Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pow, straight to the moon

I had a strange memory while meditating last night. When I was about 13, I went to a private school. Our school was so small we had to share a big bus staging area with a bunch of the Catholic parochial schools in the area. So those of us from the New School would stand under a big beech tree in the middle of a big parking lot and gawk at all the Catholic school kids in their uniforms. We never talked to them. Sometimes made fun of them, in a generally mild way. But for some reason we began to exchange unpleasantries with a girl who sat in the back of one of the waiting buses every day. She was in the back window, jeering and hassling us and we gave it right back to her. This went on for a couple of weeks. Nothing serious. And then, for some extraordinary reason that I still don't know, I called her a lesbian.

Now, I have to say, I had no ill will towards lesbians, then or now. I am from a very liberal family. My babysitter as a child was gay. I had many people in my life who were gay. So I don't know why I called her that.

But the next thing I knew, she had walked off the bus, walked straight up to me and punched me, closed fisted, in the face. She abruptly turned on her heal and walked right back onto the bus. I dropped like a rock. My friend Gerard pulled me back up and fussed over me a bit as I tried to figure out what had just happened.

I realized, even as a dopey 13 year old, that I had probably touched a nerve for this poor girl. And that yelling it out at her was the worst thing I could have done. I felt sorry that I had done it. But strangely, didn't see her again at the bus stop.

A couple of months later I was walking down the street and saw her coming from the opposite direction. I crossed the street. She called to me. She came running towards me. I prepared for another punch and was about to run when she asked me to wait.

"I just want to tell you", she said "I am really sorry I punched you. I shouldn't have done that."

I was stunned.

I mumbled some lame apology myself... saying I shouldn't have called her names.

We parted. I never saw her again.

Wherever she is, I wish I could tell her that I am truly sorry... and that her apology struck me, even at the time, as a deeply Christian act.


juniper68 said...

My spiritual director sometimes says, of something particularly wonderful:
"Isn't that JUST like Jesus?!"

What a wonderful story about transformation - yours and the other girls.... And probably the other friends who witnessed you, too.


Rachel's Big Dunk said...

It IS just like something Jesus would do. In a strange way, the punch AND the apology were both completely unexpected and just jarring enough to open me up to some kind of deeper insight. It has to be Grace!


Iohannes Michahel said...

I went to a public school until 9th grade, when my parents transferred me, quite against my will, to the local Catholic HS.

Kids are kids, and in any case are clinically insane. My junior high was comprised of steelworkers kids of mixed religious provenance, but the to all of us, the Catholic school (kindergarten - 8th), literally 100 yds downslope from us, was populated by Catholic school "fags and lezzies."

And in 9th grade I became one of them. And had to ride a PS bus, with the same kids I always rode the bus with, to the PS HS staging area just like the one you have described.

Yet, incidents were rare. But rest assured, they all got back to the headmaster; eveything got back to the headmaster. And then it crossed the hall to the Dean of Discipline, Father Bear.

Apologies were sometimes mandated, initially; but you know what? By the time all the friars and nuns and lay teachers, mostly Catholic and frequently "seculars," were through with you, you really did know that you had done wrong.