At the end of each school year, the South Whidbey Record’s “Hometown Hero” features a high school senior nominated by the schools.
Lennox Bishop sits crossed legged on a couch in teacher Jennifer Gandarias’ office at South Whidbey High School. Her smile lights the windowless room.
“I have learned that my job here on earth is to love people,” she says with concentrated eyes. “Everyone is beautiful. I want to acknowledge people, to accept people, to notice and celebrate people for their differences and uniqueness. I treat all like they are fighting a battle, because … well, everyone is.”
She shakes her head speaking solemnly, “This world can be so harsh, really tough.” Sighing, she continues, “Some are lonely, some are never noticed, some feel unworthy, some have been so hurt, they are unable to trust. I feel passionately about loving unconditionally. I don’t have to try to give answers or try to fix a situation, or change anything, all I need to do is love.”
Becky Mooring, a band member with Bishop at the Christian Life Center in Freeland, said, “My favorite thing about Lennox is that she sees people in an uncommon way. Where others see a vagrant, Lennox sees a soul in need of compassion. Where others see an urchin, Lennox sees the glimmer of hope, joy and innocence. She can see a bigger story as she tries to see others as God would.”
Lennox explains, “There is power in vulnerability; there is power in our weaknesses. The world tries to tell us we need certain looks, nice cars, the right clothes, or titles and degrees to be worthy. In reality, our humanness is truly what makes us valuable.”
Nora Felt, a high school senior, paraphrases a line she read that, to her, embodies Lennox. “A human who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. Lennox believes you can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. Lennox always has a kind heart that radiates out of her and shines upon others, creating a wonderful environment for all around her.”
Lennox said she’s had the amazing opportunity to serve with big-hearted people in Nicaragua for the past seven years with Amigos for Christ. “I’ve had the privilege of working alongside people to bring clean water, sanitation, and health care to those that have lived their entire lives without any of these basic necessities. The people of Nicaragua have taught me so much about gratitude, living in community and what is truly important in life. Once again, it’s loving each other, not the things we possess or how we look on the outside.”
Sherri Simmons, Christian Life Center ministries leader, comments, “I have known Lennox since she was in fourth grade. She’s a woman with amazing integrity and character. Lennox has been a leader and integral part of our high school youth program and church worship team, and serves as a keyboard player and lead vocalist. Lennox also excels in Spanish Club, Key Club, Honor Society, athletics, while focusing on her faith, family and friends. Lennox has overcome personal obstacles with faith and grace. She is an inspiration to many, including myself.”
Lennox remarks every one of us has gone through life challenges, and she’s no different. “Our parents got a divorce a few years ago. This devastated me; I never thought this would happen to me and my sister. Since then I have learned compassion for all children of divorced parents.”
She said while she was still dealing with her parents’ divorce, her hair began to fall out in clumps. She found out she had Alopecia, a rare disease where you lose all your hair on your head including eyebrows. She became very ill, lost a lot of weight and missed a lot of school.
“I struggled at first with many different thoughts, wondering if anyone would want to date me, or ever marry me some day,” she said. “Finally I got my health stabilized, and was ready to go back to school. I went to each classroom with my bald head and shared with my classmates why I had no hair. I was scared because only my very close friends and family knew. Would they accept me?
“Fortunately they did. I think it’s important to share our challenges and stories with others, bring them along with us. I am learning to accept the trials I have endured and will endure. Some days are better than others.”
Lennox said looking in the mirror is at times a battle in itself, while other days she is able to celebrate what the Lord has brought her through. Also, her bald head opens opportunities.
“Some people talk to me that probably wouldn’t have otherwise, thinking I look …” she laughs and adds, “edgy.”
“They think I shaved my head on purpose,” she laughs, thinking of some of the encounters she’s had. “Some people are just curious and ask me questions, others presume I have cancer and talk to me about that. I learn insights and compassion through various interactions with people I never would meet if I still had hair.”
To her, South Whidbey was a special place to grow up. “I’ve had the privilege of growing up and being supported by our small and wonderful community. Everyone has been so kind, open and encouraging to me,” she said as she began to recite a few words from her favorite song, “Nothing I Hold Onto:”
“I lean not on my own understanding, my life is in the hands of the maker of heaven, I give it all to you God, trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me.”
The only thing she says she wants to hold on to is Jesus, explaining that loving God is not like going on a business trip. It’s like going on the most exciting adventure ever imagined. “Loving people is always fulfilling, it can be serious, whimsical, or ridiculously fun, each is different; what isn’t different is every one of us wants to be included and loved,” she said.