or mere sweetness.
The truth is that Charlie is who he is largely in part from experiencing tremendous heartache and loss. His was a childhood interrupted by tragedy. When the effects of PTSD take hold in children, research shows that the brain is altered. As a result, Charlie is perceived as weak and suffers a childhood of torment at the hands of his peers.
His first bullies were the loud, obnoxious schoolyard variety. As the years pass, the range of bullies in Charlie’s scope of vision expands.
Predatory, hostile, humorless. Opportunistic and controlling with a compulsive need to criticize. Aggressive, devious, master manipulator. Lacking empathy, drawn to power, emotionally cold. Usurper who either has use for someone…or not. Joyless, ungrateful, inflexible, divisive. Spiteful and vengeful. Highly skilled at deception. The book of Proverbs refers to them as schemers and mockers. Verbally facile. They hide behind sarcasm in order to belittle, degrade, demean, ridicule, patronize, undermine. Superficial, glib attention-seeker with a dual-faced Jekyll and Hyde nature–vicious and vindictive in private while charming in front of witnesses. Fixated on destruction to the point of obsession. Intent on sucking the joy out of the air. Often sociopathic. Pathetically and somewhat sadly, incurable.
We all know at least one. It is estimated that 1 in 30 people are serial bullies. I believe that to be accurate, if not conservative. But this is where my focus on bullies comes to an end. The story that unfolds in this film has a great deal of depth and I find Charlie’s character (and calling) far more worthy of focus than any dime-a-dozen bully.
I have much more to say about the character that actor/producer Kenny Pitts brought to life…but I’ll hold off for now so I won’t give too much away.
“I prefer the word “target”. The word “victim” allows disingenuous people to tap into and stimulate other people’s misconceptions and prejudices of victim hood. “Target” correctly identifies that it is the choice of the bully to bully. It is not the choice of the target to be targeted.”
~Tim Field, a pioneer in the study of bullying.