Friday, October 07, 2005

My story: One Moment

The year I was in third grade saw me go to three different schools, each in a different state. Thankfully, it's a record that was never repeated in my school-hopping career. The third of these schools was in Saginaw, Michigan.

Now, as I've commented before, all this school-hopping sometimes made it difficult to make friends. Also, as practically anyone who's ever been an outsider (which I expect is practically anyone) can tell you, being an outsider also leads to a fair bit of teasing. In third grade, I didn't always handle that well.

One particular morning, after arriving at school, I was out in the playground with a friend of mine waiting for the morning bell to allow us into the school building. While we were waiting, another child came up to me and started teasing me. Now, I don't honestly remember what he said. I don't remember if he called me names, said something about my mother, or was just laughing irritatingly. What I do remember is that I got very mad.

And so I swung my plastic lunchbox at him. And connected.... with my friend's nose. In one moment, I had gone from a pleasant conversation to giving my friend a bloody nose.

Staring at my friend's bloody nose, I was horrified. Not only had I hit someone, but it wasn't even the person I was trying to hit! The school bell rang at about that time, and so as my friend went to the nurse to get cleaned up, I went to class feeling completely ashamed of myself.

Many of you may have gone to schools where, if you had done something wrong, the teacher would put your name up on the board. If your behavior did not improve, the teacher might put a check up by your name. I didn't wait for the teacher. I immediately went up to the front of the board, wrote my name, and put about 15 checks beside it.

Naturally, it did not take long for the teacher to find out what had happened, and I was sent to the principal's office. While I don't remember the principal being in any way unkind, this was still a matter to be taken seriously, and so I was suspended from school for the rest of the day, and my mother was called to come pick me up.

As part of my punishment, I was asked to write two letters. One to my friend who I'd hit, and another to the kid I tried to hit. While I'm sure I delivered them, I don't really remember what I wrote, or how the kid who teased me had reacted. I'm happy to say that my friend was surprisingly understanding, and we maintained our friendship the rest of the time I was in Michigan. I'm also happy to say that this was the only time I was ever suspended from school for any reason.

Still, that experience definitely affected me. I tend to be a lot more proactive about finding ways of dealing with my anger that don't involve me becoming violent. Perhaps that's why I complain about some political matters so much, and why I take a "not quite, but close to pacifist" stance on Iraq. Or at least part of the reason. While it's true that one moment can change your life, as I expect that one moment did, it is still just part of a lifelong tapestry of events that makes up who we are.

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