Thursday, August 19, 2010

Life Lesson #2

Like life lesson #1, lesson #2 could probably go under some sort of subheading entitled Buck Up! I call #2 "You're only a victim if you make yourself one"

Let me illustrate. This was an experience I had the summer between fifth and sixth grade. My dad was a social worker at the time. He was working a high stress, fairly crap job, of being a director at a settlement house. For those who don't have an urban background, a settlement house is a community resource that has activities, a small library, a place for kids to go to do something or simply to get off the streets for a while... a haven. This particular place was called Wilkie House.

During the course of summer, there were several day camp sessions and Dad thought I should come along with him and do the camp for a week and get out of the house. So on Monday, off I go with Dad on his way to work. On the first day, we started out in the gym getting assigned into groups and meeting our group leader/counselor. We had an unfortunate mix. Our group drew the only white face on the premises ... mine. I was okay with that. The bad part was our group also drew the only person out of the sea of 150-200 kids that had a problem with there being a white face in her territory. Let's just say that she had no problem making her presence felt. Every time she made a belligerent statement or rude comment, the other kids would just watch. It seemed that every minute of the day was filled with tension so thick you could cut it.

That night when we went home Dad asked if I had a good day. I told him it was alright.

Day two started out the same. Around the middle of the day everyone was in the gym. All the kids of the camp, standing, packed against the walls. Just my luck, I was standing next to "HER". I was leaning against the wall staring at the floor. She yelled at me,"Why you lookin' at my feet?!!" I responded that I wasn't looking at her feet. I was looking at the floor. Which was exactly what I resumed doing. Trying my damndest to make myself invisible. My bad luck was that she could still see me. She had planted herself in front of me, drew back and roundhouse slapped me across the face. It made a crack so loud that everyone heard it. You could have heard a pin drop in that gym. My first thought was that someone else would want to step up and hit me too. I stood up square and I did not cry. I welled up a little but I did not cry. John our counselor beat it over, post haste, inquired into our activities. She angrily made the accusation of looking at her feet. In case that was some kind of an offense, I said I hadn't been looking at her feet. I was staring at the floor.

Well, she had left some evidence on my face, not to mention a LOT of witnesses, so John took her out. I think everybody expected me to cry, or to run out and go look for my dad. I leaned against the wall and resumed staring at the floor. The rest of the day was spent coping with staring eyes. Other then John, no one talked to me the rest of the day.

That night when we went home Dad asked if I had a good day. I told him it was alright.

Day three was surprising. I think everyone must have thought I would tell what happened when I got home. That retribution would rain down on them. Once again, all eyes were on me during our roll call and breaking into groups. Then we all realized that nothing was going to happen to us. My antagonist didn't come back. There was no whiplash disciplinary action. We relaxed. We had fun. They tried to teach me to do a proper lay up shot and most came to a belief that white girls really can't dribble.

By the end of day three, I had learned the lesson that things can be so much better if you decide to not be a victim.

I figure if people who survive Auschwitz can choose to not be victims... if people like Christopher Reeves chooses to not be a victim, why would I? I see people rush to assume the mantle of "VICTIM". They had a bad week, a bad experience, someone was mean to them..... poor me, poor me. BULLSHIT! If I can learn and activate this lesson when I am eleven then someone in their twenties, thirties, forties...... should be able to pull up their big girl panties and create a life lesson out of their experience. And most importantly, it isn't about doing nothing... it's about doing right and being fair, and sometimes that means knowing that your own pride and ego need to be taking the back seat.

I have thought of that girl many times. I have often felt bad that I was even there, invading her territory, making her defensive. Oh well, I can only hope the story earned her a free drink somewhere a long the line.



  1. Interesting and thought provoking post as usual, Louie! Don't know if you noticed, but I mentioned one of your blog posts in my round up for Parelli Central. Click here to see it:

    Parelli Central

  2. Yes! I saw it. I didn't mention it anywhere cause I thought that would be kind of "big headed" of me. I did want to thank you for that. I ridiculously hope that someday I would have enough followers that I could attract an advertiser. Then pay off the mortgage and head for four weeks to Parelliland.

    It's good to have goals. HA!