Saturday, December 6, 2008


Every now and then when my mind wanders I remember things I did that I deeply regret. Things you carry with you your whole life that make you feel like a real asshole.

I was almost reduced to tears with a memory last week. I’m not sure why I feel like confessing my sins but here goes.

When I was 6 and living in Laclede Town there was a little boy who was deaf. His speech was almost unrecognizable but he was able to communicate. I don’t know if he was deaf from birth but he learned to talk. Of course we kids were merciless and made fun him.

He had a parka that had a funny smell. Everything about him was wrong to us. His mother did everything she could to get us to include him in our games. We were total angels around her.

He lost his hearing aid and she offered a reward for its return. Man we turned Laclede Town upside down looking for it. I don’t even know why he had one. He was totally deaf.

I don’t know why kids are so cruel. We were on a hill watching him walk across an empty lot. We threw rocks at him. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes, the terror and disbelief, the betrayal. I was one of the kids that was nicer to him.

When I think of him I remember a really sweet kid who seemed to love everyone. I hope he’s okay and happy.

I have to recognize a basic ugliness inside of us that we have to overcome. Maybe it’s just me.

Don't forget my political blog.


Tony Patti said...

The key is that we have to overcome the ugliness inside of us - and what can help is recognizing where this ugliness comes from.

I blame our culture in general for this ugliness, since babies, outside of the basic sin of selfishness (from which all cruelties and sins against ourselves flow), don't have these cruel and hateful tendencies. We love their innocence without ever thinking "Innocent of what?"

You threw rocks at this kid when you were with other kids, I noticed, even though your natural instinct was to be kind to him. Your regret stems from the fact that you followed the crowd, gave into mob rule, and did something against the basic innocence of your soul.

You are a very pure soul, David, as I have always known. Do you agree that when we get cultural cues mixed up with our natural instincts, we tend to turn away from our inner goodness?

Stories like this, that haunt us forever, are sometimes misunderstood by ultra-rational types. The Confessions of Saint Augustine, for example, has this story he tells of stealing some fruit from a neighbor's garden just to steal it, even though he wasn't even hungry for it and threw it away. Many commentators over the centuries have scratched their heads over it, while to me it was simple why he remembered it. He was remembering when culture first overpowered goodness, since he did it in league with other boys.

That said, untangling what is a cultural construct - If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, Don't get mad, get even, etc - from natural instinct is nearly impossible after a certain point. I watch with horror as the culture teaches my little girl to abandon her innocence, powerless to stop what is completely inevitable.

Anonymous said...

I had an incident like this while in grade school and still living in Glendale CA (suburb of L.A.). One of my peers was also named Carolyn Jean, same age as I, with whom i played. Another friend, Betty, was my best friend and lived down the street from me, across from Caarolyn.

Pme day after school several of us were visiting Betty and Carolyn came over and knocked on the door. The others didn't want to play with her wo we all hid in a closet until she went away.

I will never forget how creepy and disloyal I felt, truly a kufe lesson.

Another life lesson: After my broather was born my mother and father split up and Mother, Mike ane I retur4nee to Arkansas to live tith my Mommo and Daddo, my mother's parents. I frequently was maade to take Mikey with me when I went out to play. One day, A Charley's house, I was sitting on the ground with Mikey watching Charley and a couple of others shoot baskets when I decided to play a trick on Mikey. He approached to sit down and I stuck my thumb up with the intention of g9oosing him. Instead, when he sat down it bent back my thumgb, and it really hurt!

All I could do was laugh at the irony, and I was only 11 years old!

Another life lesson!

Mommo (David's Mom0

...Sharon said...

Yes David, you were being a bully and I doubt you started the rock-throwing incident, but nonetheless, you joined in without giving thought to your actions. You didn’t act alone. (Mean kids who act alone are a different story all-together and a real problem.) You were guilty of following the actions of others at the age of six and you learned from your actions. You learned remorse.

As a child I was that deaf boy. Picked on for being different, always the new kid in class as we moved so much. My parents’ advice was to fight back (sadly, their parenting skills were only one level up from their parents). But fighting’s not my nature. Interestingly though, in the 6th grade I joined in the antics of a mean group as we made fun of a handicapped person. I guess I was trying on the “bully” attitude and just glad not to be the victim. I was old enough and should have known better. Apparently I had to learn from my own experience and did, also like you, when I saw the hurt on her face. I hope she saw the shame on mine.

We learn from lessons taught and through living life by our actions. Humans fall into the herd behavior, so it’s easy to just follow the leader. That’s why I feel so strong that schools should teach ethics along with the reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s important that children hear from more than just their parents the importance or right and wrong.
Basically…the thinkers become individuals and the rest become Wal-Mart shoppers.

dominic schaeffer said...

I used to have lots of regrets. Not anymore. No time to give bad memories that much power over my daily life.

Oh, there are lots of things I wish I had done differently and would if given a chance, but wishing in one hand leaves the other hand full of poop.

Most times regrets are like debts- if someone owes me it doesn't weigh on my conscience the way it does when i'm the one that holds the debt. When I have made amends to people I have harmed the most common reply has been "Dude- I forgot about that!". Turns out I was carrying it with me all that time and for... what?

And when making amends has made a difference- the main effect was getting it off my chest. But it changed very little of the present state of things.

Doggie said...

Not looking for catharsis. Just want to know why we're so damn mean to each other.

...Sharon said...

Awww, but you titled it "Regrets".

As I said before, we learn from our actions. It’s socializing. Even adult animals have to socialize the young ones. Look, babies are adorable then cute as kids because adults wouldn’t put up with them otherwise. Pooping, vomiting, screaming, crying, tearing things up then biting, throwing, and more. Then as they hit the awkward adolescent phase, they learn to master lying, manipulation and worse. They only have a few years then they're on their own to survive the real world. Many continue the bad behavior as adults because they don't know how else to get what they want.

So it really does take a village to raise a child. We all need to look out for each other. That’s why it would be great to teach ethics in school from nursery through 12th. Start with the basics of right vs. wrong and by 12th grade, kids will be involved in their communities.

Awwwsh… but no one asks me. Guess I’ll write Mr. Obama another letter…

Anonymous said...

I think a great majority of my memories, no matter how harmless or friendly, I regret for one reason or another. Certain times, I guess, I try to use to make myself feel better for past experiences. For example I was just late for 2nd hr because I spent the time erasing insults on the walls in the bathroom. It started with one person I know who never did anything to anyone being insulted, and I just couldn't let it go. The next thing I knew, the bell rang, and I had cleared three walls.