Friday, February 27, 2009

Sometimes there is no happy

I read this post in The Rabbit Room last week, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. The writer, Jonathan Rogers, is amazing in his honesty with this post. Here is an excerpt from that post.

. . . Looking at Susan O’Farrell’s notebook I was struck by something so obvious I couldn’t believe I had never noticed it before: that second ‘r’ in her last name could easily be made into a ‘t’ so as to read O’Fartell. Get it? Fart—right there in the middle of her name! I pulled the pen out of her spiral binding and scratched the ‘t’ in its place, a little larger than it needed to be, just to be sure my efforts wouldn’t go unnoticed. . .
Susan’s eyes widened when they fell on her notebook. Then they filled with tears. . .
But as Susan scanned the room, I made a very mature calculation. I realized that I was literally the last person in the room Susan would suspect of such a meanness. If I played it cool, she would never know I was the person who had hurt her. . .
So I never told Susan what I had done. I let that suffering girl believe that, on top of the rejection she felt every day, she had an unknown enemy actively seeking to hurt her. I felt the cowardice of it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it. . .
I don’t suppose I even heard her name mentioned until one day in high school an old classmate from Miller Elementary asked, "You heard about Susan O’Farrell, I guess? Dead. She had some disease. Had it for years."
Man, do I ever relate with this. I was the good kid. To this day I do my best to make people feel included and not outside the group - Mrs. E is the same, and it is one of the things I love most about her. And yet, like everyone else, I pulled stunts like this. I've grown a lot since childhood; now I can see more clearly how best to act and do so with courage - but I'm still that little twerp sometimes.

The thing of it is, I can't forget these things. I remember the time this stupid, clumsy kid got a nice box collection of records with lots of stories on them - got them from some friends of my parents who were big time antique collectors - and leaving their house I sat them in the car and sat myself on top of them. Broke every one. I never told my parents, though I imagine they knew, and hid the broken collection away for years. I remember with crystal clarity the taunts I casually tossed (with bravado as my "friends" did the same") to girls in junior high. I know every detail of the time I got really mad at my parents for inviting a boy to my birthday party that I didn't want to invite - and the way I ostracized him the whole time. The list goes on.

All this from me, a kid whose last name is synonymous with feminine hygiene.

I should have known better how to treat people, because I knew how I did not want to be treated. And most often I did good - but the rest of the times I carry with me, not so much as a burden of shame (I'm past that, though regret will always linger) but more the polish of wisdom from experience. It's one reason that I feel so strongly about Matthew 5:23-24 and the desperate need for men to be reconciled, to each other and to God.

It's also a big reason that I (and Mrs. E) want our children to learn that there is a better way to act, a better way to treat people, than what seems so common - in children, of course, but also in too many adults I know. We don't try to burden Lil'E with more responsibility and maturity than she can handle, but we do try to get her to think about what her actions mean to other people.

Because, sometimes, there is no happy ending. No reconciliation, no amends made. Sometimes, we just have to live with ourselves and the knowledge of our sin. And that can be a heavy burden, indeed.

1 comment:

kaniherrington said...

E, I couldn't be in more agreement. As we told you yesterday, your party was much more fun than the other we attended. That is because we spent most of that party trying to get Ch involved, as another little boy there, his classmate, kept pushing, shoving, hitting him, while his mom appeared oblivious to most of the aggression. We have taught CH differently , so he didn't know what to do. This along with not being introduced to any of this 30-something crowd. Simple kindness has gone out the window it seems everywhere you look, even at church far too often. C

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