A remarkable, sensitive writer, Simon Von Booy, has been added to my favorite authors’ list. A line in one of his short stories moved me to tears:
“… a countless number of occasions in which he could have been a stronger and brighter version of himself.”
How many times could I have been better? One of the most painful occurred when I was 9. Our frightening fifth-grade teacher had banged a student’s head into the blackboard. After the child told his mother, she and the principal came to our classroom asking if any of the students had seen this happen. Because the menacing teacher was staring at us, no one said a word. Those few moments shamed me for years.
Being strong takes courage. Although I often say I’m fearless, is that true? How far will I go to right a wrong? Is my comfort more important than sticking my neck out to protect someone? How often have I missed an opportunity to be “better and stronger than myself”?
The lesson I learned that day in fifth grade made me a champion for the underdog. When I worked in an office, if the other girls ganged up on a new employee, I was there to befriend the ostracized person, invite her to lunch and not let her be victimized by vicious gossip. Admittedly, there were times when I joined in with hateful remarks; several instances where I could have defended someone. What did I gain by being “one of the girls”?
The years have brought many changes. As an example of how shallow I was, as a young woman I believed if I had a diamond bracelet, a silver tea set and a full-time maid, my life would be complete. How juvenile these sentiments were. I’m embarrassed to remember how important material things were. All three wishes came true, but none made me happy.
In an effort to be true to myself, when I don’t agree with someone, I will defend my position unless it is leading to a knockdown, dragged-out heated dispute going nowhere. A screaming match doesn’t make sense.
Life changes us. Don’t offer me a trip to Paris. Instead, take me to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Find me a puppy for Christmas, not a diamond tiara. Fill my heart with joy by reading poetry to me. Recommend a good book or bring me homemade noodle pudding.
Perhaps I’ve missed occasions when I could have been more, but I’m at peace. Another line from the same author is, “Do things for people that they will never forget.” Through my writers’ workshops, offering kindness to people and using my sense of humor, I have accomplished this. What more can I ask of myself?