Words without Thought
I remember being a curious but quiet boy growing up. I wasn’t the type to go exploring then exclaiming, “look what I found!” Instead, I would wonder and examine every facet of that new discovery, taking it apart, putting it back together, then placing this discovery in a treasure chest (of odds and ends) at home.
There was an event, during primary school, that happened and was forever etched in my psyche.
It wasn’t unusual that the van we rode was late in picking me up from school. Being the only boy, I was subject to the whims of four other sisters who study in another school. Sometimes, because of an extracurricular activity, it can be very late.
With friends on the way to their homes, there was nothing to do. I found a few pieces of leftover chalk. Then I drew a picture on the ground.
I fuzzily remember drawing a cityscape, with buildings and bridges. i remember drawing water.
This activity absorbed me for close to an hour. And you can guess that it was an elaborate image. I turned around and saw a brother (this was a catholic school) striding towards me. I faintly remember that this brother was a friend because a smile crossed my face. I had wanted very much to show him my creation.
He spent 2 seconds looking at what I had done, then spent the next few minutes reprimanding me for vandalizing school grounds.
His words had an electric effect on a young, impressionable mind. He called me a vandal, a bad example to the other children. He wanted to know whom I expected to clean up the mess.
“Clean it up,” he said, with venom.
It was humiliating.
It was… uncalled for. If he had spent a minute asking why this boy had spent the past hour drawing, he would have realized that this was not a vandal. This was a boy expressing himself.
A temporary, fleeting expression of creativity… drawn on the floor… at school, where creativity thrives and is not suppressed… with chalk. Chalk that would probably wash away the next time the floor was cleaned.
In shame, I remember pulling out my face towel, rubbing out the image on the floor, with hot tears down my cheeks.
It was the beginning of that shell that insulated me from the world (which the people who later became my friends would come to know me).
A few months after, when the van was again late, I found that I could not stand to spend a minute more in school. I got up, pulled my bag, and walked the 5 km trek home.
The route was easy. This was in the early 80s. Trees lined the streets. Few cars were on the road. No one bothered this boy, who was pulling a school bag, alone, trying to get home.
Entering the house, I remember the surprised look on mom’s face.
“Who brought you home? How did you get home?” she worriedly asked.
“I walked,” I said, “and please excuse me, I am so tired.”
So i walked up to my room, drew the shades down, and cried myself to sleep.
It took quite a few years to break down this shell, the product of a few moments of unprovoked, thoughtless words.
The scars that formed around my heart will always be there. Like all things that live, however, this heart has healed. I cannot anymore recall the face or name of this brother. Sometimes he haunts my dreams as a faceless figure in a white gown.
I have offered up this hurt to the One who understands why things happen the way they do. It was only with grace that i have finally found peace, acceptance, healing…
…and a fierce determination to always be thoughtful of my words, especially towards my wife, my children, and all those i share my love with.