Monday, April 22, 2013

Fools rush in and pay the penalty

Monday morning, April 22, 2013

Proverb 22: 3 (NASV)
The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the [b]naive go on, and are punished for it.

I had a long teachable moment on this topic this weekend. It involved a parable/aphorism and a true story, and what it looked like was Kenneth and I sitting on his bed with the door closed. The aphorism first: "If you poke a dog with a stick, you might get bitten. If you poke a bear with a sick "; here Kenneth interrupted me and said "he'll kill you." 
Yeah, I said, he might. He might run, but he might kill ya. You never know.
And then I told him the story. 
I was in the Cub Scouts, and I think it was in the 3rd or 4th grade. We wore our uniforms to school, and there was another Scout there, a much bigger, much older boy. His uniform showed that he had been in Scouts for three years, but he only had three merit badges. I thought that was hilarious, and so I proceeded to make loud fun of him. "Three years in the Scouts and only three merit badges! Look at that!" 
The next thing I knew, I was upside down in a garbage drum, one of those 55 gallon drums they used to collect litter on school premises. It rolled over, and I rolled out. I wasn't hurt; it happened so fast I didn't even have a chance to get scared. 
Now, 52 years later, I realize that it was very likely that the boy who dumped me in the trash would now be recognized as a special needs student. We didn't have special classes for those kids back then; they just struggled along in the lower grades with everybody else, and failed, and when they were old enough, they either dropped out or went to the vocational-industrial  school. I know how hard school was for me, as a kid with ADD when nobody knew what ADD was; for the kids who were mentally impaired, it had to be so much worse.   
So for the boy I mocked, I realize now the pain he felt was much worse  than what I experienced that day. From my perspective today, I can imagine all kind of scenarios that were essential in bringing him to that day of wearing the uniform: a patient pack leader, helping him to slowly do the things he could do; supportive fellow members of his pack, encouraging him; his own frustration as he saw everyone else proceed beyond what he could do. 
But he could wear the uniform, with pride; and he had, for three years. And he wore it proudly to school that day; until some snotty little punk started making fun of him.
"Go up, you bald head!"
Bears did not come down and tear me to pieces; that was merciful.
I do hope that the delight of seeing his tormentor upside down in the litter made up for whatever he experienced as a result of my cruelty. I hope he went to his class, and was congratulated by understanding, supportive friends for tossing that kid in the trash where he belonged.  I hope that he didn't go home in tears to his parents that afternoon and tell them he was never going back to Cub Scouts again.
But I have no way of knowing. 
If I could, I would make amends to that boy. I can't. I never knew his name; I don't know that I ever saw him again. 
But what I can do is teach Kenneth.
And maybe I can share the story with others.
And maybe, if I can do that, some of penalty for foolishly rushing in that day will be paid.

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