Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Flashback to 6th Grade

(I had to write a story for one of my classes, and I have decided to share it. This memory was pushed to the back of my mind up until last month when it suddenly all came back and has been haunting me ever since. I feel like there's so many things I could've and should've done differently to help "Sam." Believe it or not, it still hurts my insides to think about this story.)
     I started playing the cello in 5th grade. I was lucky enough to start that year in the school’s orchestra, and I quickly made friends within my class. We all had a good time learning together, and we seemed to share interests. As the year progressed, everyone began to develop genuine friendships with each other. Everyone, that is, except Sam.

       Sam was a boy in our class that was known as the “trouble-maker.” He had been given that label on the first day of class, and in spite of his efforts, he couldn’t get rid of it. He wasn't the cleanest boy, and it was obvious that his clothes weren't the newest. He was very active, yet he kept to himself. Because the teacher was always getting after him, I guess some of the students thought that it was okay if they also treated him badly. I honestly tried not to be mean to him, and looking back, I don’t think I was. However, I also can’t say that I remember being particularly nice to him. I don’t remember helping him feel like he was a part of the crowd.

       One day during our second year of orchestra, I got to class, got out my cello and my bow and began to get ready for class to start. Sam was my stand partner, and the day seemed to be going along just fine. The end of my bow was wrapped with a silver wire, and it was starting to unravel. Because student cellos and bows were already lacking in the quality department, I mindlessly grabbed it and started to unwind it even more until a long strand of wire was bouncing off the end of my bow. I then set it on our stand and went on talking to my friends and joining the others in noisy pre-class activities.

       All of a sudden the whole class went silent when we heard our teacher yell, “Who did this?!” I turned to see him holding my bow in his hand, high above his head for everyone to see. Before anyone responded he turned to Sam, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Sam! Did you do this? This is a $1,500 bow, and it’s mine! This is real silver!” he screamed, pointing to the unraveling wire. The class was silent as Sam profusely tried to explain that it wasn’t him, but the teacher would not hear anything he had to say. “I will be setting up an appointment with your mother and you can explain to her what you’ve done!” he shouted.

       Everyone in the class stared at each other with wide eyes. I sat still and silent. I had to say something, didn’t I? …or did I? After all, isn’t Sam used to this kind of treatment? He’s already got the reputation, it’s not like this is going to break him. It’ll just be another thing added to the list. For me though, this would be horrible. I don’t want to embarrass myself and ruin my “perfect” reputation. That’s $1500 dollars, and everyone would know what I had done. Besides, it’s not my fault that his bow was in the student case, how was I supposed to know? I’ll just stay quiet and eventually this will all pass.

       I tried that. It didn’t work for more than two minutes. My face was hot, and my scalp was literally tingling (something I had never experienced before or since. Kind of strange, I know.) I quickly realized that I had to tell my teacher that I was the one who had ruined his bow. I had to be honest because that was the right thing to do. My mind flashed to those little stories in the New Era, and I got a little braver. :)

       I casually told my teacher that I needed to talk to him privately in the other room. As we walked together, I repeatedly told myself to speak confidently. I turned around and looked him in the face and said, “I’m the one who ruined your bow. It was me. It wasn’t Sam.” I’m sure my face was bright red and my eyes were watery. I’m not sure what I was expecting him to do, but I definitely wasn’t expecting him to be so calm and understanding. He simply told me “thank you for being honest,” and then we turned and went back to class. I remember thinking, That's it? That's all? I have never understood why he was so hard on Sam and so easy on me. It didn’t seem fair to me, even then; but I took what I got and stayed quiet about the whole situation.

       I don’t know if the teacher ever apologized to Sam. I hope he did. He didn’t know the facts, yet he blamed and humiliated Sam based on an assumption. I have always been glad that I made the choice to be honest that day. Looking back I can see that Sam did not have the best home life. His mom had died shortly before this situation, and his family struggled financially; on top of all that, he had to go to school everyday where little was expected of him, and he was labeled as the “annoying trouble maker.” He did not deserve that, and even though I quietly stood up for him on that day, I wish I had stood up for him on a daily basis. I wish I had made him feel more welcome and involved.

      The next year, Sam didn’t come to our school anymore. In fact, I don’t know where he went. But I have always wished that I knew so I could see how he is doing. I have a genuine interest in his life, and I think it is mostly because of this experience.

      This may seem like a very juvenile story to some, but it taught me a lot. It taught me that being honest is not always easy. It can be hard and scary, and it definitely requires courage. Above all else, I learned that it never hurts to be nice.    


  1. Oh man. All I can think about is Debbie and me writing her name on the floor just to get her in trouble...my scalp is tingling... :(

  2. Courtney, you have always been such a sweet girl. You did the right thing back then and I know you always will. I'm proud of you for being honest and for sticking up for Sam. The hardest lessons learned and the ones we remember most. I love you!

  3. That's a good story. I hope Sam and Debbie both recover. Love, Dad.