I recently did a presentation for a girl’s club campout. I enjoyed just hanging with these girls, about the same age as my oldest son, and picking up a guitar and surprising them with a couple of songs (very simple ones though).
The organizer of the campout had planned for several speakers, a few about 15-30 minutes long and then my presentation was supposed to be at least 45 minutes long. I arrived early enough to have some time to hang out with the girls before my presentation when I learned of the organizer’s dilemma. Two of the speakers she had arranged weren’t able to make it. While the girls were enjoying a relaxing, no fuss time, it was also evident that they were wondering why they couldn’t just move on to the next fun activity, since the speakers hadn’t shown up. That’s when I found my bravery.
“Okay girls, listen up.” I proceeded to lay out the rules. “This is your one chance, a freebie. You can ask me anything you want, and I will give you an answer.” Surprisingly, quite a few of the girls took me up on my offer. Of those few, there were about three that asked the majority of the questions. I answered questions about my faith, my family, time travel and choices. It was interesting to see how the questions started off on the surface, the girls appeared to be testing me. Would I really answer any question?
I hope the girls had fun and that they had a chance to see an adult that wasn’t afraid to connect and relate to them. But I have to thank those girls for making me think. One of the deeper questions, that I knew would eventually come up, was the big would you do your life over if you had the chance? I didn’t answer right away. I had to stop and think about it, especially after dealing with time travel questions and all of the issues of messing with the space/time continuum. Finally I had my answer.
“I wouldn’t change anything major in my life. I would still have the children I have. I would still marry the person I did. I would still do the work that I am doing. But there are many little things along the way that I would have changed.” I then began to give examples, such as the time I didn’t truthfully stick up for the impoverished girl in my 3rd grade class. Most of the other girls in our class picked on her and made fun of her. She was new and obviously different from them.
Back in the day, the breaking news was the semi-automatic paper towel dispenser. The teacher lectured us more than once that we must only push the lever for paper towels twice. No more than two times was necessary as we prepared to dry our hands. There were a few girls that couldn’t resist pushing the lever multiple times because it was new and different! They managed to tell the girls they would get the towels for everyone, so they could get their lever fix. Oh the joys of new technology! But one day, the other girls decided to use it against the new kid. They fabricated a story that this new girl had pushed the lever more than twice. Oh the horror!
I and a couple of other girls were not in on the conspiracy. The teacher specifically called on me. “Sharon, did she push the lever more than twice?” Knots formed in my stomach. Just imagine one of those peer pressure scenes from your favorite movie or TV show and you can imagine the spot I was in. I looked at the gang of girls who were staring me down. I glanced at the poor girl they were tormenting. I looked at the teacher and I couldn’t say a word. I only nervously nodded my head yes and then wanted to run away.
I believe the teacher could see my struggle. My memory isn’t so good, but I’d like to think she went easy on punishing the poor girl accused of violating the lever rule. I never spoke to that girl about the incident. I never apologized for not sticking up for her. I don’t even remember her name. But if I were going to redo one thing in my life, that would be it. I would have told the teacher the truth, that I honestly didn’t see her do it more than twice and I believed the other girls were just out to get this one poor kid. I wish I had called her by name and said she could be my friend and we would have a lot of fun together, starting at recess.
But answering this question by a bunch of teenage girls on a campout did more than make me wish I had done the right thing. It forced me to recognize that out of all of the other girls that weren’t in the gang, the teacher called on me to tell her the truth. This now sticks out in my brain. I am so thankful that this teacher saw in me the potential for telling the truth, no matter what, even if I let her down. At least she looked at me as someone who could tell the truth, if she was brave enough.
So now I want to be brave enough, always, for that 3rd grade teacher, for that poor little girl and for myself. I want to be brave enough to always tell the truth.