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.