Have you ever done something just because you felt it was the right thing to do…and then this seemingly inconsequential action becomes something much greater than you anticipated?
In first grade I met Nicole Safford. Even at 5 years old, we begin to discover stereotypes: the popular know-it-all, (Jennifer Catalano), the tough bad boy, (Brian Beckford), and the one who gets picked on. Nicole was the one who got picked on.
I’ll always remember that sick feeling in my stomach when Nicole would do something and the other kids would make fun and laugh. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, but it didn’t seem like I should jump on the bandwagon. No, instead I approached the most intellectual, wise, perceptive, astute scholars I knew: Mom and Dad.
After all, Mom knew how to get Play-Doh out of my hair (don’t ask …I stand firm blaming my sister), and Dad knew how to make a perfect glass of coffee milk (extra syrup, straw, and if you were lucky, a little whipped cream). Surely they must know the answer to this icky situation.
I scheduled the family meeting and laid the issue on the table, wanting to know how to solve the problems of the world…or at least the playground.
My mom told me that not all little girls were as lucky as I was, and Dad said maybe I should stand up to the next person who made fun of her.” What Mom didn’t say was that she happened to know quite a bit about Nicole’s family life….Nicole never saw her mother who had a drug addiction, her dad was often away on military business, and her grandmother of 68 years-old was raising her and her little brother. And her grandmother didn’t speak English…which explained a lot about not always being able to understand what Nicole was saying. In short, Nicole wasn’t as lucky as I was to have a family who cared about her, and that meant I had a responsibility to her.
The next day I told Jennifer Catalano that she was mean and should leave Nicole alone (so there!). Yup, I had quite a way with words.
I played with Nicole at recess that day, and by the end of our 15 minutes of academic freedom, two more girls were playing tag with us.