The Learning Curve: 'I will keep being nonviolent'

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The movie industry long has had tunnel vision, targeting teens with a siren song of bullets and things that go boom in the night.

But 15-year-old Boise teenager Aaron Fretwell isn't listening. That's because he's found power in a purple bracelet.

"I thought that it's kinda weird at first," he says, fidgeting in a church lobby.

"But as soon as we started doing it, I kinda like it better; being violent just makes you angry."

Fretwell belongs to the Hillview United Methodist Church, a modest complex of brick and stained glass that has sat on the same site on Ustick Road since 1965.

During the Lenten season, members have pledged to practice nonviolence and make peace within themselves and their families.

Dawn Phipps, a nurse, found the idea intriguing.

"Typically, I give something up and this was different from giving up Diet Coke for 40 days," she says with a sly grin.

Senior Pastor Barbara Nixon brought the idea with her from her last posting near Eugene, Oregon. She admits that not everyone in the congregation was as enthusiastic as Phipps.

She says the initiative, called "A Season of Nonviolence," is a way of responding to a world she sees as broken and in pain.

"Towers shouldn't fall," she says in a reference to 9/11.

"No one should attack us on our own soil. We're shocked by violence up close because we've been insulated from it in a lot of ways."

Nixon is quite aware that wearing a purple wristband won't cure the nation's ills, but she hopes it will make her members think.

"It's an awareness exercise," she points out.

"At this church, it's 'You can't fix everything.' You just pay attention to what's in front of you."

These days, what's in front of Aaron Fretwell is a leap of faith. He has put aside football to be a pole vaulter. And he's found the purple bracelet has been a boon to his athletic career.

"When you get angry, you start messing up. That's what I did yesterday," he says, referring to a recent practice as a member of the Mountain View High School Mavericks track team.

For a 15-year-old, he is surprisingly single-minded about his new passion, even among friends.

"Yeah, because they think I'm just joking around with them. They don't really think about that kind of stuff. They think it's stupid going to church. But I like church," he says quietly.

Hearing that, Pastor Nixon breaks into a big smile.

"That's great to hear. I love hearing that," she says proudly, knowing her program is reaching even the toughest crowd of critics--kids like Aaron.

Nixon admits that even she has had to adjust her life in ways she hadn't expected. Lately, she has been eschewing episodes of "CSI" for tamer fare, such as The Cooking Channel.

"I've had to change some of what I watch on TV because I'm as empty-headed as the next person," she says with a chuckle.

Recipe television clearly isn't an option for Fretwell, who's in constant motion, like a land shark with too much energy.

But it doesn't have to be.

"I will keep being nonviolent," he says with a sincerity that seems genuine.

Then he looks down at the wristbands he sports on both arms.

"We won't have to wear these anymore, but I think I will keep being nonviolent because I like it a lot more,"

For a teenager, that's quite an admission.

And the lesson here? That life is full of learning curves. Follow the right one and, like our pole vaulter, you end up soaring.