Life is a harsh teacher. It gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.
I was inspired to create this post after reading a posting from one of my favourite bloggers, David Kanigan (Lead, Learn, Live). I honestly can’t recall which exact post triggered this long-buried memory from high school (1964 to be exact) but once the memory resurfaced it tugged and screamed for acknowledgement. To be free it needed to be expressed and finally given the dignity the situation deserves.
Because I learned such a huge life lesson from this incident and I believe that it contains one of the few real basic principles of living a successful life, I thought I should share the situation with my readers. Maybe you have a similar situation that has provided an important “life lesson”. Or simply you can learn from my experience.
I was in my junior year of high school in a very small town in Northern California. My father was the school Superintendent (that’s like the CEO of the school district, and comes with all the headaches, too) so I was fairly well-known because of that as well as for playing sports and being in the honour society (no internet or Facebook distractions back then, just sports and studying). The time was fast approaching for the Junior Prom, which was the major boy-girl dance at our school and entailed getting dressed up and being cool. At that point I didn’t have a steady girl-friend and yet still wanted to attend this big social event, so I started asking my circle of friends for some “suggestions” (sounds corny today but that’s how it was back then).
About a week before the Prom one of my friends said that a friend of hers knew of a girl who wanted to go to the Prom with me. When I heard the name I was shocked and to be honest, both embarrassed and slightly unnerved. You see, in my school there were definite social cliques, mostly based on economic status and “looks”. I imagine the same is true today, but these cliques were strong and had invisible but strong boundaries. Well, my friend’s friend said that a certain girl, in my year, admired me and wanted desperately to go to the prom with me. To be honest, I handled it very poorly and that was only the beginning of my life lesson.
First of all, I was concerned about my “image” as one of the “cool jocks and brains” of the school. This girl lived in the housing projects (analogous to the ghetto in a big city), wasn’t in my social scene or even close, and certainly wasn’t one of the beautiful girls at school. There was no way I would be seen going out with this girl, let along going to the prom. So, I avoided the whole issue. I ignored the request. I avoided even speaking with my friend who was relaying the message for the next two weeks and made certain I was nowhere near any of them during breaks between classes or lunch period. Basically, I hid out! I knew this was not the right way to behave, but my ego and image took over completely. I didn’t even have the courage and courtesy to be honest and say that I wasn’t interested. I just avoided the whole thing, imagining it would go away and wasn’t really a big deal in the first place.
Then came the painful part. A few days later she was hit by a car and killed while riding her bicycle across an overpass near town. A human life taken at such a young age is a travesty. Her potential contributions lost to the world. Her family devastated. And I never had the courage to even talk to her or find out anything about her. I know I had nothing to do with her death, but the fact that I could have been a friend or at least been friendly, but didn’t, has stayed with me for these past 48 years. I learned a lesson that day. I made a promise to be kind to everyone I meet, no matter how different we were on the outside.
And I have tried to keep that promise to myself, not always perfectly, but it is one of my basic principles for living a successful life and I still work at it. Kindness costs nothing, but pays huge dividends to everyone.
I would like to hear if any of you have similar or powerful life lessons that I can learn from.
Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live. -Robert F. Kennedy
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress