Monday, March 22, 2010

A Childhood Memory

Once there was a little girl who was attending kindergarten. She was a timid child heavily overshadowed by her more confident and extrovert peers. She was the quiet observer when popular kids were in action, when she was not the object of the actions, that is.

Like many kids from middle-class families, the school bus was her source of transport to travel between home and school everyday. These school buses had communities of their own with different niches. So, naturally, there were the popular kids and there was the timid, naïve girl, who became the favourite subject of bully among her popular bus mates. As safe as she was inside the classroom in the presence of teachers, she was totally vulnerable in the school buses. Bullies began to take place with the timid girl as the constant victim. Ironically though, her naivety actually turned out to have saved her from the psychological torment of the bullies. Not understanding the concept of bully, and having only known simple feelings of happiness and sadness, she felt no humiliation at all. She felt sad, however, for the mean things they did to her. They said cruel things about her she knew wasn't true. They took her pencil case away from her and hid it for a whole day. She became afraid, not because they might not return it to her, but because she could not complete her homework without her stationery. Despite all these, she never breathed a word to anyone, not even to her parents. She did not feel the need to. She was so naïve, she did not even feel hate towards the people that bullied her because she had not learnt the complexity of hate and humiliation then.

As the saying goes, there is always a silver lining amidst dark clouds. The little girl did not realize this at the time, but this silver lining was going to be the sweetest thing that has happened to her in her childhood. There was a boy in the popular bunch, who became close to her because they happened to be the last two to alight the bus everyday on their way home. Although he part of the popular group, he never joined in any of the bully activities. Consequently, the last fifteen minutes of their journeys home from school became play time for both of them.

It so happened that one day, the leader of the popular kids ordered everyone in her group to stand in a line facing the timid girl. The plan was to have each of them take turns to slap the timid girl in the face. The timid girl, naïve as she was, felt sad and confused. Had she done something wrong? Not knowing what to do, she resolved to doing nothing and just stood there taking the slaps, one after another.

The little boy who became friends with her was eventually forced to join in the bully. When it was his turn to slap her, he gave her a kind and apologetic look, before brushing his palm gently on her cheek and turned away. When everybody else had gotten off the bus, he apologized to her profusely for joining in the bully and said comforting words to make her feel better. What he did not know was that the girl had already put it behind her and was only happy it was play time again with nobody around to do mean things to her. The little girl did not realize this then, but those fifteen-minute play times were the happiest moments in her kindergarten years.

Shortly after, the girl’s family moved to a new neighbourhood and she had to switch to another school bus. She never found out the boy’s name or which kindergarten he attended. She lost all contact with him ever since. As a matter of fact, she never thought of him until later years, when she began to understand the more complex sides of life and reflected on her childhood memories. She had no more bully problems ever since, although she was still naïve compared to her peers. She made lots of good friends over the years and even turned out to be quite an outspoken girl herself at her late teenage years. She grew up to be the confident girl she never was in her younger days.

The most remarkable thing about this story is that a child as young as six years old could distinguish between right and wrong despite heavy peer pressure. The honest truth is that there are even adults who cannot show the same kind of compassion. There are, in fact, many things we as adults can learn from children, if only we could just stop being busy growing up for a while.

Note: This story was first posted in my old blog as Smile Factor #0.

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