Kids can be cruel. Well when I’m around, I won’t let them be cruel to others.
There was this one kid in first grade named Vince. I was talking to my friend Jennifer and Vince was being the jerk he always is and making fun of her. When we were ignoring him, he got more upset and then started to push Jennifer around. I told Vince to stop pushing her and he said “What like you are going to make me?” and pushed me.
So at that point what is there that you can do? You try to reason with people, but if they don’t respond to reason then sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. I got up and before I realized it, I had punched him on his nose and it was bleeding and he was on the ground writhing in pain. He ran off crying and we finished our conversation and went back to class since recess was over.
I still remember this to this day. My teacher came in the room and asked me to visit the principles office. Now remember I was in first grade and rather small. I went into his office and he looked like a giant. He was a tall and big man, and he towered over his desk like a dragon over his treasure. I admit that I felt a little intimidated at first, but he smiled and asked me to sit down.
I sat down and I spoke with one of the nicest and most kind men I’ve ever met. He asked me why the fight happened, and I explained the situation to him. He agreed with me that protecting Jennifer was important, but that there are many ways to protect someone. He asked me if I could make a promise to not fight anymore and instead to just leave a situation where that kind of escalation presents itself. I said sure, and it seemed like a better idea anyway.
So for the next 18 years in school, I considered this conversation every time that some emotionally damaged guy wanted to fight me. It helped shape my preference for non violence, and my desire to find a better way than have to hurt someone. I didn’t want to hurt anyone in the first place, but there are many things that can be done before violence is a last resort.
Guess what? I ran into this principle 20 years after meeting him. He was at the local fair and I recognized him immediately. He didn’t recognize me of course, but I went up to him and asked if he name was X and he was a principle in the past. He said he was and acted a little scared. He was a fragile old man and I assume that I now intimidated him.
I told him this story and he had the biggest smile and started to cry. He was touched that something he didn’t remember meant so much to me, and even more, that I reached out to tell him as an adult. I think I gave him a hug and his wife was beaming. He asked if he could have my phone number so that I could tell this story to his kids. I gave it to him and repeated the story to his kids. His kids were crying too.
We don’t always realize that what seems small to us, is life-changing for someone else. Your kindness can change sometimes life. I know his kindness changed my life.